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Old 12-10-2015, 14:34   #1
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GME EPIRB battery replacement.

I was sailing along merrily on the weekend, glanced across at the EPIRB and realised that the battery expired last month.

Great.

A phone call to GME yesterday revealed that they would "service" the unit and replace the battery for AU$229.

However a new GME MT600G is only AU$289 at Whitworths, so I figure I will just buy a new unit. The company say the older model I have is self activating, which is nice, but not essential to me, otherwise the two units have the same inbuilt GPS function which I think is pretty important.

I will replace the battery on my MT403g unit myself, since it is going to be a backup unit to the new MT600G and keep both units registered with AMSA. I will be able to keep the boat legal (and insured) with the new unit, but two devices are better than one. The MT403G has a stated service life of 12 years according to the company that makes it, and it is only 6 years old, so it is still trustworthy for a while yet.

So has anyone done a battery replacement on one of these, and if so any tips to share before I pull it apart? FWIW I am very comfortable with a soldering iron and electronics, but I know there are gotchas with gaskets and springs in some of these things.

Matt
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Old 12-10-2015, 15:09   #2
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

I replaced batteries on a ACR Epirb last year with great success. Different unit, but I'll bet a very similar setup. Some things I learned:

1) The batteries were un-rechargable NiMH D cells. You can probably find identical replacements in Amazon or EBay. Mine were less that $10US each. Make sure to get the ones with solder tags already installed if you can.

2) There were components (both diodes and thermal switches) wired between each of the batteries. Pay very close attention to polarity and location. When assembled, there is NO excess space to fit everything if not assembled nearly perfectly.

3) Suggest photographing each and every step along the way while disassembling.

4) inspect the large o-ring carefully and replace as needed.

Other than that, the process was straightforward.
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Old 12-10-2015, 16:43   #3
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Thanks Jamhass, some excellent ideas. Maybe I should photograph the process as you suggest and post it here.
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Old 13-10-2015, 03:43   #4
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Matt, I may be doing the same with a MT 400 soon. Battery expires this month. I reckon there will be little difference between the 400 & 403.

FWIW, I going with the KTI SA1G for the replacement. IMO, they are a better unit than GME although I have been a GME customer for many years.

Some advantages
10 year battery life
10 year warranty
64 hour Tx time minimum of both frequencies
GPS continiously updates position every 5 minutes for full duration (64+ hrs)
Service life 20 years although I not sure how important that is.
Battery replacement after 10 years currently $140.
Aussie made.

I have seen prices down to $275 online and local shop prices here at $290.
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Old 13-10-2015, 04:46   #5
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Hey, great call Wotname, and given your professional experience, I particularly value your opinion.

I see Arnold's boat shop is doing that model for AU$255, which is a VERY nice price. I will place my order pronto, unless you want to see if I can get us a further discount for two? ;^)

FWIW, I pulled apart the GME this evening, found it takes 8 x CR123A batteries, grouped into 4 x 6V pairs, then into what is probably a simple circuit to prevent a dud pair dropping the voltage of the overall system. It will be a tedious but manageable job to solder in new batteries, but for the sake of redundancy I will do so. Just having trouble finding them with solder tabs. I'll get on the blower to RS Online tomorrow and see if I am being particularly thick, since I cant find them on their site, and I really expected them to have what I needed. That's OK, they are used to me calling because I can't drive their web site.


Photos of the process to follow, once I source the replacement batteries. Then a whole crap load of disclaimers too, telling people not to try this at home.

Matt
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Old 13-10-2015, 05:07   #6
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Well Arnold has a pretty sharp price it seems but if you swing some more off or get free shipping, I'm interested.

Can't say I have ever used the KTI unit in anger but I spoken with the technical wallas in their factory a year or so back and I feel pretty comfortable with the product.
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Old 13-10-2015, 05:32   #7
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

8 x CR123A batteries wont come cheap

Maybe I won't bother to replace them in the MT400. I'll put the dollars toward the KTI unit. Surely they can find me in 3 days plus 1 day each for the 2 PLBs on board, so total of 5 days Tx time.

Maybe just keep the 400 with the old battery as is!
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Old 13-10-2015, 05:51   #8
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Yeah, the batteries look like they will be nasty. But if I can re-power for $150 or under I will do it, just for the added peace of mind. To be honest, if we got to the stage of pushing the big red button, I reckon I'd be activating both in the sorts of places were are likely to sail. They are gonna get to us quickly, or not at all, so might as well give the best chance of being heard.


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Old 13-10-2015, 05:52   #9
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wotname View Post
Well Arnold has a pretty sharp price it seems but if you swing some more off or get free shipping, I'm interested.

Can't say I have ever used the KTI unit in anger but I spoken with the technical wallas in their factory a year or so back and I feel pretty comfortable with the product.
I'll let you know how I go on price. As for the device itself, I am parochial enough to want to buy Aussie made when I can.

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Old 13-10-2015, 06:34   #10
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GILow View Post
I'll let you know how I go on price. As for the device itself, I am parochial enough to want to buy Aussie made when I can.

Matt
OK, keep me the loop re pricing but if there is nothing to be gained, then I'm happy to buy from the local bloke. The final difference arfter shipping is only $23 and for that amount, I am happy to shop locally.
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:28   #11
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

I replaced my batteries last year - seem to recall there were two heat-shrinked banks of 3 x CR123s (or was it three banks of 2?)

I had a local battery shop make-up the new ones for me at a cost of £36.
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Old 13-10-2015, 19:10   #12
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

looking forward to the photos & how-to. Thanks
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Old 13-10-2015, 19:15   #13
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

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looking forward to the photos & how-to. Thanks
No, no, no... it will be the how NOT to, remember. Lots and lots of disclaimers.
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Old 13-10-2015, 19:19   #14
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

I believe the ACR batteries are rated for a 7 year "shelf life" ACR gives you 5 years?

So I have one that's sitting at about 6 years and I recently tested each batteries voltage individually and they were all good. I plan to buy a new epirb before leaving the Bahamas cruising grounds.

My recommendations would be replace your expired one with a new one. Keep the expired one AS IS for 5 years if you want a backup. Assuming your batteries are as good as the ACR ones.

FYI, my units former owner told me she "tested it extra" when it was close to expiring. I'm not sure how much juice a test takes, but I assume extra tests are not really very helpful.
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Old 13-10-2015, 19:22   #15
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Re: GME EPIRB battery replacement.

Quote:
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No, no, no... it will be the how NOT to, remember. Lots and lots of disclaimers.
A couple years back, my handheld GPS touch screen was broken. I found a You Tube how-to and replaced the busted screen for $7.50. I will repair or rebuild anything if I can get parts.
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