Dell: Dead Battery Suffers From "Temporary" Battery Failure


The battery on Derek’s Dell Inspiron 9100 suddenly stopped working. “I mean one day it was fine, holding a charge of over an hour, the next — dead.” Derek asked for help via Dell’s online tech support.

Agent (Shikha_01139843): “Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support. My name is Shikha and my rep ID number is 139843. How may I assist you today?”
Derek : “The issue I am having is this.”
Derek : “The battery will not charge at all. When I plug it into AC power, the battery LED on the laptop (not LED on the battery itself that tells you how charged it is) will blink 4 times ORANGE and then one time GREEN.”
Derek : “I have left the laptop plugged into AC power for several hours, and also overnight and the battery does not even get 20% charged.”
Derek : “When I go into the BIOS on the battery page (which is page 5 I think) it still says 0% chraged.”
Derek : “But it also says “charging””
Agent (Shikha_01139843): “I would like to inform you that battery is suffering from Temporary Battery failure.”
Agent (Shikha_01139843): “It means that Battery has died.”
Agent (Shikha_01139843): “You need to purchase a battery from Dell Sales Department.”
Derek : “Wouldn’t that then be called PERMANENT Battery Failure?”
Agent (Shikha_01139843): “Yes. you can say so.”

Agent (Shikha_01139843): “You may consider purchasing it from our Sales Department. You can contact Sales Department at 1-800-357-3355.”
Derek : “Well at $200, I’m not about to spend that kind of money on a laptop that is 3 years old.”
Derek : “What are my other options?”
Agent (Shikha_01139843): “We have no other option except running laptop with AC Adapter only.”

Battery has died? Poor battery. No more suffering for you. Derek’s now on the hook for a $200 replacement. Dell sure knows how to create a ‘permanent’ customer. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Comments

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  1. j.a.s.o.n says:

    I’m not sure that I understand the issue here. It’s a known disadvantage of Lithium-Ion batteries that they will eventually lose their ability to hold a charge (or sometimes go into what is known as “Deep Discharge” where it takes significantly longer than usual for the battery to charge fully). When I purchased a laptop from Dell in November 2003, they even included some documentation about the lifecycle of my battery with my shipment.

    Here’s a FAQ I found on their webpage

    http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/batteries_s

    that discusses the issue.

    Phone batteries, iPod batteries and laptop batteries (among others) are all subject to this problem. At least phone and laptop batteries are easily replaceable.

  2. easy2panic says:

    Buying batteries can be a bitch, but to save money, time, and not to mention feeling proud of yourself, I recommend re-building/fixing it.

    All you have to do is google “fix laptop battery” (without the quotes) and you can get stuff like this:

    http://www.fonerbooks.com/laptop_3.htm
    -Short condensed version of what you have to do with any battery.
    http://www.electronics-lab.com/articles/Li_Ion_reconstruct
    -Very good and long step-by-step guide.
    http://www.engadget.com/2005/06/28/how-to-rebuild-your-lap
    -(same battery as second link but condensed with user comments)
    http://www.schou.dk/linux/laptop/
    -A fix in a nutshell.
    http://www.hackaday.com/2005/08/26/how-to-laptop-resurrect
    -Scroll down a little to “Battery Revival” and it shows you how to bring back the battery to life with the use of a freezer.

    http://repair4laptop.org/notebook_battery.html
    -Website with many links that will probably help you.

  3. PsychicPsycho3 says:

    Also, don’t buy straight from Dell, they rip you the eff off.

  4. faust1200 says:

    I love the technical analysis of “temporary battery failure.” It reminds me of when Chris Farley said “I have what doctors call – a little bit of a weight problem.”

  5. easy2panic says:

    True, never buy replacement or upgraded hardware from Dell. My mom had a problem with a CD-ROM drive that came with the cheap-o computer so I called technical help (I knew the drive worked but couldn’t configure it). I got connected to some guy from India who kept insisting I buy a new CD-ROM drive for $50. Of course I could easily but a new DVD burner for the same price so I asked them how much their DVD burners were and they were $90. Eventually I got transfered to an American back in the states who actually knew something about computers. In about 10 minutes he solved it and it worked.

    Summary: Just google “Dell Hell” (without the quotes) and you will find out why not to buy from Dell. However if you are short on money, Dell is unfortunately the cheapest, and if you go that route make sure you have a friend or someone in the family who can fix the computer for you when it will eventually need it.

    P.S.: Dell computers never come with enough memory. One of my friends got a Dell computer which came with two 64mb Ram modules with XP. Disgusting.

  6. facted says:

    Search ebay for your model # and add “battery” in there and you’ll find plenty of hits which are generally much, much cheaper. They’re “generic” but work pretty well.

  7. dewrock says:

    Yeah, I don’t really see what the issue is. How is Dell treating this customer badly? His battery went bad and she gave him the opportunity to buy a new one. Now I agree that it’s probably pointless to buy a $200 battery for a laptop that’s 3 years old when he could just buy a new laptop. But I fail to see the problem on Dell’s end. By his own admission the laptop is 3 years old and most definitely out of warranty. I guess it sucks for him but that is the breaks sometimes. Everything has a life.

  8. Quippish says:

    http://www.simplemicro.com//replacement-u4873-battery2.htm

    Thanks facted, my battery just died and I wasn’t looking forward to shelling out over a hundred and fifty for a replacement battery. 70 isn’t too bad.

  9. Snuffleupagus says:

    I don’t think the issue is that Dell is treating their customers badly. It’s that they can’t level with their customers. The battery’s dead. No need to spin it by calling it a temporary failure.

    $200 for a battery is too much. Of course all batteries fail eventually, but they shouldn’t go after three years.

  10. Ben Popken says:

    @Snuffleupagus: @j.a.s.o.n: Testing 123

  11. Ben Popken says:

    @facted: testing 1243

  12. j.a.s.o.n says:

    I don’t think there’s any spin here. She came right out and said the battery has died and he will need to purchase a new one.

  13. j.a.s.o.n says:

    Regarding your comments about the expected time to failure, cf.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery

    for an exposition as to why 24–36 months is expected lifespan of such batteries.

    To reiterate, in my experience Dell was upfront about the limitations of this technology, and they have published FAQs and white papers on their webpage. For all the complaints that one make about Dell, I feel that this one is not warranted.

  14. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    It’s dead Jim!

    I don’t know why the call it “temporary” failure, because that’s certainly not the case, but having a laptop battery crap out in 3 years doesn’t seem outside the realms of possibility.

    Derek, you pressed your luck and got the whammies. It sucks, yes, but I don’t see anything inappropriately handled on Dell’s part.

    I work in the 2-way radio industry, and if a portable radio battery (NiCad, Li-Ion, or NiMH) is over 3 years old, we recommend replacement. Again, it’s a big wheel-of-fortune in terms of how long batteries last. I’ve seen some die at 2 years, and some that lasted for 6 or 7; it all depends on usage, charging cycles, environmental conditions, and initial manufacturing quality. One thing I do know is that batteries will die at the most inconvenient time possible.

    If you can get an aftermarket replacement, that might be the way to go. Some caution is probably warranted, particularly since there’s really no control over the quality of cells an aftermarket manufacturer can throw into a battery case. Of course, we’re talking Dell here, so the point is moot, but make sure you check off the “non-smoking” option when you order the aftermarket replacement.

    Since you have no way of knowing how good the aftermarket battery is, you’ll have to depend on other people’s experiences. Check and see what their return policy and warranty is too.

  15. swalve says:

    Dell computers never come with enough memory? My experience with buying their products, and pretty much all computer products, are that computers with less memory cost less. Want more memory, pay more.

    I don’t get the problem here at all. This laptop is three years old.

  16. fencepost says:

    You can frequently get OEM Dell power supplies (and I suspect batteries as well) for less via eBay as well – I’m pretty sure most of those are items that were bought via hefty corporate or reseller accounts and then resold.

  17. gerrytucker says:

    I’ve actually just had a really good experience with Dell tech support and my laptop. The battery on my e1705 stopped holding a charge in less than 1 year. I handled the chat online and had no issues with getting Dell to ship out a new battery as part of the warranty.

    Also, same laptop different issue, I had forgotten to order the OS re-install CD when placing my order. I emailed to inquire how much it would be to order one and how to go about it and they sent one to me for free.

    Just providing another take on the tech support. I’ve dealt with them other times and the scripts can be cumbersome for them to read, but overall my issue always gets resolved to my satisfaction.

  18. warchild says:

    Just like some of the others have said, I do not see any problem here with Dell. The battery is no longer working after 3 years and I am sure you did not pay the extra money for an extended warranty, did you?

    Also, to “easy2panic”, about Dell computers not coming with enough memory? Last time I checked, every major computer manufacturer allows you to fully customize your computer’s components. If your friend didn’t get enough memory in his computer, that is on him.

  19. Scazza says:

    I just hate the price of batteries. My Laptop was about 3 months out of warranty (it was 15 months old) and the battery completly died) Replacements are a good 300 dollars and the cheap ones are about 180. Its just insane. AC power for me I guess…

  20. FLConsumer says:

    Dell actually sells their power supplies for laptops at reasonable costs ($25-$35) compared to the traditional aftermarket supplies ($75-$120).

    As far as the battery issue, I have a similar issue with my Dell Latitude. Battery just suddenly started flashing strange error codes and the laptop is flashing the green/orange battery light deal. What gets me is that the battery still works. Granted, not for terribly long (~10-15 mins), but it does work. I’ll probably buy a new battery for it, just trying to find a decent one (read: NOT the cheapest I can get) without spending a fortune.

  21. The warranty on a dell battery is one year. The life expectancy of a dell battery is one year. No matter how long the warranty on any other component you will never get a warranty for longer than a year on dell batteries because there is no way to change the life expectancy onf these inexpensively made batteries. It appears that this person did in fact get 2-3 years of usage out of his battery so I dont understand what the issue here is.

  22. Ult says:

    A few items:

    a) confirm whether your battery is part of dell’s recall or not (check their site with your serial number)

    b) On a three year old laptop (without extended warranty) either buy a new OEM dell battery from a reputable ebayer or go 3rd party (google search pulls up a few for the 9100 running at ~$110)

    c) a dell 95 WHr oem battery for a 9100 pulled up at $152 (not a very strong battery mind you)

  23. r81984 says:

    The laptop is 3 years old, how long did this guy expect his batter to last?

    This guy is a complete moron if he thinks Dell should give him a new battery.

  24. healthdog says:

    I agree with most of the comments – the laptop is three years old, life’s a bitch sometimes, etc, etc.

    I also wanted to add that the use of the word “temporary” may (may!) be chalked up to a simple language problem. Virtually all of the Dell techs are Indian, and English is not their first language. Temporary could have been a poor choice of word, or perhaps the tech was thinking of the latin root temporal, i.e. a time or timing problem. That fits with premature discharge.

    Dell TS does suck, though. When I called with a failed battery, the guy would not help me because the system could not find my registration info. #&!*!

  25. @healthdog

    Dell TS does suck, though

    I resemble that remark. Well, except for the sucking part.

    I’m in the states BTW.

  26. r3m0t says:

    About “not enough memory”: I recently saw PC World UK advertise a Vista Home Premium laptop with “HUGE 1GB MEMORY”. 1GB is the minimum for “Vista Premium Ready” certification.

    This is the same company that advertised a 40GB laptop hard-drive as “huge” in April 2006.

  27. FLConsumer says:

    Dell tech support varies widely from Abu in India for the consumer products (Inspiron is a consumer product) to real, live Texan without having to go through a phone tree (corporate support). The latter is quite good and efficient.

  28. oldcootinnyc says:

    * * * UPDATE * * *

    Hello all – Derek here (submitter of story to consumerist.com) and I thought I’d clear up a few things…

    1) I’m not a complete moron, r81984. I wasn’t asking for a new battery nor did I expect one. I was calling to inquire as to the meaning of the 4 orange, 1 green blinks on the LED and if there was a way to reset/restore the battery. As I indicated in my post it was working FINE for the last 3 years and even held a charge for over an hour the day before so it wasn’t like it slowly died.

    2) Since this FIRST battery died, I just so happened to have already had a SECOND spare battery for this laptop (also a Dell battery) which I was using at work. This SECOND battery actually stopped working after a breaker was tripped at work. We all run our computers plugged into power/surge strips. Due to running a small portable electric heater under my desk and being on the same circuit as others in the office we managed to trip a breaker. When it was reset I noticed the laptop running on battery power even though the AC was still plugged in. I had to unplug the AC adapter from the wall, then plug it back in for the laptop to recognize it, but I started to get the same 4 orange, 1 green blinking LEDs. I ran the battery dead and was unable to recharge it after that. I tried leaving it plugged in overnight, freezing the battery for 24 hours… tried everything, got nothing.

    3) The only, O-N-L-Y, reason I submitted this story was highlighted in the original story above in BOLD. I’ve copied that again here:

    Agent (Shikha_01139843): “I would like to inform you that battery is suffering from Temporary Battery failure.”
    Agent (Shikha_01139843): “It means that Battery has died.”
    Agent (Shikha_01139843): “You need to purchase a battery from Dell Sales Department.”
    Derek : “Wouldn’t that then be called PERMANENT Battery Failure?”
    Agent (Shikha_01139843): “Yes. you can say so.”

    I thought it was pretty damn funny to call something Temporary (including the use of a capital T by the way) for a permanent problem.

    Google “Temporary Battery Failure” and you’ll see it is a Dell term and not because the CSR doesn’t have a handle on the English language.

    Finally I want to thank all of you who offered to help by posting some battery recovery links and suggestions on where to get cheap replacements. The flaming though was completely unnecessary.

    Thanks to Ben, Meghann and Carey for what you do and making us all more aware and entertained at work.

  29. anj says:

    Well, aren’t Li-Ion batteries supposed to die after 2 to 3 years anyway? Thats the technology of the cells. What does Dell have to do with that?? They do not make the cells….ask Toshiba, Sony, LG, Panasonic etc. to improve their technology, so they last longer, and do not explode!
    Also, you need not buy the batteries from Dell for $300. I got my Inspiron 9300 battery from SimpleMicro.com for $85:
    [www.simplemicro.com]

    Regards

  30. thasan says:

    I have the same problem with my Dell Inspiron 9300 which is only 20 months old. The Battery is dead. There is also known issues with bluetooth keyboards with 9300. Did not expect such a poor quality product from a branded company like DELL. Searching DELL’s website, found lot of users >500 or so complaining about short battery life span. Was able to purchase a new one for <$100 on the internet. But this would be my last laptop from Dell. My next one will be either from HP or Apple.