I Think I Got Scammed - My Battery Desulfator Experience

I just bought one of those "battery desulfator" devices on ebay. The brand was wizbangplus.com, but there are numerous different brands, and there are some that are added to battery chargers. This essay explains why I got bamboozled.

Here's why I think it's bogus: after reading an article at Battery University about how it's done industrially, I got skeptical. Basically, what you do is over-charge the battery, creating an environment in which some of the crystals can dissolve. You can't do this forever - you do it for a few hours, and then let it rest.

That seems so plainly obvious, and when you think about it, it makes sense.

There's another way to desulfate, which is to trickle charge the battery for a few months. It's not as effective, but it helps. Again, this makes sense.

Lastly, there are some videos on youtube where they test out a device, and it doesn't do anything.

What these desulfators claim to do is send a high frequency tone, or a pulse, into the battery. This resonates with the crystals, causing them to vibrate and, eventually, dissolve. Some of the devices whine due to the LRC circuit in there.

I don't think that the people making these devices, at least not some of them, are being deceptive. I think they also believe these desulfators work.

I think what happened was that I wanted to believe that it would be possible to fix a sulfated battery with a special device. Why?

* Because, when you wreck a battery through neglect, you feel bad. I neglected to check the water level, and the battery became weak. It got weak within the warranty period (it was 4 years old). When you feel bad, you're in a vulnerable situation.

* Because I like the idea of a special gadget fixing a problem in behavior. I'm a sucker for tech-nerd stuff like gadgetry.

* Because it's electronics geeks making these devices. Again, I am a sucker for a this specific type of electronics: the diy-ish device.

* Because I like the idea of not wasting money. The batteries are expensive, and old car batteries are useful in UPSs and to power other devices. I had been burning through those CR-2023 batteries, and wanted to replace some with a big battery.

* Because I don't know much about batteries. Chem is a weak area of my knowledge, and I didn't have a good idea about what's happening in the battery.

* Because the descriptions of how some these worked are similar to the rejuvenators you use on NiCd rechargeable batteries. To fix those, you use an arc welder to shoot current through the battery, breaking up the dendrites that have formed.

* Because there are some high-priced desulfators. When you see something expensive, you assume it's good, or a legitimate category of product. I suspect these actually desulfate batteries, using the techniques listed above. These big devices are not the same as the little desulfators that cost under $100.

* Because I'm cheap. Offer someone a great deal, and it seems like it's worth it.

So, lesson learned. I hope that the makers of this device really evaluate the device. If they are dishonestly selling this bogus product - I hope they change their behavior. They're being liars and assholes.

How do you maintain batteries?

You have to treat the battery like a part of the car. Check the water levels and keep them high enough to cover the plates. This is critical when the temperature rises, because the water evaporates.

Keep the battery charged. If you are going to keep a car parked for a long time, like a few weeks, remove the battery, put a trickle charger on it, and just leave it like that.

Keep the battery in the shade. Heat causes the electrolyte to expand, potentially leaking. Heat also shortens battery life.

Ahhhh, it makes sense now.

Buying this thing coincided with my learning how to maintain a battery properly - and the motivation to do it. I've known how to check the water for over 20 years, but I've checked it fewer than 20 times in that time. Why? Because batteries nowadays are so good that they just last a long time. Also, I was usually parked indoors - so the batteries didn't suffer the damaging effects of heat.

So, now, if I used the desulfator, combined with my new, good habits, my future batteries would work a lot better. I could attribute that to my new habits - or I could attribute it to the gadget. I'd most likely attribute it to the device, because it's so present and visible (and audible).

[Something else just occurred to me. If a desulfation circuit could extend the life of a battery a few more years, then the battery companies would be adding them to their batteries, to avoid having to pay out on warranties. Warranties are not free - the cost of the warranty, which is a kind of insurance, has a premium, and they have bank accounts to hold money in reserve to pay for warranty service. If adding around $5 of electronics to a battery could reduce warranty service, they'd do it.]


I was still feeling scammed so I put the unit on sale on ebay for $5. Give someone else a chance with it. I sent it out, and the buyer claimed it didn't work, wanted to return it. I was not paying attention, and the issue fell through to a refund, which was fine with me, but cost me around $7 in postage. (My ad said "no refunds", but I usually give them rather than waste time fighting.) The buyer claimed to be an electrician, and the unit was silent. I had a hard time believing that, because I wrapped it up in bubble wrap and sent it in a better box than what I received it in.

The lesson I should have learned is that when you find yourself in "the land of stupid" you just need to get the hell out and cut your losses. Don't try to scheme a schemer, unless you think like a scam artist, and do it all the time.