Automatic Solar LED Lights Repair

By on April 22, 2017
solar LED light repairing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article is about the cheap automatic solar LED lights that are sold in stores for less than 3 Dollar/Euro the piece.

Although they work great at first they stop working after a couple of months. And the period they simply quit greatly depends on how many rain has fallen in the meanwhile. Although these Solar LED lights, with mostly 4V white Leds, are well designed electronically they keep getting defect because rain drips into the Light housing and moisture oxidates the pcb, Led, battery compartment, and/or the switch.

Last year I bought a couple of new solar lights, to replace a couple of defect ones. And at that time I had about 12 of them perfectly working. But now a year later I had only 4 of them still working.

 




So it was time to check how many of them could be repaired. I had three different solar light models. Of which the oldest model only one had survived. They were unrepairable damaged because the transparent plastic top layer had deformed into a black/brown rimpled mass that stopped the sunlight from coming through. Removing the solar cells therefore was impossible too because they were melted into the plastic because of all the Solar heat in summer.

The 2 newer models are practically the same electronically, only difference was the rechargeable battery cell that was a replaceable mini penlight in the older model and a pcb soldered on type of NiMh/NiCad Battery cell in the newer model.

Of the last 2 models I hereby give the small and simple schematic that explains how they work :

solar LED light repair

I couldn’t find any markings on the 4 pins chip and both models seem to use the same kind of 4 pins chip. Only difference between both models probably is the small coil that can be a 100uH coil or even a 22uH coil. Needless to say that if the Solar Cell/solar panel is already gone, any repair will be futile. Or you must be able to use one available from another already partly defect solar light. One of my solar lights had a defect coil which I replaced by another coil almost identical. And I noticed that because it had a slightly different uH value, the Led gave a slightly different white color. But it worked without any problem and still does. Following photo shows the inside view of one of the newer solar light with replaceble NiCad/NiMh mini penlight.

solar light repair

Previous photo showed only little moisture damage, but already the oxidized battery holder is noticeable. Mainly because I already had previously, immediately after I bought these lights, glued the openings through which both (yellow and red) solar panel wires enter the housing to prevent rain from dripping inside. Sadly still already three of them are defect because the solar panel on top in itself may have been badly incapsulated into the housing. Those Solar Cells gave no voltage anymore.

These reddish brown solar cells are probably of the kind that are remanufactured from recycled solar cells also used in solar operated calculators. Not the expensive monocrystalline, or the cheaper polycrystalline cells. Or leftover cut-off parts from largers cells.

Another problem that moisture causes is that the flexible copper wires inside the lights blacken and almost are not solderable anymore afterwards.

how to repair solar led light

Above photos show both newer models that have almost identical electronic parts.

It really is a shame that these electronically well designed solar lights have such a limited operating life. If the manufacturers only would make better moisture closed housings. Than I wouldn’t have to buy new solar lights for years to come. So this article is also a plea to the designers not to spare money on a good rain safe design!

But probably because most manufacturers are nameless or just unknown this will remain to be a problem. Normally only the strong electronic names will survive but not when many unknown firms make them this crappy for almost no costs. I finally will show both mentioned boards with some close-ups. First photo shows a board of which the led wires where completely corroded. Something that only can be prevented by spraying them before use outside with plastic spray. Same thing goes for the 4 pins chip legs. Which also corrodes very easily, and I already managed to repair a couple of them that had completely rusted of their legs. By using a small file and after soldering thin (0.1 or 0.2mm) wires to them glueing everything together with superglue to prevent any mechanical stress on the new made chip connections.

fix solar light

repair and fix solar led

fixing led solar light

Previous photo showed how both solar panel wires enter the inside through the top. Which I had isolated with some glue and/or hot glue.

I hope many readers also will be able to repair some if not all of their defect solar lights. Not having to buy new crappy produced ones is also a good sign to the manufacturers to stop making rubbish.

I wish you all bright lights on dark nights!

Albert van Bemmelen, Weert, The Netherlands.




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Note: You can read his previous repair article in the below link:

http://jestineyong.com/how-to-repair-no-power-symptom-in-asus-x555ld-laptop/

 

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19 Comments

  1. Parasuraman S

    April 22, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Good!

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  2. Charlie Duncan

    April 22, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for the write up. My mother in law has several that are out. Not necessarily because of bad a components but because her granddaughter keeps running over them. I believe you could put them 10ft away from the driveway and she would still hit both.
    Would be something to play with..
    Thank you

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
    • Albert van Bemmelen

      April 23, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Although she doesn't run over them on purpose it is a funny story too the way you told it Charlie.
      Maybe she should only drive at night when they give light and she can see them better? (LOL).

      Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  3. Albert van Bemmelen

    April 23, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Last week I bought a new set of four Solar lights to replace a couple of bad ones. And now I was finally able to read the markings on the 4 pins chip used inside as presented in the article. It is a yx8018 chip!

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  4. Anthony

    April 23, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Nice article Mr Albert. A lot of things made nowadays seem to be throwaway items, even if it's only a battery
    or a lightbulb....just throw the whole thing out and buy a new one.....such a shame and more waste to add
    needlessly at the rubbish dump. This all probably started with the disposable cigarette lighter and now a
    lot of these cheap manufacturers have copied that idea. Thanks again for the very informative article and
    as usual nice clear photos that show great detail on the topic!

    Kind Regards, Anthony

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  5. Derek

    April 23, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    I have many new solar lights, that arrive from the supplier with very bad solder connections. But 5 minutes work all lights are working.

    As the article indicates, after a few months the light stop working due to bad moisture insulation.

    Some lights have different White LED brightness, this article shows why the difference in LED brightness due the Inductor values.

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  6. Albert van Bemmelen

    April 23, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    You are absolutely right Anthony. It too many times happens that I see old used Lithium batteries laying on the ground that people threw away without disposing them in the safe environmental way. Not taking any care about safe disposal of chemical waste! Until we later all get the bill for poisoning the only World we have!
    At least the photos in the article are now made of clean electrons digitally instead of using chemicals the old way. And I do not eat meat often either. Also because I like eating fish more, and the Omega-3 fatty acids are very healthy. (;)

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  7. Albert van Bemmelen

    April 23, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    I must have had already about twenty of those solar lights Derek, of which most were beyond repair sadly.
    And if it was not the moisture or dripping in rain that destroys them, it likely will be the Sun that heats up the plastic to temperatures that no plastic would be able to withstand. Although I have another solar light made of better plastic of which the electronics itself were beyond repair. Glass housings would be much better on the top but the direct sunrays would deteriorate the wires and electronics inside if the entire housing was made of transparant glass.
    Recently I bought 4 new solar lights that were made of glass were the Led shines bright through. But with the same old plastic housing on top of the glass. I guess I will have to wait and see if they are better constructed in time. Although they do not cost much, it does cost more than we first had anticipated if we still have to buy new ones over and over again. Besides solar cells alone should
    at least work another 20 to 30 years or so before they stop giving any electricity!

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  8. Robert Calk

    April 24, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Thanks, Albert. Good job. I have never taken one of those apart yet.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
    • Albert van Bemmelen

      April 24, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      That is a good sign Robert. Assumably they still all must be working fine than.

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  9. Yogesh Panchal

    April 24, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Good Job! Albert.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  10. Suranga Electronics

    April 24, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Very Good Repair job mr. Albert.
    Thank you !!

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  11. Graeme Partridge

    April 25, 2017 at 4:09 am

    Good article. I store my cheap solar lights away for the winter and then each spring I re plant them, invariably I have to take most of them apart and fix them and in my experience the most common fault (after a low charged battery) is the switch which I either clean or bypass.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
    • Albert van Bemmelen

      April 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      I also bypassed the switch by bridging over the contacts with solder in a few of the lights Greame. But still the leds or the chip legs corroded too often.
      Or the Solar cells failed for unknown reason to charge the batteries. But strange thing is that if we look at the chip datasheet, we can also see that the circuit also should have a light depending resistor originally to switch between dark and light automatically.
      http://www.datasheet-pdf.info/entry/YX8018-Datasheet-YX8018-Solar-LED-driver
      But because they probably found out that the solar cell in itself works in that same way too, they left out the LDR in newer designs? Maybe the LDR was too expensive why they only left the switch in the design? A switch that normally only can be reached by opening the plastic housing and only is needed when the light is kept in the dark to prevent the battery from discharging.

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  12. Humberto

    April 25, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Albert, good explanations and very interesting your job. Congrats.

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  13. Romeo de Luna

    May 4, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    The name of the four legged IC is QX5252. It is an IC Led Driver for solar of this size.

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    • Albert van Bemmelen

      May 8, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Apparently Romeo there are also other four legged Solar controller ICs. In my recent Solar lights it were the mentioned YX8018 types. I will see if I can find a datasheet of your's, and compare them.
      Thanks!

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  14. Albert van Bemmelen

    May 8, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Apparently Romeo there are also other four legged Solar controller ICs. In my recent Solar lights it were the mentioned YX8018 types. I will see if I can find a datasheet of your's, and compare them.
    Thanks!

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  15. Albert Hoekman, Tiel NL

    November 10, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Hello Albert, I repaired maybe around 50 or more of these very cheap solar lights, mostly they were baught at Action-shops, these are seated here in Holland in almost every small village as you know. We do have about 15 pieces (different types) in our backyard. What I do is seal the edges of the solarcells on top with water resistant acryl-kit and after drying I spray them with clear photo-varnish, the same as I use for photo's and printable DVD's. Some of the solar lights are still working for more than 5 years and they are always outside!

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