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Railfan Technology > Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale

Date: 02/25/21 20:44
Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: WW

Those who have followed my posts about radios and scanners have undoubtedly noted that I have endorsed the Uniden BC-125AT as an affordable portable analog scanner that actually performs pretty well.  Today, however, I discovered its darker side and it is something that users of the BC-125AT should be very concerned about.  The BC-125AT can use either Alkaline batteries or rechargeable NiMh batteries.  The rechargeables are convenient because they can be charged in the radio with a USB cable, though it takes 14 hrs. +/- to fully charge the radio.  That is exactly what I did last night, as I have done on many other occasions.  This morning, however, the radio failed to turn on after I removed it from the charger.  I pulled the battery cover off of the back of the radio and what I found was not good.  Whether by battery failure of one of the NiMh batteries, or a failure of the charging circuit, one of the batteries had badly overheated, destroying the battery and actually warping some of the radio case.  It very well could have started a fire.  By switching the small microswitch under the batteries and performing some crude repairs on the case, I can now use alkaline batteries in the radio.  I won't trust it again to charge the NiMh batteries in the radio via the charging cable.

Now, that "sort of" solves the battery issue, but it also means carrying and using AA alkalines to power the radio.  Worse yet, the somewhat flimsy design of the battery case also means that the process of physically removing and replacing batteries fairly frequently will likely wear out the battery case and its electrical connections a lot quicker.  In other words, I and other owners of this radio probably should plan on having to replace the radio a lot sooner than they would like. I figure that my BC-125AT will likely wear out before it hits the 3 year-old mark.  That brings to the point of why commercial radios cost a good deal more than most scanners--they are made to take a heavy duty cycle and last a lot of years.  My Icom IC-F3161D portable is at the decade mark old and is running just fine.  I figured out the other day that I've carried it for something on the order of 1/3 or more of the working days of the year for a good chunk of those 10 years.  So, if one amortizes the cost of the radio over the number of hours that radio has been used, it will likely be far more cost effective over the long run than the BC-125AT, plus, of course, the IC-F3161D is also an NXDN radio.

Date: 02/26/21 07:48
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: colehour

Sorry to hear about the problem. While I've never had a problem with rechargeables, I have encountered a few leaking  alkalines which made something of a mess in the battery compartments of the devices. Interesting that all of them were made by the same company, so I wonder if in your case the manufacturer of the batteries has a history of problems with some of its products. 

Date: 02/26/21 08:24
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: WW

The rechargeable batteries were actually the one that came with the radio--Chinese junk.  That said, I can't rule out the charging circuit in the radio as the cause.  I've always thought that the charging circuit was kind of clunky in its design.  To be clear, one can remove the rechargeables from the scanner and charge them on an external charger and I know a lot of railfans that do this.  The only disadvantage of that is that the rechargeables don't usually have the capacity of alkalines, so one is back to taking them in and out of the case more often. Plus, one must carry a charger instead of just a USB cable.  I like the BC-125AT for the fact that it is field programmable for frequencies other than railroad use, but, for serious railfanning I'll likely stick with my commercial radios from now on.  I'll be getting a chance to do more railfanning in the next few months, as, now COVID19-vaccinated, I'll be embarking on several weeks of extended business and pleasure travel that has been essentially postponed since nearly a year ago. 

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/26/21 08:25 by WW.

Date: 02/26/21 12:07
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: jst3751

WW Wrote:
> The rechargeable batteries were actually the one
> that came with the radio--Chinese junk.  

First thing I did when I purchased my radio is replace those Chinese Junk rechargeable batteries.

Cheaper rechargeable NiMh batteries only have so many charge cycles they can withstand.

NiMh rechargeable batteries also have a shorter lifespan than other rechargeable battery types, generally considered to be 5 years.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/26/21 12:08 by jst3751.

Date: 02/26/21 19:11
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: Theowhitey

With the BC-125AT, I decided early on that the 14+ hour recharging time with the supplied USB cable was just not tenable.

I've been using an external charger (Panasonic BQ-CC17) along with Panasonic eneloop pro (2550 mAh) Ni-MH rechargables. This charger is small enough to be easily portable. Charging time is about 5-6 hours. In the BC-125AT, a fully charged pair of eneloop pro batteries will last a full day of railfanning. I have 3 pairs of eneloop pro AAs that I cycle through, so it's only necessary to take the charger on extended (>3 day) trips. 

There are several sources, but one example "bundle" is availalbe from B&H: Panasonic Eneloop Pro Rechargeable AA Ni-MH Batteries with Charger


Date: 02/27/21 09:21
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: WW

^That is indeed an option.  I have several AA fast chargers and a supply of batteries.  That said, my commercial Icom IC-F3161D will run close to 12 hours (sometimes more) on a battery if one is not using it for transmitting (which I obviously don't when I'm railfanning).  Though the Icom BC-160 rapid charger is a little bulky, it will charge a fully discharged battery in less than 3 hours, often less than 2 hours.  I also carry a spare battery, so one can be on the charger while I use the other.  For numerous purposes, I always carry a small 12V DC to 110V AC converter with me in my vehicle, so I can just plug the BC-160 into that to charge the radio battery in the vehicle.   My use of portable radios is actually fairly minimal unless I'm actually riding a train or am away from my vehicle.  The mobile radio in my vehicle has far better reception and audio, so it's my "go to" radio when I'm in my vehicle. My railfan vehicle actually has two radios--the commercial mobile that I use for railfanning and an amateur mobile that I use for amateur and severe weather purposes.   

Date: 02/27/21 13:00
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: Rmosele

Thanks for the heads up. I just ordered the Panasonic batteries and charger from B&H, or I will later today when they reopen after Shabbat.

Date: 02/27/21 19:57
Re: Uniden BC-125AT Scanner - A cautionary tale
Author: robj

I have something called an SF-30C I think, kinda pared down BC, I have a 4 pack charger  Energizer charge batteries I got at local store, works good. 
Still takes a while to charge fully.

Just like my D-780, I don't Charge stuff inside the unit.  By the way this is a simplified BC-125 and very easy to work with.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/27/21 20:00 by robj.

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