Niterider Headlamp for Night Skiing — Repair and Modify


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 23, 2018      
Modified with aftermarket LiPo battery and even a USB connector, Niterider lives again.

Modified with aftermarket LiPo battery and even a USB connector, Niterider shines again — and even charges a phone. (Note the voltage monitor, accessory connector and blade fuse holder.) Click images to enlarge.

Niterider headlamps such as their “Pro” models work well for nighttime backcountry skiing. They use powerful lithium-ion batteries that unfortunately do eventually fail. Purchasing OEM replacement batteries is an option, but they’re not cheap and you only get one. What is more, you’ll find quite a few Niterider batteries on Ebay, used, but who wants a used battery with unknown life? Rather than go that route I made a nearly direct replacement using a lithium-polymer “LiPo” battery sourced from the hobby market (as previously experimented with as power for the Arcteryx Voltair avalanche airbag backpack.) Wildsnow wrenching scale for this project, 3/10 provided you have some experience with electrical work. Most of the action is simple soldering and wire stripping.

(Note we also researched building a battery using lithium-ion, Li-ion, rather than lithium-polymer LiPo. See bottom of post for links, and stay tuned as we might do another build.)

Original battery pack.

Original battery pack.

Lisa’s expired battery Niterider model uses an external battery pack, conveniently printed with specifications of 7.4 volts, 5200 mAh. Easily sourced (see links below). Including charger and battery, this project ends up costing slightly less than simply buying a Niterider replacement, but adds a USB charging port as well as setting things up for as many additional batteries as you’d want. Or, you could build an enormous battery that’ll keep you illuminated for many hours.

Thanks Niterider for the obvious battery specifications.

Thanks Niterider for obvious battery specifications.

Wire connections are obvious as well.

Wire connections are obvious as well. I eliminated the yellow “data” line and simply used the black as negative and red as positive. The new LiPo won’t fit in the original Niterider case, for our use that’s fine as we carry external headlamp batteries in the top flap of our backpacks. Note that with LiPo it’s important to use a “safety” case for both transport and charging — especially charging. These are simply heat resistant fabric envelopes, be sure to use one, and be sure to install a blade fuse holder near the battery (as shown in photos) as well as a low voltage alarm. A 5 amp fuse works fine for the Niterider and clearly provides good protection.

USB converter-connector was cobbled as well.

USB converter-connector was cobbled as well.

Low voltage monitor-alarm is essential, as is an inline fuse on the positive cable near battery.

Low voltage monitor-alarm is essential, as is an inline fuse on the positive cable near battery.

LiPo chargers vary quite a bit in price. We like the ones linked below as they come with a good variety of connectors and lots of charging options. If you’re careful with your shopping, you can probably find even lower prices. In terms of constructing, as simple alternative I could have wired the Niterider cable directly to the battery (including inline fuse on positive cable). I added a few optional connectors, mostly so I could easily swap to another battery.

If you wire directly to battery you’ll need to rig a Niterider type connector to the charger, but, DO NOT CHARGE WITH THE ORIGINAL NITERIDER CHARGER! You can probably salvage the connector from the Niterider charger, or Niterider cable extender. Just be extra careful with hooking everything up, especially your polarities. As for connectors in general, LiPo batteries come with various “plugs” for high current applications such as model car racing. Since the Niterider draws a max of 3 amps, no need to worry about your connectors so long as they’re insulated and secure. A good inexpensive option for these sorts of projects is the “flat” two pin automotive type connector you can pick up from Amazon or off the rack at the auto parts store. For example see this Amazon link. When using this sort of connector in this application, be sure the wire leads are of adequate thickness. I’d recommend #10 or #12 even though the actual Niterider lead appears to use #16 wire. Main reason for that is you want adequate wire for the charger current, as well as your primary battery wiring harness to always be at least a step thicker than accessory wires.

B680AC CAR Dual Power (6Amps, 80Watts): LiPo, LiIon, LiFe, NiCd, NiMh AC/DC Balancing Battery Charger w/ Deans T-Plug, Traxxas High Current, Tamiya/Kyosho/Molex, HXT4.0mm Bullet Redcat, EC3/EC-3 Plugs

One of our comment contributor recommends the following charger, saves some coin and might be easier to use.

HOBBYMATE Imax B6 Clone Lipo Battery Balance Charger, Rc Hobby Battery Balance Charger LED W/ AC Power Adapter

Lipo batteries vary in cost as well, I used one similar to the following, it seems to be fine and is contained in a hard plastic case, which in my opinion is essential for this type of application. Some LiPo batteries are sold without a case, they’re just thin plastic pouches, easily damaged. If you find a less expensive option be sure it’s still encased.

Common Sense RC Lectron Pro 7.4V 5200mAh 35C LiPo Battery Lithium Polymer

I used the USB converter-connector below, while sold for 12 volt systems it works fine supplied with the 7 or 8 volts from the LiPo.

MOTOPOWER 0609A 3.1Amp Waterproof Motorcycle USB Charger Kit SAE to USB Adapter

Lastly, draining your LiPo battery down to the dregs will damage or break it. To prevent, it’s necessary to run a low voltage monitor-alarm. I used the following, it connects to the battery “balance” connector that’s used when charging. Shows voltage as well as blaring a loud tone when you drop to target low. Link below also includes a “safety sack” you should use when carrying or charging any LiPo battery.

Bias Battery Safety Charge Sack and LiPo Battery Low Voltage Monitor Combo

At full bright, Niterider Pro draws 3 amps.

At full bright, Niterider Pro draws 3 amps.

LiPo batteries of the sort we used here do require attention in terms of safety. All batteries actually do, with perhaps LiPo needing a bit more TLC than normal. To that end, one could build a battery pack using lithium-ion batteries that are perhaps more consumer friendly. The following, for example, which including charger costs an easy half of the going price for used Niterider OEM 5200 mAh batteries. You’d need to wire two of the following batteries together (in parallel, for same 7.4 volts) to provide the continuous 3 amps current required by Niterider at full bright.

No matter what type of battery operated devices you use, it’s a good idea to study up on safety and use best practices, for example don’t charge any device near or in contact with flammable materials, and don’t leave any charger entirely unattended. That includes your phone. Google it. Most importantly, DO NOT DEEP DISCHARGE LIPO THEN ATTEMPT TO RECHARGE. Doing so can overheat the battery pack and start a fire. Minimum voltage is 3.0 volts per cell, which would be a total of 6 volts for the rig we built as the battery consists of 2 cells. Again, using a low voltage alarm and monitor is essential for this build, as well as paying attention to how much you’re using your lamp.

Tenergy 7.4V Li-ion 18650 2200mAh Rechargeable Battery Module with PCB

TLP-2000 Tenergy 0.5A Universal Smart Charger for Li-Ion/Polymer Battery Pack (3.7V-14.8V 1-4 cells)



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Comments

19 Responses to “Niterider Headlamp for Night Skiing — Repair and Modify”

  1. Cody March 23rd, 2018 10:33 am

    To everyone who might attempt the mod definitely READ UP ON LIPO SAFETY. When Lou says “Lastly, draining your LiPo battery down to the dregs will damage or break it” what that means is they can burst in flames or even extreme cases explode. Also charging should be supervised when they are being charged.

    Also this charger is cheaper and the consensus in the RC community is it’s the best charger that is cheap. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01NB9A36R/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    That C rating on LiPo batteries is a measure of it’s safe discharge rate. The 50C discharge rating is overkill for this project and you could get away with a lower C rating (cheaper).

  2. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2018 10:56 am

    Thanks Cody, I did notice the high current rating but the price seemed reasonable anyway. Any links for a cheaper battery with lower C rating?

    As for draining battery too far while using headlamp, that’s not a safety issue. Please don’t imply that. The safety issue is when battery is drained down with high current or a short circuit. Any battery can actually be dangerous or at least ugly in these situations. I actually tested a LiPo to destruction with a shorted positive-negative cable, it got ruined but that was the extent of it, didn’t burst into flames or explode. I’m wondering if some of this is alarmist… sure, I’ve seen the videos, but, who knows what really happened…

    Even at highest brightness setting the Niterider headlamp is clearly not high current, the 5 amp fuse does fine and the OEM wires are tiny. But I’ll go ahead and measure the current and that way we’ll have numbers.

    As for safety while charging, placing the battery in the safety pouch is all that’s necessary, one doesn’t have to sit there staring at it, though I’d want to be around when it’s done to be sure everything went well. That’s easy, as charging this battery happens quickly. Come to think of it, are there not some smart phones that should be kept in a safety pouch as well (smile)?

    Lou

  3. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2018 11:21 am

    I hooked up my current meter, 3 amps at maximum bright (amazing what LEDs can do), that’s safe and reasonable working current. I also tried a 3 amp rated blade fuse and it did fine, though I’ll stick with 5 amp. See bottom of post for photo of current meter display.

    Another thing: The LiPo battery I used is in a hard case, that’s a good idea for safety, many of the LiPo batteries do not have a case and are easily punctured or otherwise damaged. Lou

  4. Mark W March 23rd, 2018 11:31 am

    Nite Rider makes quality lights. I use one for biking, and it works really well. Their customer service is great. Once I dropped my light on concrete, and they sent me replacement parts for no charge.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2018 11:38 am

    P.S., Cody, I’ll add a link for the charger you recommend, it looks good and definitly makes this mod even more affordable. Lou

  6. RCL1 March 23rd, 2018 11:55 am

    Full moons are the best time to night ski.

  7. Kristian March 23rd, 2018 2:18 pm

    Lupine Lighting Piko’s are also pretty awesome. Not inexpensive, but extremely well made and have every possible configuration option possible including car charging. See their accessories.

    Not inexpensive, but for me, this type of gear is worth the financial pain.

    http://www.lupinenorthamerica.com/piko_class.asp

  8. David March 23rd, 2018 3:09 pm

    There was a recent fire at the best UK winter training center/lodge which involved a rechargeable headtorch from ebay? This blew the battery across the room & set fire to part of the bedroom.

    Link here:-

    https://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/warnings-exploding-head-torch-battery-causes-fire/

    I only buy branded main manufacturers & the same for batteries & from reputable suppliers.

    I use a Petzl Pixa3 (industrial spec freeze/water/dust/crush proof) & use Energizer AA lithium’s. Nice & safe & cold resistant, & easy to use with gloved hands & very bright, three levels of output, & off lock!

  9. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2018 3:39 pm

    I’d agree in general about charging batteries, I’ve got dozens, am quite careful about the process though I do leave some of them untended in charger, such as all my Bosch power tool batteries. The photo from Glenmore appears a bit odd, as the batteries appear to be model 18650 Lithium-ion cells, but the headlamp appears to have a regular AA battery holder configuration, and 18650s are usually built-in with thermal protection and so forth. In any case, indeed, you get what you pay for and being around while things are charging is always a good idea.

    I’ve been thinking about creating an area in my shop dedicated to battery charging, that’s somewhat fire resistant compared to the rest of the place.

    Lou

  10. Cody March 23rd, 2018 8:06 pm

    Hey Lou. I didn’t mean to say that the LiPo during use in this low amperage application would be the safety issue. Especially since you added that fuse in there. It’s the charging portion that seem on average to be the most dangerous bit. Even those LiPo bags can still transmit a lot of heat to areas around it, also the noxious fumes that come off those LiPo’s burning. Fun video…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEkewCjiDs0

    And when I said “supervise” I definitely didn’t mean stare at it while it charges :P. But it’d not be a smart move to plug it in for the night, or leave the house.

    Tell you the truth I don’t know if I would personally use a LiPo in this situation. For myself the advantages of really high energy density + high discharge don’t seem to be as needed as say an avy pack. The high density is nice, but for me the extra weight of a LiIon is just fine. But 1/2 of that might just come from that electrical chemical fires scare me. That’s just my 2 cents.

    Sorry I don’t have any specific links to the high mah 2S LiPo’s but I’m sure BangGood or Amazon have a few hidden gems in there.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 March 24th, 2018 7:41 am

    It should be mentioned that one could easily build a Niterider battery using 7.4 volt lithium ion products available on Amazon that are said to be safer. These almost always use the ubiquitous 18650 Lithium Ion cell. The problem is that this sort of battery might not be rated for the current draw of the Niterider, which the LiPo battery I used supplies with nary a whimper. Solution is to combine two lithium ion batteries, wired in parallel for a total of 4 cells instead of 2. Doing so would provide power storage roughly equivalent to the OEM Niterider 5200 mAh battery for a fraction of the OEM replacement cost, I’m thinking we should keep going with this project and make another battery. Stay tuned.

    Oh, and for those of you with the electrical work tools and expertise, you could simply buy 4 18650 cells and rebuild the Niterider battery using its PCB and case. We’ll probably not go that route, as we don’t have the equipment for soldering battery leads to the battery ends without possible heat damage.

    I’ll add more battery links to post above, see bottom of post.

  12. etto March 24th, 2018 11:33 am

    The Lupine Piko is a great light, but in my opinion the beam is a bit too narrow for skiing in the dark. It’s bigger sister Wilma is both brighter and has a wider beam. Expensive, but very high quality. You really don’t want your light failing on you when skiing in the dark.

  13. Jim Milstein March 24th, 2018 4:07 pm

    You can get Li-ion cells with wire ribbons already spot welded onto the terminals.

  14. SedgeSprite March 24th, 2018 4:55 pm

    Thanks! I have 2 generations of NiteRider just aging in the basement.

  15. VT skier March 25th, 2018 3:19 pm

    Be sure to charge these 7.4 volt LiPos as a “2S” on the LiPo charger menu. This means the LiPo actually has 2 “cells” wired in series.
    Make sure the white (balance) plug of the LiPo is plugged into balance board on charger.
    See picture 6 in this article. Multi color wire (red,White, Black) to white plug, is unplugged from Low voltage monitor-alarm, then plugged into balance adapter on charger..
    This balancing plug from LiPo is used by charger to monitor voltage in each cell during charging. It will actually discharge one cell during charging if voltage discrepancy between the 2 cells goes beyond a certain limit. When both cells reach say 4.2 volts, charger should stop charging.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 March 25th, 2018 5:06 pm

    Thanks VT, on the case here (or in the case, as the case may be)! Also building a Li-ion pack to see if it’s any easier to manage. But I’ve not had any trouble with the LiPos so far, other than making the mistake of running one down to zero in the Voltair pack and bricking it.

    The OEM Niterider pack we have is the 4-cell type, has 4 18650 Li-ion cells. The going rate for these 4-cell packs seems to be around $100 even for a used one, and bricked ones seem to be hard to find. In any case, I also might acquire 4 18650s and rebuild the OEM pack.

    All in good fun, but yeah, one has to be aware of good safety and management practices.

    Lou

  17. Arne March 28th, 2018 5:04 am

    “As for draining battery too far while using headlamp, that’s not a safety issue.”
    To my knowledge, deeply discharing LiIon/LiPo batteries can lead to a non-reversible change inside the cell which makes it more prone to fire/explosion. Therefore, high quality battery packs contain a circuit which among other things detect this condition and permanently blows a fuse inside the battery, rendering it unusable. Cheap LiPo batteries will not do that, but they can become less stable if you recharge them from deep discharge (in the range of 2.2V IIRC).

  18. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2018 6:52 am

    Hi Arne, thanks, I was too general with that statement. The reality is that _draining_ the battery too low will not lead to any safety issue while in the process of using-draining. It is indeed the _charging_ of a deeply drained LiPo that can be a safety issue.

    Technical: due to the deep discharged battery not accepting the current from the charger, and thus overheating.

    Basic solutions for this are, first, use a voltage and discharge monitor/alarm as I show above, second, charge battery in a safety pouch away from inflammable materials, third, a deep discharged battery should be considered ruined and subsequently discarded.

    And yes, hopefully the chosen battery would have built-in protection. Problem is that such protection usually after the fact, in that it protects during charging but doesn’t prevent deep discharge. I’ll look around for a discharge cutoff module that could be added to DIY rig, that would be ideal for a headlamp, perhaps with a bypass for emergencies.

    I’ll continue to work on this blog post, thanks for the feedback.

    This guy knows his stuff and explains:
    http://www.electricrcaircraftguy.com/2014/10/restoring-over-discharged-LiPos.html

    Lou

  19. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2018 8:18 am

    Ok, I just tested the charging of a “dead” LiPO I have here, that was accidentally deep discharged. My charger has a safety feature, it sounds an alarm, displays “low voltage” and won’t attempt to charge the battery. Thus, not a safety issue with my setup, though I’d still charge in safety bag, away from flammables. After all, if a phone can catch fire, then who knows what can happen.

    The charger we use is the first one listed in blog post, I’m imagine the other suggested charger has the safety feature, but we don’t know for sure.

    There is also an optional temperature probe available for our recommended charger. Using this would in my opinion virtually eliminate charge safety issues. It turns off the charger if battery gets too hot. Perfect.

    B680AC CAR Dual Power (6Amps, 80Watts) battery charger

    Lou





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