Identify this battery

Is this battery a mass market thing that I can buy somewhere, or was it some custom job?

It's for the bike lights that I have been using for many years, but today the USB charging port snapped off, and there's no way I'm going to be able to solder this surface-mount piece of shit back on. The company went out of business several years ago, and even their domain has been squatted, so I can't ask them. (So their "lifetime guarantee" turns out to have meant "three years".) I would rather buy a new battery than switch to a new model of bike light.

(By "battery" I obviously do not mean the battery part, but the whole assembly.)

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22 Responses:

  1. jwz says:

    YES TWITTER, I ALSO CAN READ THE NUMBERS CLEARLY PRINTED ON THE SIDE, WHICH DO NOT ANSWER MY QUESTION. FFS.

  2. Reed says:

    Yup, custom. Nope, nowhere to get a replacement now that Fortified is gone.

    As it sounds like others have pointed out, the cell itself is a common part, but the PCB that's broken on yours is all rare and special.

    I can imagine other ways to fix it, but all of them are more work than resoldering the charging port.

    • jwz says:

      Well, shit.

      • Dara says:

        Honestly, as surface mount work goes, that looks like an extremely simple fix. It could be done by anyone with a hot-air rework station or a competent basic iron. Almost all of what you need is to press it into place, apply a good bit of the right flux, and then to get it up to temperature. It'll flow back together by itself.

        I know you don't want to do this yourself, but there's got to be someone in a local makerspace of some kind who'll do it for you in like five minutes.

        Hell, I'd do it if I wasn't in Seattle.

        (There may be damage I can't see in the photo, of course. But having enlarged the photo and examined the separation, I can't see anything.)

        • Lorah says:

          I agree with Dara. If you want to do it yourself (and not wait for a friend with a rework station or solder the smt stuff with an iron), you could desolder the leads and put it on a frying pan or griddle* (with a piece of foil under so you don't contaminate kitchenware) and heat til it flows. You want a temp of around 700F so if you have a laser thermometer that's helpful. Best to preheat pan/griddle so components don't overheat. A bit of flux like Dara suggested is helpful but if you don't have any, a dab of solder containing flux should be good enough if you are having reflow problems.

          Then solder the leads back on. I think you could fix it in 30min or so if everything goes ok.

          * More info on the reflow skillet method: https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/59

          • Lorah says:

            Hmm I'm going to issue one caveat: not sure if the solder will stick to the aluminum. So better to use a sacrificial pan maybe or maybe some other protective substrate that I'm not thinking of rn. I think parchment might burn but maybe it would be ok for the short duration you're using it.

            I've done lots of smt soldering using the griddle method but I had a dedicated griddle and didn't have to worry about cross contamination.

            GL!

        • thielges says:

          Yup this is the way to go. Find someone with the warez and skilz to fix it. I just found an obscure repair shop willing to resolder a component to the motherboard of an elderly smartphone. Crystal International Wireless off of Aborn Rd. in the South Bay. Ask around at your local generic IFIXIT style shops. Someone will know someone.

          Bummer when a solid piece of tech can’t easily be repaired or even replaced. Before I found the tech who fixed my phone every other shop was all “don’t you want to just buy the latest iPhone?” as if that was the only rational solution. Hope you can get your light back up and running soon.

        • jwz says:

          Answers like this are MY FAVORITE. "All you gotta do" is buy hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gear that you don't need and don't know how to operate and will never use again, or find some random-assed skilled engineer who is both local and willing to do it for you for free. EASY PEASY.

          To fix a battery.

          • Dara says:

            I don't mean "easy for an engineer," I mean "easy for a hobbyist," which is why I suggested "makerspace." This isn't a job for an engineer, it's a job for a decent duffer.

            And it's not hundreds or thousands of dollars, it's a $50 piece of kit - it's literally a slightly improved hot air gun - that was I was not suggesting you buy, but which is very common, because it's so useful and so cheap.

            In other words, I was trying to tell you without being insulting about it that you are radically overestimating the difficulty of this repair for a hobbyist (which I acknowledge are are not), which means it should be pretty easy to find someone who can do it, not very difficult. Particularly in San Francisco.

            Hell, you probably know someone who can do it, personally, locally. And I don't even mean software people. As a former performing (and touring, a couple of times) musician, I could do it, and I know at least two other performing/touring musicians who could do it. Because of all the time we have to spend repairing our own kit.

            I'd be very surprised if you didn't know someone and just don't know it.

            And then you wouldn't have to throw out your favourite bicycle gear.

            • jwz says:

              As someone with extensive experience with trying to cajole people into doing skilled work for free, I am always amazed at how easy others assume that is to accomplish.

            • Juggle says:

              Don't need a real hot air station. I found a $15 heat gun for "embossing" at a local craft store that works great for small reflow jobs. A little bit of aluminum foil over the front formed into a funnel helps focus the stream to prevent disturbing surrounding components. A real hot air station is a lot more user friendly. But for $15 the embossing tool saved me a lot of time and money for about 10 years.

      • Mark Kraft says:

        Sent you the contact info on all the principals on Twitter.

        Even if it's custom and you can't fix it easily, I bet someone(s) is still sitting on a few of those bad boys.

  3. Pig Monkey says:

    I have spares I'd be happy to give to you -- one of the front lights and batteries from the 2013 Kickstarter, and a second battery I bought from them in 2018. I migrated to a different setup a while ago, so all components have been sitting on a shelf gathering dust for 3 years. I just tried them, and both batteries still turn on the light. Free to a good home. Or a home, at least.

    I'll even be the in the zombie wasteland formerly known as soma tomorrow and can drop them off at ye ol' pie shop.

    • MattyJ says:

      I'd do that. ^^^

      It looks like the five pins in the back of the port snapped, so I'm not sure how the suggestions to resolder it will work. Once the solder on the PCB is removed the pins won't reach, you'll only have the attached/broken parts to work with. Unless I'm being stupid.

      You might be able to find a new USB connector with fresh, long pins to solder back on there at Sparkfun or Adafruit or whatever your favorite online purveyor of electronics parts is. You might even be able to find a USB battery charging breakout that's small enough and you can file into a circle and cram it in there. But yeah, the thing above is definitely custom.

    • jwz says:

      That would be fantastic, thank you!!!

      I believe all of their batteries were the same shape, so any version should work fine. The back ones just have the little rubber spacer stuck on the bottom.

      Dropping it off at ye old pie shoppe would be great.

      • K J says:

        I'm glad someone was able to come through for you. If/when these eventually die and you still want to use the light, you can get 16340 cells that are protected and have a USB port on them. So that could potentially turn future replacement in to a task of just hooking a new cell to the terminals and getting it in to the case with the micro-USB port accessible, which seems like a smaller task than the current state of affairs. No surface mount work would be needed, just two solder connections and stuffing in a non-conductive spacer to hold the cell in the right spot. The biggest downside would be slightly lower capacity, mitigated mostly by advances in density that have happened since this bike light was new. AFAIK though nobody makes a protected 18350 with USB charging built in.

  4. tfb says:

    An alternative to the reattach-the-surface-mount socket approach might be to remove it altogether & then solder five wires (from a ribbon cable probably) which gives you a flying lead which you can then attach a USB connector to the end of. That looks to me like it would be easier to do with a decent soldering iron. Disadvantage is that the USB connector then ends up dangling somewhere, which might be terminal, advantage is that it's now physically isolated from the rest of the circuit so, if you make sure the cable is held somewhere other than by the contacts, the board won't fail that way again.

  5. Zygo says:

    jwz says:
    5 years ago at 12:45 pm
    Nobody has ever stolen just the battery. It's a shape that I've never seen used by another device.

    So...technically...you are circumventing an anti-theft feature.

    I appove.

  6. asan102 says:

    ah, I liked these lights very much until some bastard took the whole bike. :(

  7. prefetch says:

    How are the innards interfacing with the outer shell? There's plenty of 18350s with integrated ports out there.

    • dzm says:

      Looks like the battery and charger circuit is inserted into that outer plastic shell. The inside seems to route Negative and Positive to be exposed on the same end, and they're aligned with the light's shell via the alignment dingus on the outer shell's side.

      I was kind thinking something along the same lines - there's nothing special about the battery and charger circuit. The weird bit is the wiring soldered to the cell to pull (-) to the same end as (+). In theory someone could create a new harness that accommodates a different USB configuration and puts (+) and (-) in the same spots that the light shell expects.

      As noted above - someone with access to a soldering iron and a 3D printer could probably do this in about ten minutes. Someone like me? I'd just be hitting it with a rock until it got broken enough that went rage-shopping for new lights that make me angry.

  8. angled says:

    Bit late to the party and good to see it's now solved, but it's amusing that the guy who designed these is now in ... real estate??

    https://www.labradorre.com/about

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