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Old 18-12-2010, 12:00   #1
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My Battery Blew Up

Thank goodness this didn't happen in my boat, but not sure why it happened at all. This fall I noticed that when I started my backhoe the battery seemed a bit low. It seemed to take a charge pretty well, but eventually, after a couple of days without running it I'd have to put the charger on it to start the engine. I assumed I had a small short somewhere in the system but didn't have the time to go looking for it. Finally I hung the battery charger on it one evening. It started out charging around 20 amps and after 45 minutes dropped to around 10 or 12 amps. I decided to leave it on over night to top off the battery. Sometime during the night the battery exploded. My wife heard it, but I didn't and she didn't tell me about it until the next evening. I forgot to check the charger in the morning so didn't discover the situation until after work the next day.

OK here's my line of thinking. I believe the battery had an internal short that was causing it to lose charge and when put on the charger, heated up and started venting hydrogen gas. At some point there was a spark that ignited the hydrogen and the battery went blewy. The battery was an 18 month old NAPA battery so I picked up all the pieces cleaned things up with lots of baking soda and brought it all in to NAPA for a warrenty exchange. After a lot of head scratching they decided the problem had to be my charger and no one at NAPA could imagine how a battery could develop an internal short, and had no idea how an internal short could cause a battery to blow up anyway.

There really are two questions here. The first is, "Is my hypothesis that the problem developed from an internal short likely?" the second is "If not, what type of problem with my battery charger could have caused this to occur?" Actually a third question would be "How could I discover either of these situations ahead of time so I don't blow a hole in the bottom of my boat?"

Thanks in advance for any insight from the "far more experienced than I" who reside on this forum.
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Old 18-12-2010, 12:12   #2
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I have seen a frozen battery explode when charged
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Old 18-12-2010, 12:51   #3
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next time bam it with a mallet gently to loosen the stuff that collects inside them sulfating a battery THEN charge it.
works.
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Old 18-12-2010, 14:11   #4
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Hadn't thought about the battery sufating and then shorting out - could be. The idea that a battery would sufate after 18 months in the vehicle hadn't occured to me.

When this happened it wasn't freezing yet up here. Unfortunately we're in the 10th day of temps. between -48f and -20f. The weatherman made some vague reference to it possibly warming up to -10 on Monday - We'll see. Only 19 more days to go till we get 2 weeks in the BVI.
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Old 18-12-2010, 14:21   #5
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Sulfuric Acid is flammable.

When the battery is charging at high amps it's putting off fumes, even more so with low liquid level. All it takes is a spark to set it off. The charger may have overload contacts that were clicking off/on which may have set it off.

If the battery keeps dying I'd would have had it tested rather then keep charging it, but too late now.

Safety Hint: Add or remove the charging leads with the charger unplugged. No sparks!
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Old 18-12-2010, 14:25   #6
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Delmarrey,

Good insight and sound advice - Thanks. I hadn't thought about possibly low electrolite level. I really hadn't paid a lot of attention to it. I only use the hoe occasionally for small projects and it gets pretty much neglected. My problem is I didn't understand why the thing exploded and it seems critical to me that, that NEVER happen in a boat
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Old 18-12-2010, 14:32   #7
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Delmarrey,

Good insight and sound advice - Thanks. I hadn't thought about possibly low electrolite level. I really hadn't paid a lot of attention to it. I only use the hoe occasionally for small projects and it gets pretty much neglected. My problem is I didn't understand why the thing exploded and it seems critical to me that, that NEVER happen in a boat
In a boat the smell would be obvious, but would be deadly.
Just avoid such high charging unless it's for a short while. You get a better charge at low amps anyway. It doesn't cook the cells so fast.
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Old 18-12-2010, 14:38   #8
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I'm more suspicious that the chargers voltage was too high causing excessive hydrogen. There may not have been a problem with the battery at all. The cheap automotive chargers are worth what you pay for them.
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Old 18-12-2010, 15:48   #9
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I had to clean up the results from two batteries blowing up in a Bavaria a couple years back. The Batteries were located ubder the settee/couch in the salon....no ventilation....the owners wife was below when they blew....fortunately the cushions absorbed most of the blast.
the biggest part of the battery cases left was the bottoms. The lead just sat on top. There was no fire thank god.
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Old 18-12-2010, 16:11   #10
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I had to clean up the results from two batteries blowing up in a Bavaria a couple years back. The Batteries were located ubder the settee/couch in the salon....no ventilation....the owners wife was below when they blew....fortunately the cushions absorbed most of the blast.
the biggest part of the battery cases left was the bottoms. The lead just sat on top. There was no fire thank god.
Awe Yes! Forgot to mention the necessity of ventilation in confined battery spaces.
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Old 18-12-2010, 16:11   #11
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OK - need some more information then. What should the voltage be on the charger. I can check the voltage with my multimeter. The amps were sitting between 10 and 12 when I went in the house and that was down from an initial charge rate of about 20 amps.
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Old 18-12-2010, 16:14   #12
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This battery was located on an open tray under the metal floor of the cab. The access cover to get to the battery was off so it was about as ventilated as you could get. Makes me wonder if the spark that set off the explosion happened inside the battery. As Chief Engineer discribed all that was left was the bottom of the battery , the end that the posts were on and the plates - pretty impressive demonstration
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Old 18-12-2010, 16:20   #13
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OK - need some more information then. What should the voltage be on the charger. I can check the voltage with my multimeter. The amps were sitting between 10 and 12 when I went in the house and that was done from an initial charge rate of about 20 amps.
You must have a big charger.

Chargers can charge anywhere from 13 to 15 volts. It's the amps that are the kicker. 2 to 6 amps is about where one can charge w/o too much worry but when above 10 amps the battery starts to boil and at that point the caps should be remove to avoid a pressure build up.

When a battery if fully charged the voltage should be above 12.5. if it's been charging a long time and the voltage is low then the cells are weak and time to find a new battery.

Quote:
This battery was located on an open tray under the metal floor of the cab. The access cover to get to the battery was off so it was about as ventilated as you could get. Makes me wonder if the spark that set off the explosion happened inside the battery. As Chief Engineer discribed all that was left was the bottom of the battery , the end that the posts were on and the plates - pretty impressive demonstration
Were the caps off?
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Old 18-12-2010, 16:27   #14
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The charger I have is similar to what is used in automotive garages. It has a booster setting that will kick out 35 amps for starting as well as a 2 amp trickle charge setting. I've had the thing for about 6 years and it's always worked well. In the past when I've put it on a dead battery it'll charge around 20 amps or slightly above for 30 to 45 minutes and then drop off to between 8 and 10. Usually by that time I can start whatever the battery is in and let the alternator take over. What has gotten stuck in the back of my mind is that the battery continued to draw a significant amperage from the charger because there was an internal short. The higher amperage going through the battery could have actually started boiling the battery and may in fact have dried out the cell that was shorted and when that happened it sparked????? As I read the input from others on this thread and think it through more myself that is the only senario that makes sense to me.
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Old 18-12-2010, 16:38   #15
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caps were not off - actually doing that would have required a lot more attention from me and with that level of attention I'd probably not experienced the excitement I did I guess life is all about learning opportunities
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