Your 13-inch MacBook Pro might need its battery replaced

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Anyone who bought a 13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) in the last year and a half should check if it needs a new battery.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple admits that some MacBook Pro laptops have a problem that causes their batteries to swell up. The company is replacing these free of charge.

This affects only the non-touchbar version of the macOS laptop, and only models with a 13-inch screen. In addition, the device needs to have been produced in a specific timeframe.

Apple stayed vague about the cause of this  problem. It said only “a component may fail causing the built-in battery to expand. This is not a safety issue.”

Swelling is a problem that has long plagued lithium-ion batteries. They expand because gasses are building up inside from oxidation of battery’s electrolyte (the chemical that allows electricity to flow between the cathode and anode). The root cause is the battery being overcharged.

The only fix is to replace the battery. Which Apple is doing for free.

Is your MacBook Pro affected?

At this point, anyone with a MacBook Pro probably doesn’t care why batteries sometimes expand; they just want to know if their computer is going to suddenly fail.

All the devices with this issue were manufactured between October 2016 and October 2017, according to Apple. Anyone who purchased a 13-inch MacBook Pro  since the fall of 2016 should go to Apple’s webpage devoted to its replacement program. There, you can enter your serial number to see if your laptop qualifies for this program.

Apple promises “If your 13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) has an eligible serial number, Apple will replace the battery, free of charge.” The battery doesn’t need to show any signs swelling.

The owner of the computer can mail it in to Apple Repair Center, or take it to an Apple Retail Store or authorized service center.

Apple’s website doesn’t say how long the replacement will take, but does warn that not all of its retail stores are up to the job. In that case, the MacBook Pro will have to be shipped to the Apple Repair Center.

Not just MacBooks

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Apple had to offer to replace swelling batteries in some Apple Watch 2 units just last week.

Hopefully, this won’t become a common event, with the company regularly having to offer replacements for bulging batteries in its products.