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The 283 and 285 require an adapter to hold the 4 AA batteries. This is because there is an available battery pack NC-3 (NiCad) that works with the Charge-15 rapid charger. Loose AA batteries cannot be used without the adapter known as AP-1. They are all over eBay and quite reasonably priced.
Best place for finding Vivitar 283 anything is on e-Bay, I use a gang of them doing my location photography and have several holders preloaded with batteries so when the cycle time starts to get more then I can bare I just switch out the holders.
Check the contacts for the battery to make sure they are clean and shiny. Then insert 4 brand new AA batteries observing the correct polarity and try again. Also check your users manual to be sure all of your setting and connection to your camera is correct.
Soak the internal contacts of the battery holder with WD40 electrical spray and leave for a while say an hour it will not harm the electronics but wipe suplus off after giving further cleaning with fibre tipped pen available from most electronic firms the contacts have to be very clean as I found with my flash gun Vivitar 283 and I nearly give it up for lost after the above it is now working fine