"Can I use an older NiCd battery charger to charge NiMH batteries?
The answer to this question depends on the type of NiCd charger. Depending on the type of NiCd charger you have, the older NiCd charger may undercharge NiMH batteries (most likely), it may overcharge them (less likely), or it may charge NiMH batteries properly (but it’s not likely to do so automatically and could take a very long time). Let’s take a look at the three cases.
Many of the older NiCd chargers are the simple timed type charger which will charge batteries for a fixed amount of time and then shut off. Unfortunately, since NiCd batteries have a much lower capacity than NiMH batteries, the timer is likely to shut off long before the NiMH batteries are fully charged. This won’t harm the batteries, but the NiMH batteries won’t be fully charged since the timer will have stopped the charge cycle too soon.
Also common among older NiCd chargers are the so called “overnight” chargers which charge batteries at a low rate as long as the charger is plugged in. This type of charger can fully charge NiMH batteries, but it might take a very long time to do so. It’s possible that an old NiCd charger could take as long as 48 hours to fully charge new high capacity NiMH batteries! This type of charger is not likely to damage NiMH batteries unless the batteries are left in the charger for weeks at a time, but it may not be very convenient to use. If you have this type of charger you can get an idea of how long you’ll need to charge your batteries by using the calculator found above.
The final possibility is that the older NiCd charger is a rapid charger that will charge NiMH batteries but will not have the necessary circuitry to stop the charge cycle once the NiMH batteries are fully charged. If the NiCd charger is designed to charge batteries in less than two hours it may be this type. In this case the risk is that the older charger will overcharge NiMH batteries. This will be apparent if the batteries get very hot during the charge cycle. (It is normal for NiMH batteries to get warm as they become fully charged, especially in a rapid charger). If the NiMH batteries get too hot to handle and stay that way for more than 20 or 30 minutes, then the NiCd charger is most likely overcharging the NiMH batteries and may shorten their life. You would be most likely to encounter this type of charger if the charger was designed for rapid charging radio control (RC) vehicle batteries. We would recommend that you not use an NiCD rapid charger to charge NiMH batteries.