One night as my daughter was preparing for bed, she complained about a faint beeping in her room. After standing completely still for a few minutes I was finally able to hear it. It was very faint and intermittent.
We both looked for about 10 minutes until I finally tracked it down to a power strip beside her bed. Plugged into that power strip was the Black & Decker slide-on-style charger. It’s the kind that attaches to a battery pack, in contrast to the “docking-style” chargers that you might be used to. After unplugging it, I noticed that the insulation on the cord had pulled out from the strain relief and the two bare wires were twisted together. Even more disconcerting was that it was like that at both ends.
Let’s back up a bit. I’ve been letting my daughter use the Black & Decker cordless glue gun for her various crafts. She’s had the glue gun and the charger in her room for several months without a problem, and she absolutely loves it.
Neither her nor I abused the charger. We’ve both subjected it to the normal wear and tear of plugging it in, unplugging it, and moving it around the house. Yet on both strain reliefs, both wires were exposed and able to cross. I guess we’re lucky it’s a low voltage connection between the transformer and charging cup.
I emailed one our contacts at Stanley Black & Decker. They got back to me and said the engineering team wanted a look at the affected charger. So I boxed it off and sent it back to them. In the meantime, they ordered me a new slide-on charger, and I received it before Christmas. I haven’t heard back yet if there was a problem with that particular charger or if it was a defect, but I’ll let you know if they ever get back to me.
Here’s a closeup of the strain reliefs on the new charger. As you can see, they are fully intact. I don’t have any images of the original charger out of the box, but you can bet the strain reliefs are going to be something that I document on new tools from now on.
For comparison, I also have a very similar Porter Cable slide-on charger. The difference with this charger, besides the larger wall wart, is that is looks like it has two layers of protection: the two inner wires are insulated separately and then encased in another layer of insulation or sheathing.
Above are similar examples of the two different types of wire used in Black & Decker and Porter Cable slide-on chargers. On the left is a two-conductor wire with insulation around each conductor and a sheath over both wires, and on the right are two insulated wires bonded together. Usually the sheathed wire is going to provide more protection for the conductors inside, but depending on the quality of the insulation and the sheathing, this isn’t always the case.
Again, I don’t know if this was just a defect in the wire or strain reliefs of this Black & Decker charger, or indicative of a larger problem with this model. Although, since the failure was at both strain reliefs, I have a hard time believing it was just a defect and that it isn’t a more systematic issue with this charger design.
By posting this, I did not intend to comment on the quality of Black & Decker tools compared to Porter Cable, or to lament about the problems of slide-on chargers. My intent is to highlight one of the problems to watch out for with cords. Strain reliefs are there for a reason, because design engineers know that part of power cords are typically going to be subjected to greater stress and wear.
Just because there is a strain relief, that doesn’t mean that wires won’t fail there; in fact, in my experience, this is where cords usually fail anyway. The strain relief is just there to prevent it from happening sooner.
I think the bigger take away of this experience is to always check your cords regularly or possibly even every use — whether they are low voltage or line voltage.
Hopefully the replacement was super cheap, otherwise I would recommend the dock style. I received that thin wire slide on version with a 4-gallon sprayer, and knew I wouldn’t be happy over time (I think I foresaw your situation, and I knew mine would see more normal wear & tear). So I picked up the Sears Bolt-On 20v ‘fast’ charger that works with B&D 20v batteries, but has a much more robust power cord (& charges the battery faster). B&D has a few versions for the same thing.
This one is $38, but I have seen some closer to $20-$25 before. https://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-BDCAC202B-Lithium-Charger/dp/B010BFHORK
It was included as part of the sample package I got when I was testing the cordless glue gun.
I contacted them specifically because I’m a tester. If it would have been my own tool I would have simply fixed it myself and been done with the whole issue in a matter of an hour rather than a month.
I know, I know, Stuart wrote an editorial about how we should all contact tool companies when there’s a problem with a tool…
I wasn’t as wild with the cup (slide on) style charger at first, especially with the slow charge time. But as I’ve accumulated batteries, I appreciate having something smaller as I’m carrying it around.
I must have skipped over the testing part. That makes sense. I should have mentioned i still have the slide on charger, but at a 2nd location that rarely sees use.
Same sort of applies to the tiny Ryobi charger that came with the RC truck (or the Arctic Cooling Mister Fan). That is tucked away in my truck, just in case. I think I touched up the ends with some hot glue, as a preventative measure at the reliefs.
What was the beeping from? I didn’t know these chargers had audible ques.
Looking over your images, it is interesting to note the differences in the failed cable strain relief and the new B&D relief. The new relief has 90 degree offset stiffeners. This will allow the cable to bend more easily almost 360 degrees vs the original’s 180 degree up\down (or left\right depending on orientation of view)
Your other points are certainly valid too, having multiple layers of insulation is better. You have the main outer layer which will act as a strain and abrasion relief for the wires, and having both wires insulated will certainly reduce the possibility of shorts.
The entire purpose of a relief is to increase the bend radius, or prevent the wire from bending too much in one spot. But the relief should be flexible enough to bend with the cable still. I deduce that perhaps lower quality reliefs are easier to manufacture but they are usually too stiff. This defeats the purpose of the relief and just move the stress point.
It is difficult to see quality differences with a single component but being able to see the porter cable and new charger makes it so nice. This article is awesome, I’m really geeking out!
Reminds me of the chart you posted:
I think we can see where these chargers fell in line.
They are expensive but I’m really starting to wanting to put in these outlets everywhere I can
With so many batteries being charged now, we leave in all these plugged in chargers and batteries all waiting to go thermal nuclear.
Sorry, Stuart posted that chart.
Arc fault interruption is great until you plug in a brushed tool. Say a vacuum cleaner. Then they don’t work because brushes arc. You can add all the protection you want, but it won’t save you from abuse electricity. Take care of your tools and pull tools with defective cords out of service until repaired.
Yes – I now have to run an extension cord into the bedroom to run the vacuum cleaner. Otherwise, the arc protection breaker trips in the panel downstairs (very convenient). That’s progress! 🙂
This is something that concerns me too, some people say to only do a plug or outlet at a time.
But I put a Leviton 15 amp AFCI/GFCI in the laundry room to try it out. I have both the washing machine and gas dryer both running from it at the same time and for at least four months now; have not had any issues.
I would think the motors that are always turning on an off on these two units would have caused something, I don’t think they are brushless. And these are manual, old skool appliances, no computer circuit boards at all, just giant timer knob switches (also a nice source of potential arcs) that are about 7 years old. And the gas dryer actually would have to use an electric ignitor to light the burner, which is for sure an arc. But I have not tried any vacuums on it.
I have had GFCI outlets trip with hair trimmers and a home version carpet cleaner but I usually attribute this to an older GFCI that is either tripping from old age or because it is an older design.
I would definitely say that a good AFCI/GFCI device would depend on several variables.
I don’t believe brush type motors have ever been in used in a washer or a dryer. A dryer can be designed so that the AFCI never “sees” an intentional spark such as an igniter. The AFCI will react to hazardous, unintentional sparks or to sparks in an appliance that was designed without the AFCI in mind.
I’m no expert, but I think AFCIs are code-required in bedrooms – the explanation was that they will detect arcing from a faulty electric blanket (or heater, I suppose) and then trip.
This is not a bad thing, but really it should be on a per-outlet basis, rather than the entire bedroom circuit being protected at the panel (as mine are). Any power drill or my vacuum will trip the AFCI, so I have to run an extension cord in from another room. And I suppose the fear on regulators’ part is that if any “unprotected” bedroom circuit could be used for a heating appliance and then start a fire.
I don’t really have a better word than beeping, so that’s what I used. Maybe a barely audible high-pitched intermittent pulsing.
No there’s no on board buzzer, beeper, etc. Wall warts have resistive, inductive, and capacitive components all used in converting line voltage to low voltage DC. Sometimes when you short out a wall wart, you set up an unintentional oscillator. By luck this one was in the audible range, but just barely.
The original one looks kinda stiff(Although so does the porter cable). Maybe it wasn’t really flexible enough to relieve the strain and instead moved it to a new spot on the wire. I’ve felt that to be the case on a few similar devices for cellphones and laptops over the years.
When I was on a trip to the UK I was surprised to learn that they have a requirement for businesses to conduct PAT (portable appliance testing) on devices. At the time, every device had to have a yearly inspection of the cord, earth/ground test and polarity test. I think they have relaxed some of the requirements. And it might have been a bit overkill, but it struck me a a reminder that I should periodically check my cords for wear/tear fraying etc at home and in the shop/garage. Maybe it makes sense to set a reminder to check things yearly, maybe during my annual smoke alarm test.
To be honest I think the English regs are pretty good as others(particularly here in ireland) I’ve seen are pointless might as well be a paper exercise. Seaward uk have a good site for explaining PAT and checklist for visual inspections .
Sounds like B&D sent you a new one quick. Good customer service!
To be clear, Ben was dealing with our media contact, and not regular customer service.
I have the same failure just after the strain relief on the charger for my B&D hand vacuum, BDH2000PL. The wires were both exposed and sparked as the touched when I moved the charger.
Love the vacuum, but the door hinge has broken twice now and the sparks flying from the charger make me want to give up on it.
Low quality sheathing on the cord itself is the point of failure. B&D products have always felt marginal quality, but this is both unacceptable and dangerous.
Typical CH quality … cheap cord with bare minimum insulation and cheap strain relief that is too short and stiff.
Yep – save a penny or two on each one. Low voltage so they probably think it won’t kill anyone.
ToolOf The Trade
What do you expect? It’s a cheap POS black & decker. The wires are the size of fishing line. Ain’t much rigidity there. Also it’s a slide on charger which is very cheaply made and strain relief does not apply to this product because it is the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality which is what to expect from b&d. Is it a safety concern? Absolutely. But due to the lack of quality control in the manufacturing of this product, sbd is unfortunately going to continue to produce more of these products and there’s not much we can do about it.
wonder if it’s a case of – cold temp – hardened poly _________ – mild strain or turning cracked it – once it started is popped. because they used cheap pvc or other plastic on the strain and wire coating.
I see that often on car accessories that aren’t well made – or rather cheap. Like the cord on the portable dvd machine. similar cording – wires broke off in my hand this weekend. here it’s been 8F overnight – which is odd for this area.
parental curiosity – how old in the daughter that you let her use a hot glue gun? mine is 3 now but time flys
My daughter is a teenager now, but I’d probably have let her use this glue gun at 7 or 8. Maybe younger? I was letting her use a hand saw at 5.
That’s probably a good topic for some other time: When do you let you kids use what tools.
That is nothing but cheap manufacturing at its ugly best. No excuse
What is a slide on charger
You know I had this same discussion with Stuart before he approved this. I originally had “cup charger” which is what the Porter Cable Reps called it when I visited a few years ago.
In the photo below, you can see the cup charger attached to the battery on the left. It just slides over the terminals of the battery.
Most power tool chargers have “docking port” designs, where the battery pack docks to the charger.
A slide-on or “cup” style charger has a wall-wart and adapter port that attaches to a battery. They’re smaller, cheaper, and slower.
Sorry, I thought that “slide-on charger” might be more descriptive than “cup charger.”
I have two B&D 12v float charger/maintainers for winter storage. The supplier is Baccus. They seem well made and one is around 9 years old and has worked flawlessly. In this current retail environment of manufacturing from the lowest Chinese bidder, there can be significant quality differences within a brand. B&D is usually at least serviceable stuff, but not in this case.
That strain relief is garbage, the Chinese can’t seem to get this right on most stuff, they don’t seem to understand the strain relief is supposed to bend a little bit before the cord to keep their stiff cords from repeatedly bending and breaking the insulation. I see it all the time in electronics.
Failed strain reliefs aren’t unheard of, unfortunately. IIRC, a few years ago, failed strain reliefs caused Lenovo to issue a recall for a bunch of Thinkpad laptop chargers. In Lenovo’s case, the failure was on the 19V (or were their chargers only 16V at the time?) side and not the 120V side but they still presented a fire hazard.
I had the same problem with the slide on charger , wires frayed at the area they connected to charger , I purchased the 2 set impact drill driver & 3/8″ drill and I destroyed the impact driver but the drill is still working , I repaired the charger myself & it still works but I will not buy a replacement set as I’ve found stronger better tools. 6 -23-19.