Radio Battery Maintenance

Here's our recommendations for new battery use, storage, and care

Advances in battery technology have helped make two-way radios dramatically smaller and more powerful. And while the lithium-ion battery (first sold commercially around 28 years ago) has become the industry standard, it is not the only choice. Understanding the available options and learning a few simple rules will extend battery life and improve radio performance.

Each type of battery has a different standard battery life and service requirements. It is important to remember that these estimates can vary widely depending on environments and charging methods.

 

Typical Battery Lifespan

  • Nickel-cadmium (NiCd): 2 - 3 Years

NiCd batteries are more difficult to damage than other batteries and tolerate deep discharge for long periods. Typically, they last longer than other rechargeable batteries. However, cadmium is toxic and requires special care during disposal, visit www.call2recycle.org for more information. This battery type is rarely used in modern radios.
  • Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH): 1 - 2 Years

NiMH batteries can have two to three times the capacity of an equivalent size NiCd and they deliver a near-constant voltage until they are almost completely discharged. The main drawbacks of NiMH are the weight/hrs of performance combined with the lengthy recharge time.
  • Lithium-ion (Li-ion): 1.5 - 2 Years

Li-ion batteries have a high energy density, resulting in a much lighter weight than other rechargeable batteries. They hold their charge well, losing about 5% of their charge per month as compared to about 20% for NiMH batteries. Li-ion batteries can be charged before they are completely discharged with no issues.

 

How to check your batteries age

While some battery manufacturers have a dating system, others do not. We always recommend marking your batteries with a date so you know how long you have had them. You should do this even with manufacturer dated batteries as date codes on the batteries only denote when it was assembled, not sold to you.
Follow these steps to determine the age of your Motorola battery.
  1. Remove the battery from your radio
  2. Look at the white label on the front of the battery
  3. Near the barcode will be a group of 4 digits. These are the year and week your battery was made.

Example: 1518 means 2015, Week 18 or April 27th - May 3rd, 2015

How To Determine the Age of a two-way radio battery

Regardless of type, any two-way radio battery that has 1,000 complete charge cycles or has hit 5 years of life should be replaced and recycled. Visit www.call2recycle.org for more information on safe recycling.
We recommend replacing your batteries every 2-3 years to ensure a consistent performance baseline. Call us at (888) 733-7681 if you believe you are experiencing battery issues.

Best charging practices for all battery types

Initialize your new battery

New batteries must be fully charged before their first use. This will “initialize” the battery and ensure it operates at its maximum capacity. NiCd/NiMH typically charge in 14-16 hours, and Li-ion batteries take between 2-3 hours.

What is a full two-way radio battery charging cycle?

Do not use the radio while it is charging

You may be in a situation where your radio charging station is also where you do most of your work. While it is tempting to never move the radio from your charger, this type of continuous charging will significantly shorten your battery’s lifespan.

Charge your radios in a dry cool environment

Temperature can have a major impact in your radio’s battery life. You can lose as much as 25% operating time if your battery charges in a hot environment. Additionally, charging in extreme cold (-4 degrees F and below) can dramatically decrease total battery capacity.

 

Ensure proper connection in the charger

Almost all two-way batteries can be charged while not attached to the radio. This is due to a tab system between the battery and the charger that aligns the contact points. The radio/battery combo or just the battery should slide smoothly into the charger.

 

Remove from charger after the battery is full

If you know your radio will not be used for a while, it is best to remove it from the charger. This reflects back to the do not use the radio while charging section above, as continuous charging shortens the battery’s life.

 

Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) Charging Rules

  • Charge fully each time
  • Condition batteries to reduce the memory effect
  • Can be stored completely discharged
  • Increased temperature while charging is normal

 

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) Charging Rules

  • Should charge in 1-3 hours depending on charger type
  • Partial charges are less of a concern than Ni batteries
  • Partial discharges and more frequent charging are preferred
  • No charging in freezing temperatures
  • Should be stored with a partial charge 30% - 50% for extended periods
  • Stays cool while charging
  • No memory effect issues like NiMH batteries

 

Battery Analyzing/Reconditioning

Many radio batteries can be analyzed and reconditioned to give their total remaining capacity a bump. This is usually only beneficial for users who follow the above charging practices. If your radio will not turn on or the battery doesn’t register on the charger, you should expect to replace it with a new one.

We offer this service free of charge for Motorola batteries. Please contact your rep today to discuss your exact needs.

 

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