Low Tech Fixes: Blown A/C Adapter

  by Dustin MainNo Comments


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As part of an ongoing series on Too Many Adapters, we want to hear about your Low-Tech fixes. Got a good story about a repairing your tech on the cheap? Have you repurposed an old piece of gear for something new? Let us know in the comments and we may feature your story in a future installment.

How I Fixed My Battery Charger at a Tiny Shop in Burma / Myanmar

A few months ago, I moved to a universal battery charger. This one piece of gear saves me from carrying three separate chargers. There is one thing about consolidating your gear to save space, if one piece goes down, it can end up affecting more than just one piece of gear.

The Victim

It was late in the evening and I was charging up my main camera battery to get me through the next 3 days trekking to remote mountain villages around the town of Pindaya in rural Burma / Myanmar.  The blinking green of the “charge” light was letting me know I would be good to go in the morning.

Then, *POP*, and the light was gone.

Uh oh.

My charger was dead.  Now, it’s not unusual for the power to go out in Burma / Myanmar, but the lights were still on.  This was bad.  I popped the battery into my camera, and the battery showed about 35%.  I would have to conserve what I could to make it through the next few days.  In the end, I only made it through a little over a day and a half before it went down.

Battery Charger Surgery & Diagnosis

When I arrived back in Pindaya a few days later, I wanted to see what the damage was for myself.  The charger was quite warm when it blew, so I suspected it was the damaged part.  Using my Leatherman Micra multi-tool (check price at Amazon), I removed the screws to see inside.  For better or for worse, it looked fine in there.  So far, inconclusive.

My guide drove me to a visit a friend of his who fixed electronics.  Using an LED to test the A/C adapter, it looked like it may be the culprit.  In fact, he tried another power plug, just in case (it is Burma after all).

After testing the actual charger with another A/C adapter (albeit a lower power one), it looked like it was OK.  Better that the A/C Adapter is broken, than the charger itself.

It only took about 5 minutes to visit the two electronics shops in Pindaya, a small town of about 5000 people.  Near the market, and across the dirt road from one another, the shops only had lower powered A/C adapters, made for charging regular USB devices.  They just wouldn’t cut it for my charger.  I’d have to head to a bigger city.

Needing to get my cameras back up and running as soon as possible, I headed to the state capital of Taunggyi.  In typical Burmese fashion, luck found me in the right spot.  I made some quick friends from the NLD (National League of Democracy) and I ended up at a little shop owned by Oo Thein Wai.

The Fix

With my limited Burmese, some hand motions, and loose translations from my friend Khun Then Lwin, we made progress fast.  He had a similar A/C adapter, outputting the same 12 volts, and 1500mA instead of the 1000mA that my charger would require.

Within a few minutes, Oo Thein Wai had taken the guts out of each A/C adapter, identified the problem, swapped the cables by re-soldering the cable connections (so I would have the correct plug for the charger), and put it all back together.  My A/C adapter now has a euro-style A/C plug, but who cares.  That’s what universal plug adapters are for.

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The Round Up

  • I spent about a day between searching places out in Pindaya and Taunggyi, and traveling to Taunggyi.  There was no option to buy a new A/C adapter or charger(s).
  • Cost to fix: $0  Try as I might, Oo Thein Wai would not accept my money.
  • Saved ~$150 (buying new Nikon battery chargers in Yangon)

Success!

Do you have any stories of low-tech solutions when your high-tech problems pop up?  Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Dustin Main

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Dustin just can't get enough travel or technology, but when he's not directly feeding one of those insatiable habits, you can probably find him at some far away ice cream shop taking pictures of empty cups. That, or on top of a mountain somewhere shooting photos and finding adventures to share on his website "A Skinny Escape".

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