We need to talk for a minute about batteries: Bad batteries, good batteries, and how to tell the difference.
Two-way radios are essential for reliable and seamless communication, but this equipment doesn’t work without a battery.
Today’s supply chain delays and global shortages are making high-quality batteries harder to find.
At times like this, unscrupulous manufacturers and after-market resellers take advantage of desperate consumers.
Too many people get bamboozled by an online deal that’s too good to be true and wind up with a substandard product.
Here’s what I’ve been discovering as I help our customers keep their communication equipment in top shape.
For Sale: Bad Batteries (Cheap)
The internet is full of scammy places where people are just selling stuff out there, knowing that there's this horrible shortage there.
They are relabeling or selling old batteries. Some people don't know that batteries have expiration dates, just like everything else.
You can usually get about two to three years out of a battery depending on usage and how you charge them.
But when people try to save a few bucks by buying a battery online, it doesn’t pay off in the long run.
For example, watch out for somebody who is selling 20 batteries of a kind that nobody else has in stock. And definitely check to make sure that they're not more than two years old. If they are, chances are they're not going to charge. Or you might be able to use them for a week and then that's it.
In too many cases, the customers are getting cheated.
No Refund, or Disappearing Vendors
If you do buy a battery from one of these sites, there's no going back. Many of these sellers are fly-by-night operations or people that are just selling something that they might have in their own stock.
If the battery doesn’t work, you can't find them or they make it impossible to return it and get a refund.
You can try to stop payment on a credit card, but none of us want to do that. We just want batteries so our equipment can work.
We need our two-way radios to work.
Too Good To Be True?
We want to get the message out to people that there are a lot of scammers out there, and that people should use their best judgment.
Don’t just Google the model of your radio and think that you’re going to find a deal. You might land on someone selling that battery, but there’s a decent chance it is expired, or close to expired. You could also be in danger of voiding your warranty by putting the wrong battery in. Motorola radios are supposed to have Motorola batteries.
Some of it is trusting your intuition: If it doesn't feel right, if it’s too cheap, then there’s probably a reason.
It comes down to a combination of common sense and trust.
At Chicago Communications, we get service calls all the time from people having trouble with batteries. As batteries near the end of their lives, radios might
Need to be charged more frequently or longer
Have a yellow or green flashing LED
Have a reduced range
That’s not good, because two-way radios are helping people stay connected in all kinds of mission-critical situations.
Nine times out of 10 when you're not getting that radio working the way it should be it's because there's an issue with the battery.
That’s why we like to share the knowledge on how to do a quick battery check.
Checking Motorola's Two‑way Radio Batteries
Once you know the trick to determining how old your battery is, it’s pretty straightforward. Just follow these steps.
Pull the battery from the two‑way radio.
Make note of the 4‑digit date code on the front of the battery. The first two digits represent the year (20 for 2020, for example). The last two digits represent the week of the year. Thus, “2010” indicates the tenth week of 2020, not the year 2010.
If your battery is more than two years old, order a replacement to avoid communication issues.
The battery warranty on most Motorola batteries is two years. Batteries often last longer, but performance can steadily decline past the 18‑month mark.
Of course, we are experiencing all kinds of delays right now, so we’ve all got to plan ahead.
How Bad Are These Delays?
No one is happy with the current supply chain situation. The backlog is significant. We have long waits for radios, and we are waiting on batteries.
And we need the two to be together before we deliver to our customers; the battery and the radio are a set unit.
The batteries are designed for the products, and if you try to take a shortcut, you could have serious problems.
And if we are selling someone new radios for their fleet and they don’t have batteries, we’re not fulfilling our end of the bargain.
We know some people get tired of waiting, and that’s when they start to look around the internet for batteries.
You can find them on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist, but as I said before, you just don’t know what you’re getting.
Not using the right battery in your two-way radio can also pose a danger to staff and facilities. certain types of batteries will explode if exposed to sparks.
Of course, the worst-case scenario is when communication equipment malfunctions or fails. We can’t let something such as a substandard battery compromise a response to a serious incident.
If people have any questions, we're more than happy to help. I'm always ready to help somebody know how to read a battery, to find the date.
In addition to that, we’ve got tips online for two-way radio maintenance and troubleshooting. But it’s tricky when customers call and say, “I bought these batteries online, and they’re not working.” I have to say, “I can’t help you much because you didn’t buy them from us.” I can’t get Motorola to service something if they bought a battery that’s not covered under the warranty.
So, the final word is, if you have a question about batteries — or anything about your equipment — talk to a trusted two-way radio provider first.
You’ll be glad you did.