Here’s Why Your AirTag Battery Replacement Is Not Working

Originally published at: Here’s Why Your AirTag Battery Replacement Is Not Working - TidBITS

Is your AirTag still not working after replacing the battery? The most common cause is that certain batteries from Duracell have a bitterant coating that renders them unpalatable to small children and AirTags.

Very timely! One of the three AirTags I bought when they were initially released just notified me of its low battery. Looking in a drawer, I found a four-pack of CR2032s that I had no memory of purchasing, but were from The Findables Company, which apparently makes a competing product. After I replaced the battery, the AT still said the battery was low. One of Apple’s help pages mentioned the coating, and the “orientation” comment made me repeat the process, this time kind of grinding the battery against the contact inside the AT to see if that would help cut through any coating, and in fact the AT started reporting a full battery.

After reading this article, I’m starting to think that was just a coincidence, as these were certainly not Duracell brand batteries. But it did make me wonder…if the coating keeps the Duracell batteries from working, why would anyone buy them?

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But it did make me wonder…if the coating keeps the Duracell batteries from working, why would anyone buy them?

My question is why would anyone buy Duracell when they are more expensive and the issue with the coating.

OTOH, in many stores, the button batteries all seem to be from Duracell (Staples, CVS). Some offer other brands, though your luck may vary by store (WalMart, Target).

I’m sure Duracell could turn this into a marketing opportunity: “AirTag compatible” in big print on the 2032 packaging.

Cheers,
Jon

Hi - thanks for the timely article… I had found that even though the Duracells may not say child bitterant, it is present.
My solution was to gently rub the new battery in steel wool (not the kind with soap) for about 20-30 seconds. This resolved the issue for 2 AirTag battery replacements.
The other tip is that if successful, when you replace the battery the AirTag should give a small chirp.
Then when you look in the find my app a minute or so later the low battery warning will be gone, and you can do a test of play sound.
Thanks for the excellent article!
Hal

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Because I clicked the first thing on Amazon and didn’t think I needed to research simple disposable batteries. I’m hoping I can prevent others from making my mistake. I was aware of Apple’s warning about the coating but had forgotten it.

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Well, I’ve found Duracells (a) have much longer shelf life and (b) other well-known brands have ‘rotted’ in flashlights much more frequently than Duracells.

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I’ve found that Energizer 2032’s work just fine — and no bitter aftertaste. ;-)

I guess this topic is coming up now because batteries from the initial sale of AirTags are beginning to show a low battery indicator. That’s happened to one of the 4 that I bought.

When I went to my local CVS to purchase spares (I figure the other 3 will fail in the next several months), the clerk initially showed me the Duracells. I had already checked the Apple support note about replacing the battery and saw the warning about child-safe batteries. So, I was glad that the notice was clear on the Duracell packaging and proceeded to buy a cheaper, house-brand set with a ‘Best if used by Jan 2029’ note on the front.

Note: You may be able to temporarily get rid of the low battery warning by opening the AirTag, pulling the old battery out, and then immediately putting it back in. I did that when checking out the procedure with the Apple Support note and the low battery notification disappeared for a few weeks.

I wonder if denatured alcohol would remove the bitterant. It’s a better solvent than isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

I just found out about this fact today. I usually buy Duracell batteries but had to get Energizer. There’s mention of it also on Apple’s YouTube video.

Good question. If the coating does not allow a good electrical connection, then Duracells won’t work very well in anything. However if other devices work just fine by someway of piercing the coating, then the problem falls on Apple to improve the AirTag electrical connecting points.

In the meantime, has anyone tried an abrasive ink eraser?

Thanks for this tip!

Strangely, this guy says alcohol worked for him:

I’m just gonna avoid buying those :-)

Sure would be helpful if they could find a bitter coating that is electrically conductive.

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Lighter fluid worked for me—one or two drops on a cosmetic pad and a little elbow grease.

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From what I’ve read, Duracell didn’t coat the entire battery, just parts of the contact which is typically not used for the electrical connection. The center part of the negative plate is coating-free, so most devices shouldn’t have a problem. Apple placed the AirTag’s contact near the edge where there is a layer of coating on the battery.

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Interesting. However the photo seems to show the entire negative side coated, though it could just be the lighting.

I looked up the technical specifications for the battery.

Apparently, the coating is a relatively narrow strip on the outer edge of the negative contact, perfectly placed to cause the problem with the AirTags.

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The documentation linked in your article states that the material is WATER soluble. So a wet paper towel should do the trick. I don’t think patents should be allowed on items that could save children’s lives. I also don’t want the government to have to step in and regulate/require all button batteries to have this coating. This is why capitalism and the free markets suck. Apple should also use a standard/typical location to contact the battery…

Apple is using a standard location for the contact. The whole back pad of the battery is a the negative contact so that manufacturers have flexibility in where they make contact and can use any part of it. Duracell is the one making a battery that (seemingly) doesn’t conform to the specification, so not sure that Apple has any blame in this.

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We thought that too, but it may be applied via a plastic layer. The patent talks about that.

Since Adam replied to this post, I wonder why he didn’t flag this political statement, it doesn’t belong here at all, not only that, but the accusation is totally false.