Dell Batteries (Yes, You Probably Already Know)


I'm sure you all know this by now, but it may be worth this post if it helps just one person find out (who may have spent the last couple of days buried in the den coding his automation system).

Dell has a recall out on certain batteries. Short story is look at your battery serial number and enter it HERE to see if it needs replacement.

Dell's main battery recall information page is HERE.

Here is a stupid question. Are the "0"'s in the serial numbers the letter "O" or the number "0"? ;)
Yes, I'm wondering if they will soon prohibit Dell Laptops on flights now (so now I will dehydrate AND not be able to compute ;) )!!
BraveSirRobbin said:
Here is a stupid question. Are the "0"'s in the serial numbers the letter "O" or the number "0"? ;)
No such thing...

One time after a re install of my O.S., MS Word wouldn't work.
After a long wait on the tech line, a guy I could barely understand gave me a 25 digit alpha-numeric code.

I had waited so long, I had to leave so I told him I would try it later.
Upon returning, I tried it and it didn't work, so I called back... got the same guy. He recognized me.
He told me I might want to try writing it down this time.

Now, I consider myself a fairly intellegent guy, but am I gonna try to commit a 25 digit alpha-numeric code to memory?... I don't think so.

So is it a stupid question.?.. I don't think so.
This will be some work for IT departments that deploy/support Dell laptops. Glad my company is all HP ;)
My company uses Dell's and they sent an email around and told us to handle it ourselves.

Its like pumping your own gas........
Don't expect this stuff to end with Dell machines. It's only a matter of time before something happens with a different brand. It's not like there are that many different battery manufacturers - in fact, batteries from the same manufacturing line are probably in other laptops.

Lithium ion batteries are very tricky things - actually lithium batteries in general can be. There are several layers of protection built in to those laptop batteries including thermal cutoffs and limits to charge and discharge rates. Charging intelligence is in the batteries and not just in the charger (where there may not be any at all). If any of this stuff fails, the battery is likely to "vent with flame."

If you want to see some of the scary stuff that can happen, look into the worlds of electric radio control aircraft and flashlights. The lithium polymer batteries in small aircraft (and robots, etc.) usually do not have any built-in protection. They depend on smart chargers and smart users - the batteries should not be over discharged. There are numerous videos out there showing failing LiPos. Cars and homes have been destroyed from fires started by these.

The latest stuff I've seen has involved flashlights using lithium primary cells like CR123s (which are also used in cameras). Primary cells are the non-rechargables that you find in every store. There are stories of flashlights exploding (usually blowing out switches or end caps) due to a build up of gases after batteries vent inside. The fumes from these batteries can be quite toxic, too. These problems have been reproduced experimentally but people are still trying to determine the actual cause.

I've seen a lot of this stuff happening (not personally) and am now a little more careful about my batteries (I own or use all of the above mentioned batteries and devices).

There are already restrictions on shipping lithium batteries (primaries) in the cargo holds of planes. You are allowed to carry lithium primaries on board a plane in devices like flashlights. However, I wouldn't be surprised if this does change. It could easily happen with laptops too - however, I can't see that change holding up. Not letting people carry their laptops on board would remove a major segment of the airline customer base.

By the way, a normal household fire extinguisher will not put out a lithium fire although it will put out anything else the lithium fire ignites. I understand that fire extinguishers rated for metal fires typically run about $600 so the $10 extinguisher from Home Depot won't cut it.
I agree somewhat with you smee, but I feel the airline industry (federal regulating agency) will become even more restrictive in the future.

The main problem is the industry is reactive instead of proactive. Look at the recent "liquids" restriction currently in place.

------Warning, Going Off Topic Below-----------

In other words, instead of investigating new detection systems to try to prevent a problem, they wait till it bites them in the rear, then react with non-technical, knee-jerk solutions.

I'm predicting that soon we will all have to go inside a room, strip down naked, hopefully they will give us gowns (like you use for a doctor's visit) and then let you on the plane (will not even approach the subject of cavity searches B) ).

Anyways, just my opinion. ;)
The big problem with these batteries is that they can fail at any time. The device does not need to be on. For something like a laptop, they are almost always on at one level or another (like most TVs these days). Primary cells can fail even when the flashlight (for example) is off and no current is flowing from the batteries.

So the answer is to not allow these batteries on the plane at all - not just carry on but also not in checked luggage. Now, tell all those business travellers that they can't take their laptops with them [1]. See how many airlines disappear after that. It's not like you can leave the battery behind and easily pick up a new one at your destination.

A number of years ago, Duracell (I think) attempted to introduce a standardized line of batteries (probably NiMH or NiCd) that would be common across laptops. If this were the case, then you could start distributing them at airports - people would arrive in town and rent a battery for the duration of their stay. They would return it on departure and get back a deposit. But, with almost every laptop using a different battery style, you would never be able to stock everything people needed. It would be much easier if there were only a few different sizes. Travellers wouldn't be able to use their laptops on the plane without batteries, though - at least not until more planes add power at every seat.

Of course this wouldn't help people who fly with flashlights. While I can pick up CR123 batteries just about anywhere in the US without a problem, they typically cost $6 and up in stores but they are only $1 to $1.50 through the internet.

[1] Actually, in a way I like that idea. It's a pain travelling with a laptop anyway and I'd rather not carry one.
There have been several fires on airplanes reported already, supposedly caused by a laptop. I have read articles where they say Dell has seen hundreds of laptops explode in this manner. Since Sony designed these batteries, I am sure other machines will be affected as well (Apple MacBook, etc). It just sucks that it took so long for Dell to do something about this, considering they have known about this for years.
according to what I've read, there have been over 300 cases of laptop fires due to the batteries in just the last 3 years. I've also read that all of the batteries were made by sony, and that sony makes batteries for HP, Lenovo, and Apple, to name a few. Sony claims that the bad batteries only went to dell, and for now, HP and Lenovo are saying that they agree. Apple has not yet commented, but then again they've got those spontaneously combusting power cords to worry about anyway. In the past day or so I've personally checked about 50 of these laptops, and only found 3 with recalled batteries. My people have about 300 dell laptops with model numbers mentioned in the recall, and so far I've recieved 5 emails from folks who did a self check and found out that their serial number was recalled. I think that its not too far fetched to expect power on airplanes in the near future, though. Heck, for years amtrak has had power to every seat, even in coach.
I think that the CPSC (Consumer Product Saftey Council) had a big part in the Dell recall. Nobody wants to recall a product because of the cost and damage to the reputation. Some companies wil bite the bullet earlier than others. There may have been a game of chicken going on here (see who give in first)

I agree that the problem is inherent to any battery containing lithium. Dell happened to be the unlucky winner of the first recall. Most likely there will be others someday (soon). Saftey measures can be built into the batteries but nothing is perfect.

The real danger is the primary cells in my opinion since they are everywhere now that they make an "AA" version. The consumer has a certian level of comfort with an "AA" battery and will not realize how much more dangerous a Lithium battery really is (and they can be used in kids toys etc).

Its also funny the Lithium batteries are used in smoke detectors. I wonder if they will still sound if they start a fire?
Most consumer devices draw relatively little current from the batteries. I assume smoke detectors are the same (after all, the batteries last a long time). It's usually in devices that require a lot of current that you see problems - in very bright flashlights, for example. Also, in the case of lithium primaries, most problems have been with mismatched batteries (i.e., flashlights which use 2 CR123s, but the batteries are at different capacities). I carry a flashlight powered with a single lithium AA on my belt all the time and I'm not worried about it (it's a Fenix L1P, if anyone is interested).
I think the reason for the increase in recalls of batteries is two fold. Unlike Smee, I don't think LiPoly or Li ion are inherently dangerous. They are much easier to charge then NiCd or NiMH because of the CC-CV regime, run cooler during discharge, and typically have 3 to 4 layers of protection built in (where the nickel based chemistries ussally have one or zero). I think the problem is every year cell capacities are increasing 7-8%, but the form factors stay the same (ie AA, 18650, etc), so you are packing more and more into the same space. Separators are getting thinner and thinner and where in the past small manufacturing defects would not have caused a problem, now are compromising cell safety. The other contributing factor is most of the cells Dell uses from Sony are manufactured in China. Most of the large Japanese cell companies have transferred high volume production to China where the work force is not as experienced and as any of you that have been in manufacturing know, moving a product line even next door creates a whole load of problems that affect product quality. I think one of these has the potential to get better over time, but energy density is going to continue to climb, which I think is going to be a problem.

It is promising to note Panasonic has created a new Li ion series that is intrinsically safe and will not vent during a short. Maybe they will license this tech to other companies?

Anyways, just my OT ramblings :)
royalj7 said:
Unlike Smee, I don't think LiPoly or Li ion are inherently dangerous. They are much easier to charge then NiCd or NiMH because of the CC-CV regime, run cooler during discharge, and typically have 3 to 4 layers of protection built in (where the nickel based chemistries ussally have one or zero).
I think we are actually agreeing here. It is because of the inherent danger in the chemistry and mechanical design of the batteries that those layers of protection are there. So yes, a battery as a complete system (the thing you buy and use) is usually safe but the underlying cells are not necessarily. And, while the protection is there in most lithium-ion batteries. they are not there in all of them and are not present in most lithium-polymer batteries (at least those available at the hobby level). LiPos are used to get a lot of current quickly to power motors - the protection could decrease the available current. And in flashlights, people do buy unprotected lithium-ion cells to get the most they can out of them (the cells may still have PTCs, though). Incidents involving "venting with flame" have occured with lithium primaries which are protected only with PTCs.

The charge density of these batteries is much higher than NiCd and NiMH - that's why they are so popular. That's also one of the reasons they need more protection and greater care must be taken when using them.