DeWalt Literal Hack Upgrades Battery

There are several important decisions you make in your life: Coke or Pepsi; vi or emacs; PC or Mac. But, lately, you need to pick a battery ecosystem for your tools. DeWalt? Black & Decker? Or just cheapies from Harbor Freight? But what happens when your vendor of choice changes their batteries? That’s the situation [jleslie48] found when a DeWalt 14.4V battery died. All the new tools require 18V batteries, so buying an old battery for one tool didn’t make sense. Time to literally hack the old tool to accept the new battery.

Presumably, nothing in the drill will mind the higher voltage. It is all a matter of mechanics and nothing a Dremel tool won’t fix. Since the tool was old and the 18V batteries relatively new, [jleslie48] decided to limit modifications to the tool only leaving the batteries intact for use with the newer tools.

The only problem once you remove the pins and clips that interfere with the battery fit, it won’t actually stay on the drill. We might have turned to duct tape or zip ties, but bungee cord works, too, as you can see in the finished product.

Honestly, though, the bungee is good because you can stretch it to remove the battery for charging. We might have just cannibalized the drill for its motor, but next time you have a tool with no battery, it might be worth looking to see if you could modify the tool.

Bungees are great for robots, too. Or, you can lay siege on your neighbors.

40 thoughts on “DeWalt Literal Hack Upgrades Battery

  1. Works, doesn’t look hugely impractical. Seems like a win to me. Ugly but functional, and in the world of tools pretty really shouldn’t matter at all..

    I’ll probably be doing something similar soon myself – just got given a fascinating and seemingly rather good old B&D multi tool with jigsaw, orbial sander and drill heads that just click on. And so far its been great, being as far as I can tell never used at all, but the battery is a 12v nicad so I expect it won’t live that long – so when it does die a quick bit of 3d printing and case modding to change its battery mount to match the Ryobi batteries I have is I think in order. Assuming the tool holds up as well as it seems like it will, actually wondering about getting another one second hand anyway as they seem pretty cheap. Don’t actually go in for battery powered tools much though – when working outside airline tools are wonderful, as they really don’t care about getting wet, and actually get colder and more comfortable to hold as you work…

  2. I have been in the same place too many times. I stand there and contemplate the perfectly fine hand tool and the battery that no longer holds a charge and it makes me angry. Instead of getting angry, you actually did something about it.


  3. The Post Apocalyptic Inventor has just made a video doing something similar. He used Makita battery form factor and does an altogether more professional job than this. He used it to standardise all his scrapyard find power tools, and also used 6 x 14.4V packs to power a 110V angle grinder.

    1. (for those wondering) the grinder works because it (also routers and hand drills) use a series-wound Universal Brushed motor. no permanent magnets so it can work equally well on AC or DC if the voltage is high enough. the brushed motor is desirable because its Rip’ems runs independent of line freequency, so it can run at a much higher speed – the 10k RPM grinder motor would never be possible without a step-up gearing otherwise, and Induction motors do not have the monstrous startup torque of a brushed motor (seriously, some older drills can rip right out of your hand, or wreck your wrist)

  4. You went from one obsolete battery to another obsolete battery. You should have upgraded to the li-oin packs. They sell a cheap wire breakout adapter for the DeWalt packs. You can glue/screw it to the base of your drill, and boom, your drill now takes the new dewalt li-ion batteries.

    1. I agree. NiMH batteries were much better than NiCd, but there just no comparing to lithium. Does DeWalt even make NiMH tools anymore? The last one I used, some 4-5 years ago had a battery that would last a few minutes. I’d swap between 3 batteries to drill 8 holes and screw 8 lag bolts–finished them off with a wrench. This “hacker” either didnt use their drill often or has been putting off buying a new set for quite some time.

      I bout a cheap little li-ion 20v Black and Decker drill back in 2014 from Sears–still works great today. DeWalt and especially Ryobi had some killer deals on tools about a month ago (via Lowes & HD) that this individual should have taken advantage of.

      Afaik, you can’t throw a lithium batt on a tool that came with old battery tech. But i haven’t confirmed.

      1. Ryobi recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 18V ONE+ tool line. All 18V ONE+ tools can use any 18V ONE+ battery. They skipped right from NiCd to LiIon and put the over-discharge protection smarts in the new batteries and added additional contacts for the LiIon capable chargers.

        1. I feel like Ryobi deserve more praise for this – and the rest deserve our scorn for switching standards every few years and screwing everyone over.

          I’ve got a shelf full of power tools with dead batteries and no legitimate way of reviving them without resorting to hacking. In these environmentally conscious times we should be kicking up fuss about the whole market refusing to standardise – if they can do it with USB (albeit under pressure from the EU) they can do it with power tool batteries.

    2. Lithium ion tools usually have battery protection circuits built into the tool itself. True you can put a lithium ion battery in an old nicad tool, but you need to be very aware of how low you discharge the battery, as well as how hard you push the battery. Over overheating cells destroys lithium batteries as well.

      1. I’m pretty sure overdischarge, overcurrent and short circuit protection is built into the batteries, because otherwise I can easily see them short out because of a bumblefuck throwing them into a toolbox filled with metal shavings or loose small nails.
        Ideally the electronics in the tool should only be concerned about protecting the tool itself and the battery only protects itself.

        1. It varies widely between brands actually. For instance the older Craftsman C3 lithium ion have a very complex bms in the battery, because they’re designed for use in tools (and sometimes chargers) that can also run on nicad. (This is a weakness and made them more expensive than others in their class.) Other brands have more of the bms in the tool. I imagine there’s still some minimal over current and under voltage protection in the battery, but nothing like the balancing circuitry, etc.

          1. Ryobi BMS is in their ONE+ batteries, with some additional stuff in the LiIon capable chargers. That makes the tools cheaper because they can all connect the motor straight through a switch to the battery for ones that are simple on/off control.

  5. Having looked at handheld house vacuum cleaners lately, there is an insane price premium for Li-ion powered models that last at most 50 or so minutes. Lightweight models that work on mains power are quite hard to find, because cordless is apparently the new hotness.

    Not being keen on having to manage charging of a mobile battery powered appliance in an off grid solar set up, I have settled on a 6A SMPS that can deliver between (adjustable) 19V and 24V from mains power, and will run a DC cable from this to a cheap ryobi appliance to milwaukee battery adaptor shim, to avoid having to patch directly into the vacuum’s internal wiring.

    No need to charge yet another appliance, and best of all, it results in a very lightweight handheld vacuum.

  6. Another alternative is to just open up the battery pack’s shell and replace the cells. I’ve done that with a couple of old B&D nicad packs. You can get the cells cheaply online.

    The one thing I have yet to try is upgrading a nicad pack to lipo, but it shouldn’t be difficult.

    1. Don’t swap cell chemistries unless you’re also replacing the charging circuitry, and adding a temperature sensor to properly monitor the cell temperature. Ni-Cad and Li-Po have to be charged very differently. The wrong charger will overcharge the cells, and can easily start a fire.

      1. Yes, thanks for pointing that out! Definitely want to use the right charger for the cells. That’s primarily why I haven’t attempted the switch; I don’t have the right charger for a lipo pack of that voltage. I suppose you can use a common DC wall wart and just monitor it closely, but that’s kinda risky and easy to mess up.

        1. pretty sure you can get Charge Controller BMSs that can handle the next standard voltage above the nS voltage. look at Harbor Freight Warrior Lithium batteries – they have the entire BMS in the battery pack, but they slow-charge with a Dumb 24v switching supply. on the flipside, they’re so cheap you can have enough for continuous run.

          Completely seriously, if you want a cheap lithium solution for 6S packs, the HF Warrior flashlight is $8 for the lockon heel, and a 1.3Ah battery is $20

      2. Sadly a bitch with the old red Makita batteries, since they’re using 2/3rd height “C” cells.
        I should really just get my shit together and finagle a adaptor so it accepts 12v Milwaukee lithiums since they’ve somehow become my go to brand for lithium tools.

      3. Pretty sure lithium batteries are well protected. Back in their early laptop days, those firebombs were a huge embarrassment, not to mention the damage, and injuries. Long as the battery pack is within a few volts, of the original pack, should run into any problems. Of course, you want to use the right charger for the battery pack you are using. Mostly, to ensure you actually get a full charge, in a reasonable amount to time. The protection circuit, just shut down the battery, until the condition is corrected.

        I converted an 18v Nicad jigsaw, to a B&D 20v max battery, and it works better than it did on 18v. There is an adapter you can 3d print online. Had to do some minor mods after the print, quick and simple though.

    2. I agree – I’ve pulled quite a few of my tools battery packs apart and replaced the NiMH cells. Many of them have standard sized cells that are easy to get.

      It’s still very annoying (see my other HaD comments..) that batteries are now the weak point of so many things, and are often locked away deliberately to stop them being cheaply replaced. My watch uses a battery – and I can replace it cheaply – would people buy a watch that you had to throw away after a 3 year battery life? You would thing not, but they are for phones etc..

      With the tools like the above, it is the shaver model – ie give the shaver away and make money with blades.. They are making prob 90% on the custom battery packs for these tools, so it isn’t in their interest to allow you to do it cheaply..

      My oldest battery hand tool – a makita drill that I bought in the middle 80s – still works fine, though I agree I’ve changed it’s nicad batteries a few times..

      Planned obsolescence is now the battery..

  7. For those of us who only occasionally use a power tool, I have a suggestion: only buy corded. The cordless convenience of DC tools has to be weighed against the ongoing work of charging, replacing, and now hacking batteries. Probably not worth it unless you’re using the tools very frequently.

    1. Never seen a corded combi drill – which is equally happy being a screwdriver as it is a drill or hammer drill.

      In the UK at least, the Makita kits with an 18V drill and an assortment of pretty good drills and bits is on sale once in a while. It’s my go to recommendation and should last many years. It’s all in 1 box, which is nice and the drills and screwdriver bits aren’t made of cheese like the really naff kits.

      Depends though, if you’re putting up shelves in a house and there’s though old brick walls, then potentially a mains powered drill would be a better bet.

      But come to the dark side where all the sawdust is and hoard tools! You know you want to!

      1. I have a mains-powered Black and Decker “matrix” unit that can do almost anything. For $120 I got a bundle that is a screwdriver, drill, circular trim saw, rotary saw, and jig saw. It has other attachments for sanding, impact hammering, hammer drilling, hedge clipping, etc.

        It’s not something I would recommend to a professional, but I use power tools maybe once every 3 months so it’ll probably last for decades.

    2. I have quite a few battery drills that I use for holes and screws, but hands down the thing I use the most over decades is the powered makita impact driver ie

      You can drill holes, tighten screws, do up 1/2 bolts, undo just about anything. And you can use it all day (and I sometimes do) without having to worry about batteries – ie I recently put over 500 self tapping metal screws in with it.. It spins fast to drill them, then impacts them tight..

  8. Have been labouring away with old drills (though a bit more modern than this one) for a good while. Just upgraded to a really nice pro level brushless Bosch with all the torque of a small moon. The price was of a slightly smaller moon. But it is good.

    Anyhow, yes, fixing up old drills and stuff is great, have done it a few times. But the joy of a really good tool with high amperage battery – it just gets the job done. In this case, lots of large holes with a huge hole saw.

    With my, which might be described as a power tool problem, have noticed a corolation between battery impedance and performance. So old knackered batteries won’t give tools best performance. Agree with anyone plotting adapting to more modern lithium ones. Though do warn against inexpensive aftermarket batteries. They just don’t have the oomph compared to the real thing. At least that’s true of the small sample size I’ve been unlucky enough to end up with.

  9. Back when most drills ran on 12V, I simply put a cord on ones with batteries made from unobtanium. I put an Anderson Powerpole connector on the end, and then I could power it via any number of sources that follow the ARES (ham radio) standard for Powerpole connectors. (I have one in every vehicle, and put a lead-acid battery in an ammo box with a Powerpole plug, making for a “semi-cordless” setup.)

  10. I have used computer power supplies to power drills. 2 mods are needed:
    a wire to connect the motherboard “turn on” wire to ground.
    Solder wires from 12 into the drill.

    I keep the ps under my work bench and the cord is long enough to reach anywhere on my bench.

    I have so many drills with dedicated bits so I don’t need to waste time switching different bits: Phillips, counter sink, multiple drill bit sizes

    One power supply can power many drills I suppose.

    Also most ps will sense a drill as a short circuit, so test a few and pick the best ps. (Usually highest amperage.)

  11. LIDL cordless tools are definitely the best money/quality tools you can buy, from 20 to 50€, you cannot beat it. Some tools are even brushless.
    The main trouble is to hunt them down, they just appear from time to time.

    1. +1

      I bought literally every single cordless tool from Lidl. The first thing I do is disassemble and reassemble it.
      Most of them are good quality, except:
      – cordless trimmer with only one battery (where the brushed DC motor is in the head). Useless toy. Just now they released a brushless version of it, which is multiheaded (brush cutter, grass trimmer, hedge trimmer, pole prunner). That one is really high quality, operates with two battery (36V).
      – cordless reciprocating saw. The switch goes bad.
      – cordless brushed angle grinder. The motor brush holder breaks off (a simply piece of brass, metal fatigue), unreplacable. The brush is non servicable to begin with.
      – cordless brushless angle grinder (performance variant). All good and well, until you need to replace the motor bearings, which are impossible: the bearing is between the fan blade +coupling and the rotor, everything is pressed together.

      I have 12 only from the drills. None of them gave up the smoke yet. A cordless drill for 25-30 USD is a really nice deal imho.

      On the availability side: everything is available at least once in a year.

  12. The cheap Chinesium 18V NiCd tools with a projection atop the battery packs, which held 2 C-cells, should be very easy to adapt to Ryobi ONE+ 18V LiIon batteries. The top projection on the Ryobi batteries is pretty close to the same width, may slide right in or take a minimal amount of widening the hole in the tool. Something to fill in the forward part of the hole would make sliding the battery in easier.

    The battery contacts line up perfectly with the ONE+ battery contacts when it’s put in all the way to the back of the hole.

    The hard part is modifications to the tool to enable the ONE+ battery to clip on. Those cheap tools came with a wide variety of slightly different latches and latch positions along with base shapes for the battery.

    I have a set of Chinese 18V tools with long dead NiCd batteries. I got started on converting the flashlight to ONE+ but it’s been stalled for a while. After I got started I got to thinking about simpler ways to do it. I should finish the flashlight with my original idea then do the circular and reciprocating saws with my simpler idea.

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