What would cause a solar panel battery charger to die?

I bought one of the solar chargers they sell at Harbor Freight for around $20. They are made to charge a 12 volt battery at 1.5 watts. Granted that is not a lot of power, but just to keep a battery topped off, it worked fine.
I particularly bought it to keep a car battery charged for a battery powered electric fencer, but I also took it when I went camping, so keep my car battery charged after running my laptop computer off the car's battery without starting the car to recharge the battery. The computer often ran for several hours to play movies.
Anyhow, aside from the fact that it's cheap Harbor Freight junk. It stopped charging completely. There was a blue LED on it that would indicate it was charging, and that LED no longer lights in bright sun, and my volt meter shows no output.
I took it back to HF, but was told that unless I had bought their COSTLY extended warranty, it was only warranted for 3 months. Of course they tried to sell me another one, which was on sale at the time for $15, and their $10 for 2 years extended warranty. I told them I would not buy another one and would never buy anything from them again. (And I wont).
Anyhow, my question is what can go wrong with a solar panel? It was not dropped, smashed, cracked, or anything that would physically damage it. Since it's junk anyhow, I am going to try to open it, but it appears the screws or (whatever) holds the two halves of the case together are embedded in some sort of plastic. So, I guess drilling them out is my only way.
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On 08/09/2015 09:34 PM, snipped-for-privacy@spamblocked.com wrote:

Every day the panel heats up and expands. Every night, it cools off and shrinks. My first guess would be thermal cycling killed it. Maybe a cracked solder joint?
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On Monday, August 10, 2015 at 1:15:12 AM UTC-7, Harry Hymen wrote:

Yeh, probably bad solder joints or maybe a bad blocking diode.
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In alt.home.repair, on Sun, 09 Aug 2015 23:34:16 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@spamblocked.com wrote:

I used to have a problem with my battery and I used one of those** all winter. Sitting on my dash. It solved my problem.
**Not from Harbor Freight though. I don't think the store existed then. I think I got it at a hamfest.
I actually bought a second one just because I liked it so much, even though by then I had Battery Buddy (which they don't sell anymore) and now I have Priority Start, which works great.

Why would you need an electric fence when camping. Scared of wolves?

A bad connection inside? At the very least you can measure each section and find the section that's bad.

That's a good idea. I've taken a bunch of things apart that way. YOu can even use a drill in reverse with left handed drill bits. You can get an inexpensive set of those at Harbor Freight.
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On 8/10/15 12:34 AM, snipped-for-privacy@spamblocked.com wrote:

How do you know it worked fine? A calibrated DMM will tell you if a battery is topped off.

after several days. I'd have a DMM to check its state of charge.
It sounds as if the HF unit produces 120 ma during the hours it gets full sun. If you know how many amps the laptop draws, you can calculate how many hours of charging you would need for each hour of computer use.
If a cheap solar trickle charger keeps a battery charged, it will kill it anyway. Conventional trickle chargers use DC, and that causes premature failure.
Pulsetech makes chargers for the military, commercial applications, and consumers. They use pulses instead of DC. Amazon is advertizing a 2 Watt Pulsetech solar maintainer for $63. It's probably well made. There are probably other good pulse solar chargers on the market.
It might be advantageous to get an AGM battery to run your computer on camping trips. That way, you're not risking having a car that won't start. If you have to start the car to charge the battery to see more movies, an AGM will charge 5 times faster than a conventional battery. It won't get acid on your clothes, and it handles deep cycling well.
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On Monday, August 10, 2015 at 12:37:22 AM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@spamblocked.com wrote:

That is likely the essential issue. You could look for bad solder joints, an obviously defective component, then start debugging it like any other electronic circuit. I bought a cheap VOM from HF, not expecting much either. In less than a year, the voltage readings went to off by 30%+. I think electronics are probably something to be very wary of at HF.
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I think we've discovered your problem. ;)
nb
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On 8/9/2015 11:34 PM, snipped-for-privacy@spamblocked.com wrote:

Maybe the sun went down.
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snipped-for-privacy@spamblocked.com Mon, 10 Aug 2015 04:34:16 GMT in alt.home.repair, wrote:

Sounds like a weak solder joint has failed. Or, a diode...you can take the device apart and probe it with your meter. You should be able to determine if the panel itself isn't producing power OR the circuit board is no longer doing anything with it.
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Mon, 10 Aug 2015

Dude, I didn't ask to see pics of your family. Please, feel free NOT to share more in the future.
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