A note of caution about Thunderbolt Magnum Heavy Duty batteries

AA-Batteries

Discount hardware store, Harbor Freight, sells packs of very affordable Heavy Duty batteries under the Thunderbolt Magnum brand name. Occasionally, Harbor Freight even gives large packs of these batteries away for free (with a coupon).

This is how I acquired a pack of 24 Thunderbolt Magnum AA cells earlier this year: for free during a store promotion.

In truth, I use quality rechargeable AA cells quite heavily (mainly Powerex and Panasonic Enloops). If I am reviewing a radio, I buy fresh Energizer or Duracell AA alkaline batteries to make sure the radio is receiving full voltage from the batteries during the evaluation.

But, on occasion, a cheap AA will suffice, right?

Not these.

I put three in a shortwave portable in June because all of my other batteries were in use. I had just planned to take the portable on a weekend trip.  Though it shouldn’t have been a problem, I forgot and left the batteries in the radio.

Tuesday afternoon, I checked the batteries because they were already dead. Turns out they were already leaking! I then remembered that other cells–from the same pack–had leaked in one of my kid’s flashlights.

It could be that I simply got a bad batch of batteries, but these cells really do feel of poor quality–I bet they weigh half that of most other Heavy Duty cells.

My advice? Free is too costly for these batteries. Stick with quality cells!

Now I need to go through my house and find where the remaining four batteries are hidden before they damage another device.

28 thoughts on “A note of caution about Thunderbolt Magnum Heavy Duty batteries

  1. Robert AK3Q

    Good advice – I had a similar problem with Walmart-branded batteries some years ago, as well as Radio Shack. I tend to stick with Duracell or Energizer. For some years I got away from rechargeables all together, preferring the full power of AA cells, avoiding drain during unused periods, and just being able to keep a bunch around.
    Now I have gone back to rechargeables where possible, using only Enloops, because of their ability to maintain a lengthy charge for those things which get used only occasionally. The reason? I have had both Energizer and Duracell leak in products where they had only been in the radio or similar item for 6 months. That is unacceptable to me with today’s technology.
    Obviously there is a lowering of the quality of these batteries, pushing people toward, I believe, the high-end lithium batteries made by these companies. I think it is comparable to dishwasher detergents-have you noticed?- you keep having to buy the latest greatest versions of them to get things truly clean. There are three or four levels of cleaners and only the top one gets things really clean, until that level is replaced with a “new and improved” top level, and suddenly only that formula really get things clean. Just one man’s rant!

    Reply
    1. Richard Mason

      These comments are contrary to my experience. I’ve tried both their yellow jacketed heavy duty and their orange jacketed alkaline batteries with no problems.
      They consistently yield voltage greater than 1.5. Usually around 1.8v. No leakages.

      Reply
      1. Roman

        You were maybe just
        Lucky..the fellow who started this topic is right on…junk! They may show 1.5 or greater but very weak amperage. Trust me as well junk!

        Reply
  2. William Pietschman (W8LV)

    Same thing with the Dollar General 9 volt Alkalines. ..they are no damn good. I’ve had several go bad on their original sealed package!

    No problem though, with the Dollar General AA or AAA Alkaline Batteries, at least so far…and they certainly do save money!

    Your Mileage may vary,

    73 DE Bill W8LV

    Reply
  3. rtc

    Same here…this was discussed (and cussed) at length on an Antique Radio
    Forum thread back in the summer.
    Bottom line: none of them are any good,even the name brands leak like
    a sieve.
    Found that out the hard way, even some new ones still well
    in date in the pack had leaked.
    The forum guys recommended checking all alkalines every six months
    regardless of use.
    The suggested use of rechargeables is excellent
    since name brand alkalines now cost about
    as much,even at Wal-Mart.

    Reply
  4. Dan Robinson

    I too went into panic mode a few weeks ago, going through every single box and radio and removing any batts. It’s the only way to guarantee not ruining your radio via leakage…

    Reply
    1. rtc

      While we’re fussing,has anyone else noticed today’s alkalines
      don’t seem to last as long?
      Could it have something to do with the mercury being removed?
      My Sony M37 Walkman appears to go longer on a AAA rechargeable
      than it did on an alkaline,for the same use.
      Brings back memories of the old carbon-zinc cells… .

      Reply
      1. rtc

        BTW,(from the Antique Radio Forum) try some vineger
        or Real Lemon on alkaline leakage with a Q tip,it will
        clean it right up-if it’s not too severe.

        Reply
  5. paul

    They will all leak, the good ones and the bad ones. I had a Davis Vantage Pro that I had Energizers in the console. They leaked and ruined the console AND the table it was sitting on. It cost Energizer big bucks. Because of their “no leakage” guarantee, they had to buy me a new Vantage Pro. The problem was by that time you could not purchase the same weather station so they had to buy me a new wireless Vantage Pro 2 at a cost of over $600.00

    Reply
  6. Mario Filippi

    As an old-timer I can remember dry cell batteries leaking back in the 50’s and 60’s. Then for the longest time they seemed to be better. Over the past several years the leaking has started again. Just like old times.

    Reply
  7. Darshan

    Never use single use batteries in a radio or camera that you do not intend to use every day. Use only rechargeable Ni-MH (read eneloop).

    The reason is if you put the radio away, the batteries will eventually discharge and LEAK, even Duracell and other quality ones.

    Use single use batteries only in case of emergencies and remove once the emergency is over.

    Instead, buy a bunch of eneloops or amazon basics precharged (same as eneloops) and a quality smart charger like powerex or La Crosse and have peace of mind.

    Darshan

    Reply
  8. 6PTsocket

    In a study of various battery types, one study said alkalines in general are prone to leakage. My last batch of Kirkland batteries leaked badly, after years of success using them. I believe they are from Duracell. One leaky bunch is not much of an evaluation. I have yet to find a really thorough head to head test that has a big enough sample to mean something and is based on more than “These batteries lasted twice as long in my whizbang”.

    Reply
  9. Chris M

    Thanks for the heads up. I was looking at my new Harbor Freight mail-out this morning and was ready to bite. PASS!

    Reply
  10. Bryan Cookson

    the yellow HF thunderbolt batteries are absolute junk, i mean they (set of 3) cant even run a basic LED strip for my toolbox for more than a couple days and thats a VERY LOW draw, wont last in an XBOX controller for more than an hour, and my bluetooth keyboard on this computer only lasts a few days on a set of them, whereas my old crappy walmart or energizer NIMH’s (by old i mean well over 3-4 years old and sitting for months at a time before i find my smart charger due to being homeless) and they will last weeks in the same devices. and i have a 1000 true lumen LED flashlight for work it takes 9AA’s and has a 15W or 16W diode in it, and it will wipe these batteries out in about 20-30 minutes of continuous use, and i know the draw is approx 1A per bank of 3AA’s x3 rows (=9 total) so that would lead me to believe they only hold 400-500ma at thier prime

    Reply
  11. Jeff

    First if all, the yellow Thunderbolts are are carbon zinc, not alkaline. Comparing them to Duracell alkalines is comparing apples and oranges. Carbon zinc batteries do not do well under heavy loads The orange Thunderbolts are alkaline and I have gotten good life from them and no leaks. I had some Costco (Kirkland) AA’s made by Duracell and almost every one leaked. Nobody is immune. It takes more data than one bad experience to come to a conclusion and warn people off a product. Pick any brand, read the reviews, and you will see leak complaints, especially Duracell. That may be because they probably sell rhe most batteries and discontented people write the most reviews.

    Reply
  12. Steve

    Same experience with these same batteries. Powered a LED flashlight 10 mins before dying out. Voltage was sub .10, there is literally something wrong with the chemistry of these Batts.

    Reply
  13. Jeannie

    Who do I contact about these Thunderbolt batteries? I bought them from Harbor Freight and messaged them but they are closed now. I put them in candles and placed them on my window sills and 7/15 leaked battery acid onto my window sills!! We just built this house and moved in on 12/31/16 and now have dark stains, some bigger than a 1/2 dollar on 7 sills. I am using white vinegar to try to lighten the stains but it isn’t working. It is a natural wood and the stains are dark brown-black. I took pictures of everything!

    Any help is appreciated!

    Reply
  14. Kim

    Thank you for the information, I’ve been questioning whether these batteries are safe or of decent quality. I know of at least one time, a good year ago, that the Thunderbolt AAA batteries had leaked in a flashlight, but I doubt I’ve really used them much since. I have switched almost exclusively to Duracell batteries because if a Duracell leaks & ruins your device, you can send that device in to Duracell WITH THE BAD BATTTERIES STILL IN THE DEVICE, & they will replace the device! To me, that is worth the price of high quality batteries! I do look for discounts & coupons to help with that cost, & I have peace of mind about the things I use the batteries in. Like you said, the cost of free can be too high, & in this case, it absolutely is. Thank you for taking time to do the research we needed

    Reply
  15. John

    I put Harbor Freight batteries in a new weather radio and forgot to remove them. In about a week the batteries leaked so bad that it ruined my NEW radio. The leakage voided the warranty, LIVE AND LEARN!

    Reply
  16. kketchum

    when it comes to rechargeable batteries, the only way to go is brand name, it’s just the way it seems to be, but there are professional battery makers who also have quality items, but the price usually will spell the story, you get what you pay for especially when it comes to rechargeable batteries, (experience, 20+ years dealing with rechargeable batteries of all shapes and sizes, etc,

    Reply
  17. Andrew R

    I bought 400 batteries total; 200 AAA’s & 200 AA’s from TigerDirect when they were having a huge sale. $75 for 400 batteries, I was definitely taking the chance. 4 years later, these batteries are still working fine, no leakage.

    Reply

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