The Amazing TV Remote Dead Battery Trick

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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15 Responses

  1. William S. Truman says:

    If that doesn’t work, sometimes rotating the batteries does. Spinning doesn’t work on one of my remotes, but rotating does.Report

  2. Murali says:

    I’ve always automatically done the same without actually thinking about it. I wonder however, wy it works. Presumably, there is some circuit issue. Turning the batteries closes the circuit.

    But does it do so merely because the battery was actually dislodged and the act of turning the battery happens to push the battery back into contact with the electrodes?

    Or is there some kind of oxide collecting on the surface of the electrode and thus blocking the folow of electrons and turning the battery grinds away said oxide and exposing the metal surface again?

    Or is there some third option that I am not thinking about?Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Murali says:

      The battery is chemical, after all. My initial SWAG would be that rotating the batteries (or changing their positions) mixes up the stuff on the interior and gets you a bit more reaction out of it.Report

  3. Renard DellaFave says:

    It’s oxides. The battery contacts, and the contacts in the remote, are generally not gold plated, and steel isn’t the best conductor in any case (maybe it is tinned). Also, some of the time there’s damage to a contact from a battery that has leaked. If spinning doesn’t work, taking the batteries out and wiping the contacts on a shirt or with a alcohol soaked swab, might. A similar trick is sometimes needed for non-gold-plated headphone plugs.Report

    • Battery terminals and the contacts in battery holders are almost all nickel-plated for durability and corrosion resistance (and appearance for the batteries themselves, since nickel can be polished to be nice and shiny). Given sufficient time, though, it will oxidize. Rubbing the contacts and terminals with or on a pencil eraser will also usually do the trick.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    If you don’t already have one, a cheap battery tester can often save you some batteries – I often find that only one of them is totally dead (esp. in the kids’ toys, for some reason), the rest may have at least some life left in them. Without a tester you’ll just end up throwing them all out.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Glyph says:

      I’m not sure I understand the principle behind battery testers. Does the voltage diminish as the charge is expended? How does this not affect the functioning of battery-operated devices?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’m guessing it’s a combination of voltage (which will degrade slowly over time) and amperage (a dead battery won’t produce any, while a dying battery won’t produce enough.)Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    I converted to rechargeable batteries some years back. Costco, in typical fashion, had an enormous pack of every sort of Eneloop batteries imaginable and a charger to go with them. Over the years a few of them wouldn’t hold a charge and I went to the Energizer rechargeables, but I’ll never buy a lead-acid battery again.

    The lens on my camera cracked and I had to replace it. I’d gotten it on sale at Worst Buy and they had a replacement. I pulled the battery out of the wounded camera and it stays in my camera bag now as a spare.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

      This: lead-acid batteries are for suckers. We have a bag of them for emergencies and rotate them through some of our appliances, but the electronics that get regular use all have rechargeables.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Aren’t standard batteries pretty much being phased out altogether? It seems to me that just about everything I’ve bought in recent years has had a built-in rechargeable battery.Report

        • Standard replaceable batteries will be around for cheap, short-lived, or very small products for a long time. Adding a charge controller to a buck-and-a-half (wholesale price for lots in the tens of thousands) remote control is prohibitively expensive. Ditto for cheap cameras, or kids’ toys with a short expected lifetime. Most rechargeables have a much shorter shelf-life than contemporary alkaline disposables — the long shelf-life is important in a flashlight that sits for months at a time between uses. Adding the external connector for a charger for a hearing aid or wristwatch is impractical.Report

  6. e. nonee moose says:

    I do this all the time and thought I was crazy for doing it but it worked so I just ran with it. Kind of glad to know I’m not the only one.Report