Got Problems with your metal detector?
By Dan Breitenstein
As a web master and metal detector dealer, I think I've had about every question thrown at me about metal detecting that you could imagine. I never have an answer for all the questions, but I can answer some of them and get folks back out there swinging that coil again. I have taken a new job (yes, I still have to work to make house payments and buy things like food.) which looks like a lot of travel will be required. My wife will now be stuck here in Luckydanland answering the phones and fielding the questions. She can answer a few of them, but has always looked to me when the tough ones came in. So, she asked me to write about some of the more common problems that our customers incur.
This, in itself, could be a book. So I decided to try and impart some of the most common questions and answers to you. I'm not always right, but I try. A guy would have to be a walking encyclopedia to handle some of this stuff.
I get a lot of questions that are related to batteries. All Bounty Hunter metal detectors currently sold require two 9 volt ALKALINE batteries. That doesn't mean that any 9 volt battery will work, it clearly means that 9 volt ALKALINE batteries are required. The key word here is ALKALINE. Bad batteries will cause many strange and unexplainable things to happen. Your detector could let off one long continuous tone, beep wildly for no apparent reason, fail to detect a coin right in front of it, the volume level could drop noticeably ...and so on down the line. Many times this happens before the low battery indicator shows a low battery.
The low battery indicator is a nice feature, but unfortunately it is not that all-fired accurate. It does a good job of telling you that your batteries are low when you first turn it on after about ten seconds of use, but when they wear down in the field, I never trust it. If ANY of the above things happens to me, I change the batteries. When one of my detectors "locks up" and acts weird, I try the "on and off" trick and if that
doesn't clear it, I change the batteries. If the batteries are low, the power drain from turning it on and off five or six times will accentuate the problem even more.
I'm getting a little set in my ways about what batteries to buy. I've run the gambit on Dollar Store batteries. They are a great buy and it even says alkaline right on the battery, but after an hour when I have to change them, I realize that it really wasn't such a great deal. I like to buy the Eveready Alkaline Energizer batteries (yes the bunny ones), because I've had the longest life and the most reliable service from them. But as we all know it almost takes a second mortgage on the house to buy them. Lately I've been using Ray-O-Vac Alkalines and had very good luck with them. This happens to be the brand that Walmart pushes and it's probably one of my favorite places to visit. I think my wife and I should have an assigned parking space with
the money we've spend in that place.
It is also possible to get bad batteries right out of the package. This has happened to me a couple of times and it will leave you scratching you head for a few hours and preparing to cash in on that five year warranty. Most high quality alkaline batteries have an expiration date on the package and it makes sense to check it out before buying them. If they don't have two or three years left of shelf life ... don't buy them. They might work great in a smoke detector that draws almost no current, but we want batteries that are going to put out some work.
Lets change the subject for awhile and talk about mineralization. There are about a bazillion minerals out there that will drive a metal detector to the brink. Iron in the soil is the most common culprit here in the midwest. Iron , after all, is the bane of metal detecting in general. Ever since the beginning of the iron age of human existence, man has left it laying around to be buried and later found by us. But I'm getting off the track of the point I wanted to make here .... iron exists all on it's own with no help from man in the soil everywhere. Sometimes in such concentrations that it makes it impossible for us to metal detect through it.
A friend of mine called a month or so ago and told me about a problem he was having with his Time Ranger. It seemed that at the end of every stroke in one direction it would sound off. If he turned the sensitivity down some, it would quell it, but not eliminate it entirely. This was a new site and he was baffled at what could be causing this phenomenon. At first I was just as puzzled as he was. I ran the entire string of "possibles" like a loose coil wire, changing the batteries, the whole nine yards. He said he'd give it another try and I got on the phone to Bounty Hunter. They told me it was probably mineralization and weren't surprised because the Time Ranger is a very sensitive machine.
The next day he called me back and I gave him the answer that I got from the factory and the conversation continued with him asking about old coal mines in the area. Suddenly a light came on in my head and I remembered what I learned when I was a kid. My father used to take me fishing in an old strip mine lake and I asked him one time what those red colored streaks were in the coal shale layers. He told me
they were iron. It seems that iron and coal like each other and live together. That also explains nicely why an old coal cinder will occasionally ring just like heavily oxidized iron on my detector. It also explains nicely why my friend was having his problem. He moved to a new hunting ground and the problem miraculously went away.
Another situation that is famous for mineralization is red clay or even bricks made from red clay. I think the key word here is red. It's the iron and other minerals in the clay that make it red. I've had my detector go off and literally pinpoint a brick. I realize how stupid this sounds, but oxidized iron is again the culprit here. It doesn't have the conductivity of a coin or other metal object, but some of them contain enough iron and other minerals to drive a detector bonkers. This is just food for thought when that next ghost signal zaps your headphones.
Electrical interference is another trap that you can fall into. I've fallen into it several times and I have to remember to be smart enough to look up and around when it happens. High voltage lines can make your detector sing the national anthem to you in several different octaves. Have you ever been near the edge of the property, like out near the street or right-of-way, and got some really bizarre sounds? If you're like me you think that you finally found Uncle Henry's lost stash, but it suddenly goes away. But wait ... it's here a foot away ..... but no ....geeze ....it's gone! Look up. You problem probably isn't buried, it's most likely well above your head, hanging from those poles and laughing at you.
Radio signals, although rare, are another thing that can make your heart skip a beat. I think the most common way this occurs is when two metal detecting buddies go out together and realize that their detectors have become friends and they're holding their own little electronic conversation with each other until you move far enough apart that they shut up. This is also a very good example of how powerful these little metal detectors really are. It amazes me that they can make each other chatter and wail 20 feet away from each other. All of the current Bounty Hunter detectors operate on the same frequency which is 6.6kHz. Other brands use frequencies that are close enough that interference will be a problem. Just move farther away from each other and still have fun.
You also have to keep one other thing in perspective. Have you ever been driving down the highway with your rock-n-roll radio station (KFMH) going and suddenly it's replaced by the twang of country music from (KBZY) all country radio? You've just driven past their radio tower and their 100,000 watts of power zapped your rock-n-roll right off the air. I don't think it would really bother your metal detector a couple of miles away, but 100,000 watts of anything is a lot of power. You need to look around you when problems occur and not automatically blame everything on the machine in your hand.
Metal detectors are very sensitive machines that are many times misunderstood. But as we grow in our hobby and understand them better, we can better deal with whatever bumps lie in the road ahead.