Troubleshooting a Camera Battery Charger

Tips to fix problems with battery chargers and AC adapters

Keeping your camera's battery fully charged is one of the keys to avoiding many common camera problems. Problems with electricity, batteries, and malfunctioning battery chargers or broken AC adapters could lead to a short or a fire.

Before you throw away the battery charger, though, try to fix it safely.

photographer changes the battery in his SLR camera while shooting in the Studio. focus on the camera battery
Yaroslav Mikheev / Getty Images

Diagnosing the Problem

If your battery isn't charging correctly, it could indicate a problem with the charger, although it's more likely that the battery needs troubleshooting. If the problem lies with the charger, you might smell an odor of burning plastic when the unit is plugged in, or you may see a physical problem with the unit. The first time you use the charger, it may have a bit of an odd smell, but it should dissipate quickly and should not be repeated in further uses of the charger.

Odd Charging Sequence

You also may notice a malfunctioning battery charger if the indicator lamps on the unit seem to be behaving oddly. Check your camera user guide for information on how the indicator lamps should behave for various functions, including the color of the lamps and whether they flash or remain solidly lit. If you have a malfunctioning battery charger, unplug it from the wall immediately. Don't try to charge the battery or plug into the camera if you suspect that the battery charger or AC adapter for your camera may be malfunctioning. It just isn't worth the risk.

Study the Charger's Condition

Before trying any troubleshooting techniques, look closely at the physical condition of the unit. Make sure the cables have no cracks or punctures in them, allowing you to see the metal wiring inside. Check the metal contacts for any grime or any scratches. Deep scratches in the hard plastic parts could be dangerous, too. Do not use a charger or AC adapter that shows any damage, either to the pack or to the power cable. Such damage could lead to a fire.

Camera battery chargers typically are designed for a certain type of battery or battery pack. Don't try to charge a battery in your charger that isn't specifically approved to work with that charger, or you run the risk of starting a fire or shorting out the battery.

Know What the Lights Mean

Most battery chargers use a series of lights or lamps to give you information on the status of the battery's charge level. With most cameras, an amber, yellow, or red light indicates a battery that's currently charging. A blue or green light usually means the battery is charged. A blinking light sometimes indicates a charging error; other times, it indicates a battery that is still charging. Check the user manual to learn the various light codes. Some batteries can be damaged or can lose their ability to hold a 100-percent charge if the charging process is interrupted before the battery is fully charged, so don't misinterpret a light code and stop the charging process early.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Do not use the battery charger in extreme temperatures, usually below freezing or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Check the charger's user guide for exact temperature ranges.)

Let the Battery Cool

If you cannot make the battery charge correctly immediately after using the battery in your camera, the battery's temperature might be too high for the charger to operate. Let the battery cool before trying to charge it.

Charge, Then Unplug

One way to potentially lengthen the lifespan of your camera's battery charger and the battery is to not leave the charger plugged in all of the time. Only plug it into an outlet when you're using it. Even when the unit isn't charging a battery, it is drawing a little bit of power, and this continuous power draw could shorten its lifespan, as well as the lifespan of the battery. Unplug the unit once the battery is charged.