Getting More Battery For The Buck

Jan. 1, 2008
With a little ingenuity, the discount-priced FireStorm batteries sold at Black and Decker outlets can power your DeWalt tools, for about a $50 savings over the OEM batteries.

Hello and welcome to the first installment of Tool Tech. This column is dedicated to finding new and better ways to make our job easier through the use of tools and techniques. The goal is to provide you, the reader, with tips on new tools that aren't necessarily locksmith related, but items that are not included in our general vendor's catalog. Some topics will save you quite a bit of cash, while others will save you plenty of frustration by providing more technical help and detail to some of the common jobs we perform every day.

I will kick off the series by saving you some cash - at least $50, possibly more. This issue pertains to those of us utilizing the DeWalt brand of cordless tools. DeWalt is manufactured by Black and Decker. DeWalt is Black and Decker's heavy duty line of tools for professionals.

I have no doubt all of you have plunked down wads of cash over the years for replacement batteries. I have found a way around it.

Generally, you will only obtain about 500 charge cycles from your battery. After that, performance diminishes greatly. Most of us will then recycle the old, and purchase new.

Well, here's where I come in. In every neck of the woods, there's a Black and Decker outlet. There, they sell FireStorm batteries designed to be used in the Black and Decker line of tools. They range in voltages from 9.6 up to 18 in the style presented here. The most expensive (18v) is $25.

These batteries will work in your drill! As you can see in the photos, I have one inserted into my 18v hammerdrill .

They will not, however, work without modification in your sawzall , cutoff tool, circular saw, jig saw, etc... The reason they require modification is the little “tab” shown in the photo.

Notice the different location. The batteries are very similar internally, but the manufacturer changes the case so the consumer can't do what I'm about to show you.

There are two courses of action you can take to correct this tab issue. The first is to simply remove the tab. I like to use a Dremel and cutoff wheel, but there are many other ways to accomplish the same task. I have found no negative effects to this course of action, other than voiding the warranty. The tab's only purpose is to stop the interchangeability, whereby they can charge the consumer more for OEM.

The second method is to switch cases. As shown in the photos, once the screws are removed, the battery pack slides out from the casing. If a little persuasion is needed, I use the hook pick as shown in the photo and slide it under the pack at various points while pulling. Use caution not to puncture the battery pack with the point. The top part of the case will simply pull off of the contact post. Do the same for the new battery, and switch the packs.

In my experience over the last few years, I have noticed no ill effects or decreased performance in either the tool or battery. The less expensive battery worked well in the original charger. Charging times were equal to OEM batteries, as was overall battery life. The batteries costing $25 performed just as well as the original $80 OEM.

Many of us “short cycle” the battery, that is, recharge it or top it off when it's not dead. This counts in the life cycle of the battery. The more you short cycle it, the shorter the life span. If you frequently need to do this, then this tip is especially for you. By utilizing the Black and Decker battery, you can purchase three for the price of one!

This will work with all voltages from 9.6 to 18 in the style shown in the photos. In the most recent models of battery packs, I have noticed a screw pattern change. If you have a few of the older packs in this style, don't recycle them. They are capable of housing a fresh battery pack for one-third of the price.

Black and Decker lists locations of approximately 30 factory stores on the web site

In a future column , I will show some new plier designs on the market as well as a pair you can't afford to be without!