Fixing a Flip UltraHD that won't charge its battery
About a year ago I received a Flip UltraHD 2nd Generation camcorder (the one with the rechargeable battery) as a gift. I made little use of it at first, and it wasn't until I took it with me on a trip to New Zealand at the end of the summer that the battery fully discharged for the first time. I connected the camcorder to my laptop to allow it to recharge, but the display showed the "Connected" screen instead of the "Charging" screen and the red charge indicator light never came on. My Flip wasn't charging its battery.
After returning from New Zealand I looked around online for solutions to this problem. I found a number of people complaining about the same battery charging issue, along with some information on fixing the problem by removing the battery while the camcorder was connected to a computer, disconnecting the camera, reinserting the battery, and reconnecting the camera to the computer. This was supposed to reset the camcorder in some way that would allow it to charge its battery. The procedure seemed to work for some people, but not for others. Unfortunately I was one of those others for which it did not work.
Eventually I decided that if the camcorder wasn't going to charge its battery, it wasn't going to be all that useful, and I might as well just get rid of it. First, though, I decided pull it apart to see if there were any obvious internal problems that could be corrected. As I was about to crack it open, I noticed something in the battery compartment that led me to a solution to the battery charging problem using nothing more than a folded piece of paper.
It turns out that the camcorder will only charge its battery if it detects the physical presence of its rechargeable battery pack. Battery detection depends on two physical components. One is a switch located at the top of the battery compartment, circled in the photo below.
The other is a little plastic tab included with the battery pack, circled in the photo below.
When the battery pack is inserted within the camcorder, the plastic tab will activate the switch, causing the camcorder to charge the battery. If the plastic tab does not make contact with the switch, the camcorder will not charge the battery. As you see in the picture above, the plastic tab is a little off center. My Flip was not charging the battery because the plastic tab was not aligned with the switch. To work around the problem I placed a folded piece of paper on top of the switch as shown below.
When the battery pack is inserted, it applies enough pressure to the paper to hold it firmly on top of the switch, with the switch in the active position. That was all it took to get the Flip to charge its battery. The flaw seems to be with the battery pack design, which simply combines two NiMH batteries with the plastic tab by shrink wrapping them together in a way that does not guarantee correct placement of the plastic tab.
A paperless alternative would be to cut the plastic tab free from the shrink wrap and tape it back onto the battery pack in the correct position. I tried using a pair of needle nose pliers to realign the plastic tab without cutting the shrink wrap, but the shrink wrap was too tight and the plastic tab wouldn't budge. The paper based solution is good enough for me for the time being.
The use of a physical switch to activate the charging process could be an indication that the only difference between the Flip version with the rechargeable battery and the version powered by traditional alkaline batteries is that one comes with a rechargeable battery pack and the other does not. This could mean that there is no actual difference between the units themselves, and that regular alkaline batteries could safely be used with the rechargeable version of the Flip if necessary. I can't say that this is the case for sure, though, and I'm not about to find out.