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Old 07-26-2013, 01:57 PM
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Battery went boom!

Ok guys. The lead acid battery in my dads 55 chevy is essentially blown in half.
Heres what happened: My Dad, Mom, my girlfriend and I piled into the '55 and went for a drive around the lake, and stopped for dinner. No problems. no dim lights, no spikes on the gauge, no noticeable drop in power. After dinner, we headed home. My parents dropped my girlfriend and I off at our house. turned the car off for maybe 45 seconds, fired it up and they drove the 3 miles to their place. Once they got home, things got ugly. My dad went around to the polebarn that he uses for a shop (and where he parks the cars). He pulled up to the building, and turned the car off. He got out of the car and opened the overhead door, and turned on the overhead lights. He got back in the car, turned the key ON and the battery blew the top and side right off the case. He said it sounded like a 12 gauge went off under the hood.
Thankfully he still had the car outside so the acid ended up on the lawn instead of the floor. So he hurried and mixed up some baking soda and water, and washed down everything he could think of; and then rinsed that all off.

Ive seen batteries blow from jumping them; and perhaps overcharging them; however this is a 65 327 with a generator. The battery is a standard lead acid type from Napa(?). I also scanned the interwebs and saw references to batteries going off when the key is activated.

This is NOT in a box. The battery sits on a tray, and used a piece that looked like angle iron, that sat over the leading edge of the battery, with 2 J-type hooks holding the 'top' against the bottom of the tray.

Charging system is the generator, a standard lead acid battery, ignition system is ACCEL plug wires, stock distributor retrofitted with a Pertronix Ignitor II and their canister type oil filled coil. It was all wired per the Ignitor II instructions, and I believe it uses the ceramic-type ballast resistor.

Why didnt it blow at my house if it was hydrogen gas that went off? He waited a lot less time before refiring the car when he dropped me off, than he did at home.

Whole round trip was probably 75-80 miles; the return trip was completely in the dark, and we noticed no symptoms of distress from the electricals
Gauges are restored factory 1955 gauges.

No one was hurt, we'll see if the paint is severely damaged.
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Old 07-26-2013, 02:22 PM
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Wow. That is terrible. I am no expert but suspect one of the connections between the plates or the poles broke and when he hit the starter the spark ignited the hydrogen. I doubt this was caused by a problem with the car but was an internal issue with the battery.

I hope his paint is not damaged. Good luck.

John
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Old 07-26-2013, 02:29 PM
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Likely it WAS H2 gas that had accumulated. Only takes a small ignition source, could have been a pop through the carb or a spark from the generator brushes or voltage regulator to ignite it. Once it backfed to the source of the H2 gas (battery), *BOOM*.

Glad no one was hurt.

Now, go re-gear that '55 so it has the correct first gear ratio!
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Old 07-26-2013, 02:33 PM
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Could have been a bad connection on the battery cables that caused a spark or just an internally shorted battery. I have seen a few blow with no apparent reason. Usually written off to an internal problem.
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Old 07-26-2013, 02:41 PM
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battery low on water, gas builds up inside(sealed battery)
and the plates inside sparked, and baboom
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Old 07-26-2013, 04:06 PM
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After that much driving, on a car that sets a lot, the battery would have been charging steady for a while, making Hydrogen Gas. When stopped it must have accumulated . I would suspect as a few others do, that a cable may have been loose enough to spark and ignite it.
I would clean and tighten the cables to the obvious new battery
I would also check the main power wires at the horn relay for tightness, and also the ground cables as well.
I think I would also keep a float charger on that car to keep the battery up to snuff, and to minimize charging while it is being driven.
I too have seen batterys explode when charging. A cable gets bumped and boom. Also seen them explode by themselves due to shorted framework inside the battery.
Glad pop was OK.
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Old 07-26-2013, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AutoGear View Post
Ok guys. The lead acid battery in my dads 55 chevy is essentially blown in half.
Heres what happened: My Dad, Mom, my girlfriend and I piled into the '55 and went for a drive around the lake, and stopped for dinner. No problems. no dim lights, no spikes on the gauge, no noticeable drop in power. After dinner, we headed home. My parents dropped my girlfriend and I off at our house. turned the car off for maybe 45 seconds, fired it up and they drove the 3 miles to their place. Once they got home, things got ugly. My dad went around to the polebarn that he uses for a shop (and where he parks the cars). He pulled up to the building, and turned the car off. He got out of the car and opened the overhead door, and turned on the overhead lights. He got back in the car, turned the key ON and the battery blew the top and side right off the case. He said it sounded like a 12 gauge went off under the hood.
Thankfully he still had the car outside so the acid ended up on the lawn instead of the floor. So he hurried and mixed up some baking soda and water, and washed down everything he could think of; and then rinsed that all off.

Ive seen batteries blow from jumping them; and perhaps overcharging them; however this is a 65 327 with a generator. The battery is a standard lead acid type from Napa(?). I also scanned the interwebs and saw references to batteries going off when the key is activated.

This is NOT in a box. The battery sits on a tray, and used a piece that looked like angle iron, that sat over the leading edge of the battery, with 2 J-type hooks holding the 'top' against the bottom of the tray.

Charging system is the generator, a standard lead acid battery, ignition system is ACCEL plug wires, stock distributor retrofitted with a Pertronix Ignitor II and their canister type oil filled coil. It was all wired per the Ignitor II instructions, and I believe it uses the ceramic-type ballast resistor.

Why didnt it blow at my house if it was hydrogen gas that went off? He waited a lot less time before refiring the car when he dropped me off, than he did at home.

Whole round trip was probably 75-80 miles; the return trip was completely in the dark, and we noticed no symptoms of distress from the electricals
Gauges are restored factory 1955 gauges.

No one was hurt, we'll see if the paint is severely damaged.
Everyone that has contributed here seems to be on the source of the problem. It starts with the accumulation of hydrogen gas which is a by product of the charging reaction as well as hydrogen and oxygen from the dissassociciation of water by the ever present DC current. All it takes is a spark to set this off. Whether that came from a loose external source like a cable clamp being loose, or internally from a buss or plate being loose or shorting I can't say. But battery explosions do happen, fortunately not often, but the potential is always there.

I think this happens most often when the key is activated because there is always an in-rush of current to fill the wiring when any loads are left on or are just coming on like lights, stereo, fans, electric pumps, and certainly ignition. This is pretty forceful when things switch on with the key. Then if the starter is immediatly engaged there is a huge current in-rush that also sustains itself at a high level even after the initial in-rush current as the starter is only a little less of a current hog than a short circuit. So any loose external connection or any weakening, damaged or inadaquate internal connection within the battery risks producing a spark which given the amperage capability of an automotive battery can be a very large spark.

There you go, like zoo animals, the fact we work them all the time doesn't mean they're tame.

Bogie
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Old 07-26-2013, 06:45 PM
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One other suggestion AutoGear. You stated the car had a generator. If the regulator sticks and the generator over charges it can boil the battery which produces gobs of H2. When you install the new battery check the voltage regulator as well as the connections others have mentioned.

John
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Old 07-26-2013, 06:48 PM
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I just had to chime in.

This thread reminds me of story that happened many years ago when I was working for a tire company.

One day I got a phone call from a customer that claimed he had recently purchased a battery charger from our location and he was furious, apparently the battery charger that he had purchased had blown up his battery and also did some fuse box damage in his home...I was getting an ear full of how could we sell defective equipment and he was going to sue the company. I asked which battery charger he bought and all I got for an answer was "the Orange one". I told the customer that we didn't sell Orange battery chargers and perhaps he had the wrong company. The language got somewhat violent, the accusations became personal and he insisted that I come down and see the damage first hand. I went to his home, a very nice home, probably built in the 1930's, but it appeared to be well maintained and I knocked on the door, he answered and proceeded to show me his fuse box, it was the kind with the old screw in fuses. It was obvious that there had been an electrical fire. I asked to see his car, sure enough, the battery had blown up. Then I asked to see his battery charger.......It turned out to be an Orange 50 foot extension cord that he had cut the female end off, bared the wires and tried to boost his 12 volt system in his car. Now, I haven't tried to duplicate this experience, nor do I ever intend to try but, this thread just brought back one of those memories that at the time was very serious, now I can sit back and have a laugh and I'm sure that the customer was somewhat embarrassed at the time.

The fortunate thing was that no one was injured in "AutoGears" family and the customer that bought my extension cord. I've seen injuries happen when batteries explode and they can be serious. Batteries can explode from something as simple as the reasons posted by many people here and it does happen more often than people realize.

God Bless
Ray
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Old 07-26-2013, 06:56 PM
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I've seen this a few time, always when someone hit the key. I really don't think it from loose cables. The batteries were blown apart from the inside and the caps are designed to be a effect flame arrestor. A loose cable could cause an accumalation of gas to flash off but I doubt it would get through the caps. Shorted plates heating up when the key was hit would be my vote.
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Old 07-27-2013, 10:12 AM
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i painted a truck for a guy who was an engineer in dc voltage . he gave me a pretty good education on batteries . one thing comes to mind that he said. always keep batteries full . no room for gasses . a dry cell is a time bomb. i am scared to death of batteries for this very reason. i hate jumping a tractor or anything. dont even like a battery charger.
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Old 07-27-2013, 10:29 AM
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i painted a truck for a guy who was an engineer in dc voltage . he gave me a pretty good education on batteries . one thing comes to mind that he said. always keep batteries full . no room for gasses . a dry cell is a time bomb. i am scared to death of batteries for this very reason. i hate jumping a tractor or anything. dont even like a battery charger.

Shine, I am sure the information the engineer gave you was much better and more detailed than anything I have ever been taught. However, I still hate batteries. I have seen the results of a few that had blown up and the injuries some sustained from those incidents. Acids burns have the potential to be very serious, and can cause life long problems. I am glad that no one was hurt in this particular incident, and hopefully the paint and other parts on the car are fine as well. Just a reminder of how dangerous this stuff can be.

I wonder if the dry cell Optima style batteries are really safer than a conventional battery? I have never dealt with one personally.

Kelly
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Old 07-27-2013, 03:23 PM
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I just had to chime in.

Then I asked to see his battery charger.......It turned out to be an Orange 50 foot extension cord that he had cut the female end off, bared the wires and tried to boost his 12 volt system in his car.
God Bless
Ray
Wow... as Forest would say, stupid is as stupid does..
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Old 07-27-2013, 03:47 PM
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Wow... as Forest would say, stupid is as stupid does..

Yes, it wasn't the most well thought out move but, in the poor fellows defense, he was new to Canada (I remember him mentioning that he worked for some foreign Country's Embassy) and it was his first experience in a Canadian Winter...but...on the other hand, I think one might have asked for assistance from someone that knew what to do.

I still don't understand how it would have caused the damage inside the house though, I would have thought the worst thing that would have happened is that the fuse would have blown but, then again, who knows what the old wiring was like and I'm sure that "nob & tube" wiring wasn't code, even back then.

Ray
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Old 07-27-2013, 06:07 PM
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Trust me , you Will have paint damage , may take a while to show up , but it's already there , & no , I'm not gonna recount how I know !!

dave
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