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A Cautionary Tale (Roland FR-4x)

Alan Sharkis

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When i was taking lessons, I used to keep a set of charged batteries in my Roland FR-4x, but I'd run it with the AC adaptor when I was home. I stopped taking lessons back in October, when I ran into some orthopedic problems and didn't play for a couple of months, but i forgot that there were batteries in the accordion. When I came back to it, I was curious about the state of the batteries, so I powered up the accordion. The display seemed normal, but there was no sound coming from the treble side. I checked the volume and balance controls; they were set where I hd left them. I tried a register switch, and got some sound from the treble keyboard, but it sounded like a weak toy organ. Changing registers didn't change that sound. I touched a bass button and it sounded -- and sounded -- and sounded even when I let the button up. I tried powering off the accordion, but it wouldn't power off, so I removed the battery holder and pulled one cell out. The sound stopped at that point. Next, I plugged in the AC adaptor, and got the same results as before, so I pressed the menu button, hoping that I could do a reset (I had a full backup on a thumb drive.) The display showed, "Write? YES/NO." I selected NO, and pulled the plug on the AC adaptor.

Then I called my dealer and told him what happened. He said that similar things happened to people who left batteries in the accordion too long, but never as severe as what I described, so he told me that he would call the head accordion tech at Roland to find out the next step.

I heard from my dealer a week later. He told me that almost all of Roland's staff was working remotely, which accounted for the delay, but he passed on the serial number of the accordion and my name, email address and mailing address to Roland and told me that I'd get an address and a Service Return Authorization Number from Roland via email, and then I could ship the accordion to them. I waited a while for that shipping address and RA number. When I received it, I packed up the accordion and sent it to Roland.

A week later, I received an email from Roland telling me that they checked the accordion and that there was nothing wrong with it, and that I should call a specific extension at Roland to give them credit card information and arrange for return shipping. My dealer also got that email. The two of us were incredulous. My dealer literally told me, "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me." (Great song, and it kept me thinking about Duke Ellington songs, along with the anxiety of wondering whether they really checked the accordion beyond power-up or whether time made the accordion normal again, or whether something had come loose and re-tightened itself during shipping.)

Meanwhile, my dealer contacted the head accordion tech at Roland and asked him to unpack the accordion and check it again. Then he called me with the good news that the accordion was, indeed, OK, and that I could go ahead and pay for return shipping. I don't think I'll ever know what actually happened, but I can speculate that even powered off some voltage is applied to the accordion, and at that as that voltage diminishes, as the batteries discharge, some freaky things can happen to the accordion.

Today, I played it for over an hour, and it's fine.

Moral of the story: never leave batteries in an FR-4x for an extended period of time. There is nothing in the reference manual about this, but it certainly should be.
 

Dingo40

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Electronics move in mysterious ways!?
It's all beyond me!??
Luckily it seems to have ended well!?
 

Alan Sharkis

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I’m beginning to learn more about what actually happened. I thought that the power button on the accordion was a “hard” switch. It isn’t. It needs a constant voltage to detect a power-on condition. It must have had enough to do that, but not enough a few minutes later to respond to a request for a power-off. That explains why the bass kept droning until I removed one cell. Also, there was enough power to give me the first two screens on the display, leading me to believe that the accordion powered up normally, but there was enough of a voltage drop after that to make any other response flakey. When I tested the batteries that I took out of the accordion I found that two of the ten wouldn’t charge. So, you have ten NiMH cells in series, and eight of them are partially discharged, while two are just barely charged, and you have the source of the problem.
 

Alan Sharkis

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Yes it does. I plugged the AaC adaptor in minutes after trying the accordion on battery. It probably took much longer for the charge in whatever electrolytic capacitors there were in the accordion to dissipate.
 

Alan Sharkis

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Follow up: Since I now have mobility issues (I'm scheduled for a hip replacement in August) and I'm no longer taking lessons, there is no need for me to use batteries at all -- so I won't.
 

JeffJetton

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Moral of the story: never leave batteries in an FR-4x for an extended period of time. There is nothing in the reference manual about this, but it certainly should be.

Glad you got the situation resolved!

The above is good advice for any gadget with a battery, really. Even if the device handles low-voltages more elegantly than the FR-4x, an idle battery in anything can potentially leak all over the place, doing all sorts of corrosive damage. Maybe less of a chance with rechargeables, but still...
 

Alan Sharkis

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I’ve more or less resolved to use only the ac adaptor. The batteries have been removed and will stay removed. At age 82 and playing less and less frequently it kind of figures.

The whitish powder deposited by leaking alkaline batteries can be dissolved and removed with a Q-tip dipped into white vinegar if you catch it before the contacts actually corrode. I don’t know if this works with leaking rechargeable batteries.
 

JerryPH

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It’s not the powdery dried acid that does the damage, it is the acidic fumes that slower and over time cause random failures of electronic parts. Problems can start to show a day, a week or a year later. These are the ones that are hard to trace/find. ;)
 

John M

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It’s not the powdery dried acid that does the damage, it is the acidic fumes that slower and over time cause random failures of electronic parts. Problems can start to show a day, a week or a year later. These are the ones that are hard to trace/find. ;)
I 100% agree. Give me a problem. Enough time, it usually can be solved. Enough time and money--Guaranteed. An intermittent problem--lots of luck--unless you can nail it at the time of failure.

John M.
 

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