Service Battery: anything I can do on my own?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by dingdongbubble, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. dingdongbubble macrumors 6502a

    Jun 1, 2007
    My mid 2009 13" MacBook Pro says service battery in the battery drop down menu thing in the top right of the screen. It says I can continue using the MacBook but I should get it checked. The back of my MacBook gets quite hot when using it and the battery life has gone down to just 2-3 hours on a charge.

    I won't be able to go an Apple store anytime soon so is there anything I can do by opening up the MacBook and tinkering around with things? I'm fairly technically proficient so I'm comfortable with opening up the MacBook and doing strange stuff to it.
  2. Mac Write macrumors member

    Dec 16, 2012
    Vancouver British Columbia
    I wouldn't tinker around with the battery. Best bet is to call Apple and mail it in if your not close to an Apple Store to get it serviced.

    How many cycles does it have?
  3. KevinC867 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 8, 2007
    Saratoga, CA
    It's dead, Jim.

    The only useful "tinkering" you can do is to replace the battery. Apple says it is not user replaceable, but if it's too much of a hassle to get the laptop to them for the battery replacement, you can do it yourself. Here's a link to the iFixit guide for doing this: They will even sell you a replacement battery, but it's not much cheaper than the $130 Apple charges to do the replacement service.

    I've run batteries for quite a long time after they report "Service Battery", so I would think that your battery will last plenty long enough to get the replacement sent to you.
  4. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    Often the service battery indicator is because the battery is no longer holding 80% of it's charge, thus is out of Apples 'spec'. It won't damage the laptop to continue using it, but the battery will eventually be useless.

    It's actually not that complicated to replace. You remove the lower half of the macbook, there are a couple screws (which require a special screwdriver, a tri-wing, you can get it anywhere), and then unplug and lift out the battery. Installation is the reverse of removal. If your MacBook is getting warm it could just be getting dusty on the inside, when/if you replace the battery you may blow some of that dust out. Whenever I crack open an older laptop I often remove the fan assembly (usually just a couple screws) and clean all around it with a dry rag to get all of the dust out from underneath it, and out of the fan assembly itself.

    None of this is complicated, but if you aren't comfortable doing it you are probably best having a professional service. However, it's not very difficult at all. Just a few screws, and maybe 20 minutes of time.
  5. Saturn1217 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 28, 2008
    This just started happening to me too

    This just started happening to me too. I also have a 2009 Macbook pro 13-inch.

    I've read somewhere that this just means that the battery dropped below a certain % of max capacity. Via coconut battery my current capacity is 78% but it was at 73% earlier today (lowest it has ever been). Does anyone have anymore insight on this? Is my battery failing or just old?

    I'm using the computer right now on battery and have been for the last couple hours and it seems to be running fine. I get ~3.5hrs when I'm trying.

    Edit: Thank you el-john-o. I think it was from you that I read about the 80% spec thing
  6. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    I believe the 09 MBP uses Li-Ion batteries. Those will gradually lose a charge over time (what you are experiencing) then decline a little sharper, then fail altogether (where you might get 10 minutes of battery life). It's just a fact of life, even the best rechargeable battery packs fail. If it's time to upgrade, replace the machine. If it does everything you need it to do, save your money and buy a new battery. It's really not super difficult, but, Apple is reasonable as far as pricing to have them do it. (Though, again, it's a piece of cake).

    LiPo batteries, like on the newer MBP's, will not have as much of a gradual drop. There will be some, but then they will suddenly fail. I suspect a lot of forum posts in a year or two with people complaining about an 'overnight' change in battery performance. It's actually an improvement, because during the 'gradual failure' stage of a Li Ion battery, a LiPo battery is still maintaining most of it's charge. At the time the Li Ion battery fails, the LiPo will suddenly fail as well! (In terms of charge cycles and such). Unless Apple has some sort of special LiPo cells, this is how LiPo batteries typically behave.

    In either case, it doesn't hurt anything to use your laptop with a failing battery. It simply means you cannot rely on the battery to hold a charge. I also wouldn't be too alarmed if the battery reporting was way off (showing 1 hour until empty, then force shut down 10 minutes later, etc.). It's nice to replace it so you can go back to being portable, but I've got an older Windoze laptop that I use occasionally that has no battery, most of the time Windows can't even recognize the battery as in there, and it will just 'shut off' (not shut down, just 'die') within 2 or 3 minutes of being unplugged. It's shot. Been that way for a while too. It's sits on a desk in my bedroom though and my wife uses it to check her facebook, it's basically a desktop now (those things shut off when you unplug them too! :p). If it mattered I'd replace the battery, but, it really doesn't in this case. If my MacBook Pro started doing that, that'd be different, I use it 'unplugged' all the time and would definitely want to replace the battery.

    Again, the 'battery service needed' has a lot more to do with staying within Apple's specs. Not every Mac user is a computer whiz. Some may have no IDEA that batteries fail over time. That little reminder should get them to have their laptops looked at in plenty of time, before the battery fails completely and they are left totally surprised by the fact that they can't unplug their laptop anymore!

    For the record, there's not much you can do to fix an old battery, but there are a few things you can do to keep it lasting longer. For one, , follow Apples instructions on 'calibrating' the battery about once a month. New MBP's don't need to be calibrated when new, that's true, but they should still be calibrated monthly or so. This is true whether it's a road warrior, or whether it's plugged in 24/7. Newer batteries are less susceptible to 'memory' (where they CAN hold more of a charge but due to poor charging habits are 'stuck' using only a portion of their capacity), but the electrons need to move. Failing to discharge and recharge the battery occasionally will accelerate wear. Conversely, it's best to leave the battery with plenty of charge if at all possible. Though the electrons do need to move OCCASIONALLY, the battery will last the longest if the only times you discharge the battery completely are your occasional calibration stints. I know that all seems odd, but it's true!

  7. mrsir2009 macrumors 604


    Sep 17, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    Here's a 13" MBP battery for $70 on Amazon.

    Apple say you can't replace it on your own, but I've done it before and it's dead easy - Not much harder than replacing the RAM or the hard drive. Just search up a good tutorial on YouTube or iFixIt and you'll be sweet :)
  8. dingdongbubble thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 1, 2007
    Thank you very much for all your helpful replies. I shall clean out the insides of dust today and try finding the battery on (I'm in Canada). Where else would it be available apart from amazon if I can't find it there? Does anyone know where I can find the model number thing that starts with ML....
  9. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    #9 sells the batteries, the special tools and screwdrivers you'll need, AND has videos and instructions on how to do it.

    Here's the battery:

    To the left you'll see three tools, buy all three of those. A plastic spudger (helps you remove the connections without damaging them), a 00 screwdriver, and a tri-wing driver. They also have instructions on there.

    Before you buy though, check your model number. It's located on the bottom of your MBP That link is for model number A1278 which is what I THINK you have. The Mxxxxx/LA number is not what you need for iFixIt's page.

    There's also a nice video there overviewing the process.

    Also, that model battery is the same as in the 2012 MBP, so that may be a LiPo battery. What that means is, it'll still retain quite a bit of it's battery life for a while, but then will start dropping rapidly in a short time period. At least, that's how LiPo batteries usually behave (as opposed to Li-Ion or NiCD/NiMH batteries which gradually lose capacity over time. LiPo's pretty much work... and then they don't)
  10. dingdongbubble thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 1, 2007
    The iFixit batteries are too expensive. I might as well get it done directly from Apple for that cost.

    Would this battery work?

    The seller looks reliable too.

    I've attached a screenshot of coconut battery. It looks like my batterys gone down quite a bit.

    When I take the charger out, the Mac's fan starts running a bit. Any ideas why?

    Attached Files:

  11. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    Typically you get what you pay for with stuff like that. It's also 55w/h (advertised anyway) vs the 65w/h stock battery. But, if it's for the model number that's written on the bottom of your MacBook, then it should work. Certainly don't blame ya for wanting to save a penny on this!

    As far as the fan, how much louder does it get? Does it crank way up or just get a little quicker? Does the fan speed increase the moment you unplug it or does it increase some time later?

    You may try an SMC reset. It's probably nothing but it could be an SMC issue.

    That said, at 74% I don't think you need to run out and replace the battery right away if it's not a big deal to you. Just evaluate how much you use the battery and determine when you need to replace it. But, being a LiPo battery, be prepared for it to start losing charge rapidly.

    By the way, the LiPo design is actually much better, and lasts much much longer. A Li-Ion battery would have been long gone 4 years / 750 cycles in like that. But it can appear to not be quite as good because the falloff is so rapid, as opposed to more gradual with a Li Ion. But in reality, Li Ion begins to degrade as soon as you run it through it's first cycle, whereas LiPo batteries hang on and hang on and hang on and then just finally give up!

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