April 25, 2016

On-again / off-again: Why your aging charging cable works some times and not others

By [email protected] Topic: Chargers

Technology has automated most of our lives. Our TVs know when to record our favorite shows; our coffee pots know what time to start brewing; our thermostats know when to raise and lower the heat. Some systems require setup. Others we never have to think about. Wall chargers, for instance, know when it’s safe to send power to your phone. Plug it in and charge it up.

We rely on these systems, so failure often comes at the worst time. Like when your phone’s been plugged in for hours, and you’re about to run out the door, but somehow it still hasn’t charged.

You’ve probably seen this happen after you’ve had a cable for a long time. It’s been tumbled in a bag, tossed in a drawer, or snaked behind a couch. So eventually, deterioration inside the cable creates a short circuit that prevents it from delivering power to your phone.

Fortunately, Ventev chargers have a protective feature called Auto-Reset that works around intermittent cable failure

Anatomy of a charging cable

Typically, underneath the skin of charging cables are four wires: a positive and a ground, which carry electricity, and two data wires, responsible for data transfer. Positive and ground wires manage the transfer of energy flowing from the power source to your phone, and keeping them separate is critical to delivering a charge.

Flat, rectangular cables, like the chargesync cable, take an extra step to separate positive and ground, pushing those lines to the outside walls of the cord. It looks something like this: [positive][data][data][ground]

Over time, the flexing and bending of a cable can lead to wires fraying or breaking inside your cable. If the positive touches ground, a short circuit occurs, and electricity runs down the positive wire, through the short in the cable, and then back down the negative wire. Charge never reaches your phone, and your battery remains depleted.

When a cable nears the end of its lifespan, short circuits lead to intermittent charging failure. You bend it one way, and it shorts; you bend it another way, and it works. When that happens, you often need to unplug and replug the phone when you bend the cable to restart charging. You continue to wiggle left, wiggle right, unplug, replug, until your cable finally takes its last charge.

Auto-Reset restarts the charge after the short is removed

Auto-Reset is a feature in Ventev wallports and dashports that stops delivering charge until the short is removed to prevent damaging the cable, charger, and/or phone. Then, when the charger recognizes that positive is no longer touching ground, it automatically begins charging again, without having to unplug and replug into the outlet.

Auto-Reset acts as a safety feature. If a short circuit occurs and the charger continues to send charge, that energy can only be dissipated by heat. Added heat can melt your cable, damage the surface on which it’s melting. And in an “it’s possible but unlikely” situation, if the short occurs around your phone’s connecting port, it can damage the phone.

Most off-the-shelf electronic devices have some degree of short circuit protection. Auto-Reset is required on all Made for iPhone (MFi) chargers and comes standard on all Ventev wallports and dashports. (It’s not necessary for portable battery chargers, whose power buttons serve as the reset button.) And while it isn’t the most glamorous feature, Auto-Reset is a proven way to ensure that a charger does its best to charge your device even when your cable has started to fail. You should “automatically” consider it for your next charger purchase.

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