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It was purely by chance that I discovered the existence of this simple and inexpensive battery, bulb and fuse tester, when a friend was checking the state of the batteries and bulb in his son's torch before a camping trip.
Thinking it was a comparatively recent adaptation of the brick-sized ammeter, I had seen my father use in the past when checking all manner of electrical stuff. I could immediately see how useful this would be, primarily to test batteries, so I, slipping into nosey-mode, asked where he bought it and its approximate cost. "Got it down the market - cost me a quid," he said - that's a pound, to you and me - so the following Saturday I checked the stall where a whole variety of tools were being sold, and there, on the front, were a pile of these natty little gadgets, priced £1.
Reasons why batteries should be tested before being discarded
Two or more batteries of the same voltage, are often used to power many battery-operated gadgets, yet I have discovered that seemingly, not all lose their power at the same rate. Either that or some battery-multiple packs I have bought contained batteries of unequal charge.
Then of course, there is the situation whereby two packs containing four batteries are bought and six are required for one gadget; four from one pack and two from another. The chances are that the units from each pack are not of equal charge, so two may expire before the four, or vice versa.
This is where the extremely versatile and useful battery tester comes into its own.
Some gadgets use more power than others do, for example, a small clock uses very little power from its 1.5V AA battery, whilst a digital camera uses much more energy from its two-1.5V AA batteries, both of which rapidly lose their charge through constant use. However, although the batteries may stop powering the camera when the charge drops to a certain level, those same batteries still have enough energy left to power a clock, or similar devices with minuscule appetites for energy, for a few more weeks, or even months.
I understand that in order to prolong the lives of rechargeable batteries, it is advisable to recharge them only when they are completely flat. The tester will indicate whether the cell is just low or flat.
The Battery, Bulb and Fuse Tester
The whole unit, including its own 9V internal battery, weighs about the same as a dect cordless phone and is approximately the same size. Total length is 15cms. Width at the broadest point is 6.5cm at the top, where the "extra heavy-duty," 9V battery is located, necessary only for testing bulbs and fuses. Width at the narrowest point is 5cm, at the base. Depth is 2.2 - 3.0cm
Protruding from the right side of the tester is an adjustable platform and a fixed overhang, between which, 1.5V AAA, 1.5V AA, 1.5V C and button batteries to be analysed are inserted. The overhang and platform each have a metal terminal, which complete an electrical circuit between the test battery terminals and the tester, to generate a small measurable current.
The 1.5V D batteries, although slightly too big to fit snugly between the tester terminals, can still be tested, by allowing the sides of its positive and negative terminals to meet the tester terminals.
At the top of the unit is the meter, with four colour-coded scales to indicate the energy status of the different types of batteries. However, it does not give a quantitative estimate of the energy left in the battery.
When the indicator needle is on the green, the batteries are deemed "good," when the needle is on the yellow section, it indicates that the battery is "low," but when on red, it is an indication that the battery is depleted and to be discarded or, if rechargeable, recharged.
Directly under the meter is a circular recess with metal terminals where bulbs are tested; at the side of this recess are the terminals to test fuses, by bridging the fuse across the metal tabs. Immediately below are the two circular terminals to test the small rectangular 9V batteries.
Having used it extensively for the past year or so, I now dread to think how many good batteries I have discarded over the years, thinking they were flat, just because the gadget they were powering had stopped working, and fresh ones powered it up again.
I find it extremely useful for determining whether my rechargeable batteries are flat enough to recharge or have enough charge left in them (when there isn't enough to drive a power hungry gadget) to power one with a mediocre appetite. I have not had occasion to test fuses or bulbs, though I can certainly see how useful those features could be if a fuse, blows or a torch refuses to work despite being fitted with a new set of batteries. It was only last week when my trusty labeller lost power, yet only two of the six batteries were dead. Without the tester, all six would have been thrown out.
I have seen the exact same models of this tester on-line each with different names emblazoned on the front and different price tags. The Rolson tester on line costs £5.25; the Silverline was priced nearer the £3 mark. Mine cost me £1 - but then it was last year that I bought it.
I have also seen similar battery testers, just for testing batteries alone, but costing a fiver each.