LiPo batteries are widely used in various electronic devices, including RC vehicles, drones and portable electronics, due to their high energy density and lightweight design. Over time, however, these batteries can degrade or develop problems that affect their performance and safety.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, knowing the signs of a failing LiPo battery is critical for safety and optimal performance. We will examine common signs such as reduced flight time, a swollen or inflated appearance, increased internal resistance, overheating, inconsistent performance, cell voltage imbalance, and voltage recovery issues. In addition, we will provide guidance on proper battery handling and disposal practices to ensure the well-being of both users and the environment.
Remember, understanding the signs of a bad LiPo battery can help prevent potential accidents and extend the life of your equipment.
So in this article, we will not only provide you with essential indicators of a bad LiPo battery, but we will also focus on how to store lithium batteries safely.
Why does a Lipo battery go bad?
Age and use: Over time, lithium batteries naturally degrade with age and use. As they go through charge and discharge cycles, the battery’s internal chemistry can break down, resulting in reduced performance and capacity.
High temperatures: Exposing lithium batteries to high temperatures, such as direct sunlight or hot environments, can accelerate their degradation. It can cause chemical reactions within the battery, resulting in loss of capacity and reduced lifespan.
Overcharging or overdischarging: Charging a lithium battery beyond its recommended voltage or discharging it to extremely low levels can damage its internal structure. This can result in decreased performance, reduced capacity, and even safety hazards.
Physical damage: Dropping or mishandling lithium batteries can cause physical damage, resulting in internal short circuits or punctured cells. Such damage may result in swelling, overheating, or complete battery failure.
Manufacturing defects: In rare cases, manufacturing defects can affect the quality and safety of lithium batteries. These defects may include faulty cell construction, improper electrolyte composition, or improper sealing, which can contribute to premature battery failure.
Improper storage: Storing lithium batteries in harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures or high humidity, can accelerate their deterioration. It is important to store batteries in a cool, dry place within the recommended temperature range.
Incompatible chargers: Using chargers or charging cables that are not compatible with the specific lithium battery chemistry can damage the battery and affect its performance. Always use chargers recommended by the battery manufacturer.
The easiest way to tell if a lipo battery is bad
One of the simplest ways to determine if your LiPo battery is in poor condition is to check for any signs of inflation or bubbling.
Common reasons for bad batteries
You can also tell if your LiPo batteries or cells are damaged by looking for the following unusual characteristics
- Physical damage to the plastic casing or visible deformation of the battery pack.
- Detection of a distinct odor indicating leaking electrolyte. A compromised LiPo pack may leak electrolyte, which is acidic and can damage your electronics. In addition, the leaking gases may be flammable and pose a fire hazard.
- Abnormally high internal resistance (IR). Internal resistance is affected by a number of factors, including cell quality, capacity, chemical properties, temperature, age, voltage, and discharge rating. Typically, a LiPo battery pack will have a low IR. However, if you measure the IR and find it to be abnormally high, this indicates cell damage.
- Dented corners: If you notice dents or deformation on the corners of the battery, this indicates possible damage.
- Puffing or swelling: Swollen or inflated LiPo batteries are a clear sign of damage. In such cases it is essential to stop charging or discharging the battery immediately. Swollen cells also tend to have a higher internal resistance, making it necessary to stop using the entire battery pack.
- Smoke emission during charging: Damaged LiPo batteries may puff and emit smoke during charging.
If your LiPo battery pack exhibits any of the above signs, it is imperative that you stop using it and dispose of it properly. These batteries should not be disposed of in the regular trash or dumpster, as they may explode or catch fire.
It is also important not to store these damaged batteries. Improper storage can lead to potentially hazardous situations, including explosions that can cause serious injury or damage to personal property. Proper disposal methods should be followed to ensure safe handling of these batteries.
Why Lipo batteries puff up and how to deal with it？
LiPo puffing is the visible swelling of the battery or cell. This swelling occurs as a result of electrolyte decomposition, which leads to the formation of gas within the battery.
You may have come across advice to discard a LiPo battery if it starts to puff. While this advice is partially correct, it’s important to note that some swelling is to be expected in all LiPo batteries over time.
A LiPo battery consists of three primary components: the positive electrode (cathode), the negative electrode (anode), and the liquid electrolyte. The electrolyte, a chemical substance inside the LiPo, facilitates the movement of ions between the positive and negative ends during discharge and charging.
The phenomenon of LiPo puffing is a result of electrolyte decomposition, a naturally occurring process. Decomposition produces by-products such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. These gases not only cause LiPo batteries to physically swell, but are also highly flammable.
It’s important to note that electrolyte decomposition can occur regardless of how LiPo batteries are handled.
Therefore, if you see signs of battery expansion, stop using the battery immediately. Disconnect the battery from any equipment or charger. Do not attempt to recharge or discharge the battery. Move to a safe area and place the battery in an explosion-proof box.
LiPo battery lifespan: How long will it last?
The lifespan of a well maintained LiPo battery can exceed 150 power cycles (discharge and recharge), while improper storage or abuse can significantly reduce its lifespan.
Unlike a fixed time frame, a properly stored LiPo battery can last indefinitely. However, after approximately 150 charge/discharge cycles, the battery will begin to degrade and will require replacement to restore optimal functionality.
How can I extend the life of my LiPo batteries?
It is important to prolong the life of your LiPo batteries. Take the following steps to improve their longevity:
Choose a quality charger: Use a charger specifically designed for LiPo batteries, and ensure compatibility with the correct connector to prevent short circuits and prolong battery life.
Avoid charging warm batteries: Heat is harmful to LiPo batteries. Allow the battery to cool before charging, and allow sufficient cooling time after charging before reusing.
Observe low-voltage cutoffs: Discontinue use when the battery reaches the recommended low voltage cutoff to prevent excessive discharge.
Store under optimal conditions: Avoid storing LiPo batteries in hot environments, such as the trunk of a car during warm months. Store them at the appropriate storage voltage, as batteries left at over 80% charge for more than four hours may begin to swell.
Take precautions against damage: LiPo batteries are susceptible to fire, mechanical damage, and premature swelling. Store them partially charged in a cool place and protect them from physical damage.
Identify and discard swollen batteries: Do not use LiPo batteries that show signs of swelling, as they will no longer hold the required charge. Dispose of these batteries in accordance with proper battery disposal practices after they are completely discharged.
By following these guidelines, you can maximize the life of your LiPo batteries and ensure their safe and efficient performance.
How to protect and store the battery?
Both heat and cold are the enemies of Lipo batteries. Do not allow the Lipo battery to get very hot during use and charging. Low temperatures can reduce the performance of Lipo batteries. Try to keep the batteries warm, but not too hot, before using them in cold weather.
They should also be stored in a fireproof case. To learn how to store and dispose of defective batteries, read this beginner’s guide to RC LiPo batteries.
It is important to handle LiPo batteries with care and safety in mind. If you suspect that a LiPo battery is faulty or damaged, it is best to stop using it and dispose of it properly according to local regulations.