Breathalyzer FAQs

BAC, accuracy range, fuel cell, semiconductor, calibrations? If all these terms are just gibberish to you, then you’ve come to the right place!

If you have a question, we have the answers! Click on a common question below to learn more about it, and if you’re still unsure, just contact us to ask.

A breathalyzer is basically an alcohol breath tester – a device that measures your breath alcohol content in order to estimate your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Breathalyzers use one of three technologies to detect the concentration of alcohol – a semiconductor oxide sensor, a fuel cell sensor, or a spectrophotometer (which are the large, table-top machines often found at police stations and used for confirmatory alcohol breath testing) .

Wingmate’s non-disposable alcohol breath testers use either semiconductor or fuel cell technology.

Semiconductor breathalyzers like the Wingmate breathalyzer are preferred by many due to their low cost, low power consumption, and small size. However, they require servicing more often (every 200 tests), and may sometimes pick up on traces of other types of alcohol, such as those from mouthwash or cologne. Therefore, semiconductor units are great for those after a budget breathalyser that’s good enough to give them an indication of their BAC.

Fuel cell breathalyzers like the Wingmate Pro and Wingmate Rover are the choice for users who want a more accurate device that won’t pick up on other traces of alcohol. They may be slightly more expensive than semiconductor devices, but they are more stable and durable in the long run, providing more precise BAC results over time. They also require calibration less often – every 500 uses. Law enforcement grade fuel cell alcohol testers are used by police around the world for their accuracy and portability, especially for applications such as random breath testing.

BAC is an abbreviation of Blood Alcohol Content, or Blood Alcohol Concentration, i.e. the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood.

BAC is most commonly used as a metric of intoxication for legal and medical purposes, and it’s usually measured as mass per volume.

For example, a BAC of 0.05%BAC would mean 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of a person’s blood.

There are various factors that affect your BAC, including your age, gender, rate of consumption, drink strength, fat / muscle content, metabolism rate, medication, food consumption prior to drinking, and tolerance towards alcohol.

It is not possible to accurately guess your BAC just by counting drinks and hours, which is why the police, workplaces, and responsible individuals use breathalyzers to check their BAC on-the-spot based on their breath alcohol concentration.

Breathalyzers have a small margin of error when it provides a BAC result, and this is what we term its “accuracy range”.

Because of their technology, semiconductors tend to have a wider accuracy range – typically +/- 0.01%BAC.

On the other hand, fuel cell devices have a smaller accuracy range – typically +/- 0.005%BAC.

This means that if your fuel cell device shows a reading of 0.040%BAC, the actual result could be in the range of 0.035%BAC to 0.045%BAC.

There are various things to consider when buying a breathalyzer. Factors include the device’s accuracy, ease of use, portability, and price.

If you’re unsure of which breathalyser to buy, check out our compare breathalyzers page, or contact us for some tailored advice from our team.

Calibration is the process of checking and adjusting the accuracy of a unit by comparing its results with a known value.

With breathalysers, for example, a known 0.05%BAC gas concentration is blown into the breathalyser, and the unit is adjusted to make sure that it correctly reads 0.05%BAC.

Just like cars, breathalysers need calibration regularly, even if they haven’t been used. We recommend calibrations every 6 months to maintain your breathalyser’s accuracy.

Your breathalyzer will need to be sent back to our calibration centre for calibration by a certified technician.

Visit our Calibrations page or contact us for details on how to get your breathalyzer calibrated.

No, you are not. Breathalyzers are for informational purposes only. Remember that there is no acceptable level of alcohol consumption that makes it safe to drive. Any amount of alcohol that enters your body can impair your reflexes, motor skills, and cognitive abilities. If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive!

Also, remember that your BAC can continue to rise up to 2 hours after you’ve had your last drink.

It can also take 10 hours or more for your BAC to return to zero after a high BAC has been reached from a big night of drinking. Therefore, there is a chance you may still be over the legal limit the morning after a night out, and you should always test yourself with a personal alcohol breath tester if you intend to drive the next day.

Wingmate breathalyzers are designed to be super easy to use right out of the box.

Refer to the product manual that came with your device for full, specific instructions on using your Wingmate breathalyzer.

If you’ve lost your manual, just contact us to get a soft copy emailed to you.

Check your breathalyzer’s troubleshooting guide in the product manual to check for common issues or warning signs.

If you are unable to resolve it yourself, do contact us for assistance, detailing the model of breathalyzer that you have, the issue(s) you are experiencing, and any other details we would need to assist you.

To register its warranty, you must have your proof of purchase and your breathalyzer serial number ready. The serial number can be found on the back of the breathalyzer, underneath the battery cover. The Wingmate One packs do not have serial numbers, so when prompted, just enter “N/A” into the field.

Go to our Warranty page to learn more and to register your product warranty.