Starter keeps starting and battery exploded
I have a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air with a 348 engine, in original condition.
This summer I did a rebuilt of the starter. At first I had the problem a supplier gave me a 24 volt solenoid, so the engine started only half the times. After I find out that that was the problem, I could buy the right (12 Volt) one. (Had painted the 24 volt unit black already). I bought a new 74 Amps/hour battery at that time also.
Starter started fine, and with the new battery, I could try starting a long period. That's because my engine has sometimes some difficulties with starting, especially when it's cold or when it has not run for a few weeks. It needs a rebuilt also.
But a few weeks later I experienced a new problem. When cranking, sometimes the starter keeps starting when I release the key. No matter at what point I had the key, start, ignition, off , lock, the starter kept running, while the engine did not started. Pretty scary, and after a minute or two jingeling, smoke came from the starter. I had the luck it stopped by itself.
To keep control over this problem I installed a quick release battery connection, so I could disconnect it as the starter keeps starting again and the engine won't run. But most of the time it worked fine and the engine started fine.
But this morning something scary happened. Again the starter kept starting and the engine didn't run after a few minutes, so I wanted to quit the process by releasing the battery pole. But I found the thing melting by the excessive heat the batterycables produced, so I couldn't release it quickly, while the engine was still cranking...! When I pulled hard at the cables, I big explode occured! The hole battery cover had blown off! Pfeww! Lucky me I wasn't harmed, and washed any battery fluid from me and the car quickly.
As it was this morning, I took my other car to work, while keeping the dramatic exploded battery in the car. I will remove it carefully this afternoon.
But how could that happen?
At first: why keeps my starter starting? Is it the ignition switch? Is it the solenoid that sticks? Should I remove the starter again?
And second: how is it possible that my brand new battery explodes? The plastic cover is completely destroyed and the fluid drained. I thought that batteries only produces gasses when charging. Also at discharging? Could any spark be the cause as I was trying to release the cable from the pole?
And third: what disaster causes battery fluid? To the car, that is, as I am not important...
starters draw more power then anything else on a car, that is why cars are designed that everything else shuts off when the car is being started
batterys do only produce hydrogen while being charged, but theres still hydrogen trapped in the top of the battery
id guess that while pulling hard on the connection, you broke the case as the terminal came off, and the spark from pulling the cable cause the explosion
make sure that your starter is shimmed away from the flywheel far enough
if the starter jams on the flywheel it will continue to crank the engine after you let off the key because the solonoid engaging all the way is what then engages the starter motor to turn
What a mess..
First off, I've never herd of any 24 volt solenoid for any SBC starter....Someone is pulling your leg I think...
Second, Did it occur to you to shift it into gear to enable the neutral safety switch and and cut power to the solenoid energize line, instead of pulling cables off under excessive heat and a 1000 Amp load?...(yes, your car battery PRODUCES as much current as 10 houses on your block..)
You are QUITE lucky you are NOT blind, suffering from ongoing chemical burns and secondary infections, Suffering from THE WORST shrapnel cuts you COULD ever get..Such as plastic case, LEAD plate and all ACID soaked and INSIDE your body..and may cause Internal lead poisoning...Not to mention Death..
The first time it continued to crank , you should have neutralized the situation and troubleshot before EVER using the system AGAIN!
What you have, is one of a few possibilities..The Ignition switch may be Shorted internally, Pull it out and ohm the switch from power side to the run position..you should ONLY get a reading in the Run position..and should decline when you let off the key.
Next the Ignition could be mis-wired, Picking up power from a point where it should not be touching..
The Solenoid could be mis-wired, the main power wire (battery Cable) to the big bolt, the "S" terminal to the Ignition "Run" position ONLY, The "I" or "R" terminal to the secondary ignition (resistor or coil..).
The "S" Terminal and the Main cable are shorting out loose cables or burned wires..
The solenoid starter drive may be hanging holding the "S" and main cable in contact through the solenoid "Shoe" inside the solenoid.
One thing is certain...you NEED to install fuse links!!!! This would NEVER have happened had there been links on the 10 gauge wire going from the solenoid bolt main cable to the rest of the car...
In 1958 they DId not install these...but you NEED to now!!! Had they been there, the link would have opened, cutting power to the body / fuse block / Ignition, and power would have dropped off the "S" line and it would have stopped cranking (unless it was mechanically hung up)
You'll need to Repair that post haste...You also need to disconnect the main cable from the solenoid and using a jumper to the "S" terminal touch it many times... the solenoid Should go "Click...Click.." if it is not hanging up...If you get only click..pull the starter and get a new one...
Unfortunately, your troubles have just begun...Everywhere that acid soaked will now either Corrode , or fall apart or the paint will eat and fade away...
I would replace any wires near the explosion straight away, as over a short time they will fall apart..
Install new battery cables with the new battery, and about the paint..well it's too late for that now..
in time a few Days/weeks you will notice "White spots" in the finish..as it eats it's way to the base metal...Just like the cloths you were wearing..by now you may know they were fine until you washed them...now everywhere you touch them the turn to dust...
In one sense you were lucky..the battery exploded JUST before the fire would have started..A fire such as this is caused by the hot wires melting together, and bursting into flames..
So long as there is power/Current to fuel it...you CAN NOT put it out..with ANY water or chemical...unlike a fuel or other type fire...and petroleum products (melting fuel lines only enhance the burning fire..) So your lucky that today you have more than a burned out hulk...
Trouble shoot the circuits I have outlined, be sure no shorts are present..replace ALL cables that got soaked with acid..check/replace the starter.
As for clean up get a bottle of vinegar or baking soda and soak down the area (covering any internal openings to the crankcase) with a mild spray of water, then spread your vinegar or baking soda over the area and let it sit about 10 minutes..everywhere the active acid remains, it will foam..then hose it off..don't be surprised if paint and other stuff just washes away with it..
NEVER (unless there is NO other option) Pull a cable from a power source under Full load..The Battery IS gassing..and IS HOT and a spark is just what it needs to blow the whole front end off the car...(seen this happen many times) There is no difference in the chemical reaction (per~se) between charge and discharge..except the electrolyte is being pushed or sucked from a positive plate to a negative plate, or visa versa..H2S gas is a byproduct, either way..Pulling cables, At the very least you will lose skin to severe burns (hot plastic burning it's way down to bone..)and at the most a code 3 ride to the trauma / burn center and a few years recoup time...or worse..a Caddy ride...
The power Contained there is enough that IF you could maintain a spark, and IF you could keep the battery from blowing up..you could cut the front clip of your car off in a few minutes at the frame rails .. no sweat!
I'm glad you posted your story here though..many guys still think a battery system is small potatoes , would never do that kind of damage, Don't need fuse links...Like Dude..It's only 12 Volts..right..not 110 ...
Yeah but it's 12 volts At 1000 amps...
The best your going to get at 110 (wall plug) is 20 amps. Hell, the average service panel (where Power comes into your house) is only 125 amps..
yet guys are afraid of the magic in the wall plug and take extreme measures to be safe there, but on a 12 volt system ...blow it all off..This is a good example.
OK off my soapbox!
Electronic & Electrical
Last edited by docvette; 09-13-2005 at 04:58 AM.
To satisfy my own curiosity I put your problem to someone who is working full time on auto electrics.He gave me permission to post his experiences here.
"THAT GUY'S PROBLEM is almost surely a defective starter solenoid--with the starter run-on. What happens Malc is that the contact disc at the inside of the solenoid will at times arc-weld itself to the stationary contacts. The condition is nearly always caused by bad alloy at the contact disc and the stationary contacts; and I have seen this condition many times before. (the contacts inside of the solenoid amount to rounded carriage-bolt-heads on the inside of those solenoids). With only the spring in the solenoid to push the contacts straight apart; the smallest arc welded area will keep those contacts closed--anybody who is experienced with arc-welding work with the old "stick welding equipment" will know how hard it can be to break loose even the smallest arc welded spot, the person welding who gets the rod stuck will twist and pull at the welding rod to get it free. The spring in there cannot push-apart the welded contacts with a only a small-force, straight-away push.
That condition will most likely happen with these remote solenoids after the large studs at the sides have been accidentally rotated a few degrees when wrenching the nuts to work with the large battery and starter cables. On these remote solenoids there are rectangle-shaped bolt heads at the inside. There is a round disc above the rectangle-shaped bolt heads, a spring pushes the round disc apart from the bolt-heads when the system is not being used to crank the engine. The rectangle shaped bolt heads must be locked in place at the factory during assembly, with the long side of the rectangle bolt-head horizontal, so that the round contact disc will mate with large contact area on the long side of those rectangle shaped bolt heads. Imagine that if the stud is rotated just a few degrees, at the inside of the solenoid the rectangle shaped bolt head will be turned so that the contact disc will only strike a corner of the bolt head. The small contact area at the corner of those internal bolt-heads will then cause arcing. The contacts become welded together at the area where the arcing occurred, and the spring is not strong enough to push the contacts apart with even a tiny welded spot.
Every car that had this problem had either just had the solenoid changed or the entire starter & solenoid assembly changed. It was obvious to me that some company out there produced a large quantity of solenoids that would be prone to this problem. I called around to a few Auto Parts stores in that area, and sure enough I was told that lately a few customers had came back with this same problem just after changing the starter. What was worse, some people would exchange the starter or solenoid at the same store where they bought the defective one, and get another defective one. That situation confused a lot of people and a few repair shops in the area. Several cars with that exact problem were towed to my workshop in a six month period. I took the starters off the cars, and took the solenoid off the starters, and removed the plastic cover from the end of the solenoid to inspect them (those are simple enough to take apart and inspect). In all cases there had been severe arcing at the contacts! One of them was still stuck, welded together, when I took it apart (and the starter drive on that car was still in the flywheel ring gear as I took the starter from the car. The contact disc was welded to one stud keeping the contacts CLOSED so that it would keep the starter running.) Some of those cars that were towed in from other workshops had the battery cables CUT (many shops keep bolt cutters or cable cutters available for those "emergency disconnects.") One car that was towed in had brand-new batteries cables, but they were the cheap ones. That car with the cheap cables had one of the battery cables melt and fall out of the soft-lead top post terminal--I laughed at that one because the cheap battery cable saved the cheap battery from exploding when the cheap starter solenoid welded the contacts shut and kept the starter engaged!"
Plus all of Docīs post about our attitude to "just" 12 volts.
The minimum requirement when working near your battery are safety glasses and gloves.
> First off, I've never herd of any 24 volt solenoid for any SBC starter....
I didn't either, so I assembled the solenoid thinking it wouldn't matter.
But it did. The solenoid switched only when jumping wires from another car were connected, so at about 13 volts. Anything less, and I couldn't start.
Attached picture showed the bizarre voltage.
> Someone is pulling your leg I think...
Sure they are! Already two who delivered me a bad solenoid!
First a 24 volt one and now a sticky one!
> Second, Did it occur to you to shift it into gear to enable the
> neutral safety switch and and cut power to the solenoid energize line,
Hmmm, no, that didn't occur to me. I should give it a try. But better I fix the problem for once and for all.
> You are QUITE lucky... blind... suffering... chemical burns... infections...
> shrapnel cuts... LEAD... ACID... poisoning... Death...
Yeah I know. I'm the most stupid ******* this world will ever know.
Same as lying under just a jacked car. Should be a nice death, however.
But I bet my girlfriend doesn't think so.
> The first time it continued to crank , you should have neutralized the
> situation and troubleshot before EVER using the system AGAIN!
Yeah I know. But as I fix everything that is wrong with my car, I won't drive any yard for the next years. If I ever manage to fix everything.
> What you have, is one of a few possibilities..The Ignition switch may
> be Shorted internally
I did and it looked good. But it wasn't easy to disassemble!
> Next the Ignition could be mis-wired, Picking up power from a point
> where it should not be touching..
Going to check that.
> The Solenoid could be mis-wired
Should be OK, as it worked fine before.
> The solenoid starter drive may be hanging holding the "S" and main cable in > contact through the solenoid "Shoe" inside the solenoid.
I think this, and the story Malc quoted, is what occurred. A new solenoid is what I need. The third one in a small period of time. So now the question is: who can supply me one that I can rely off? And send it to the Netherlands? Any webshops reccommended?
> One thing is certain...you NEED to install fuse links!!!! This would
> NEVER have happened had there been links on the 10 gauge wire going
> from the solenoid bolt main cable to the rest of the car...
Well, considering Malc's story, I think it wouldn't.
> In 1958 they DId not install these...but you NEED to now!!!
> Had they been there, the link would have opened, cutting power
> to the body / fuse block / Ignition, and power would have dropped off
> the "S" line and it would have stopped cranking (unless it was
> mechanically hung up)
I will install extra fuses.
> pull the starter and get a new one...
I have the starter in my workbench now. Today I'll buy a new battery.
And going to test it off the car.
> Unfortunately, your troubles have just begun...
> Everywhere that acid soaked will now either Corrode,
> or fall apart or the paint will eat and fade away...
Most of the acid was still in the battery. Two of the six cell's drained.
Most acid drops I have wiped away directly, as I know the harmfull effect.
> I would replace any wires near the explosion straight away
Two new battery cables and a starter harness are on my wishlist now.
> in time a few Days/weeks you will notice "White spots" in the finish..as it
> eats it's way to the base metal...
I neutralised the situation with rust converter.
> Just like the cloths you were wearing..
My jacket was an old fake leather one, and isn't a problem. But the same day my pants ripped at some embarrasing location!
> the battery exploded JUST before the fire would have started..
My fire extinguisher was within reach.
> As for clean up get a bottle of baking soda and soak down the area
> everywhere the active acid remains, it will foam..then hose it off..
Everything is cleaned now. No harmfull effects yet noticed.
Only my aluminium diptray under the car has now some fine textures.
> don't be surprised if paint and other stuff just washes away with it..
Haven't seen that anywhere.
> NEVER (unless there is NO other option) Pull a cable from a power source
> under Full load..
No, I will not. But I hadn't any option left, at that time. But is was a scary moment, though. See the pic of the exploded battery.
> I'm glad you posted your story here though..
And I'm glad that you, Doc, took the time to inform me. Did you know that I learned a lot from you, and not only in this topic?
> Yeah but it's 12 volts At 1000 amps...
Pretty cool that a lead battery can provide so much energy!
> The best your going to get at 110 (wall plug) is 20 amps.
230 Volts at 16 amps in Europe here! But I'm not afraid of that either...
You're lucky to be uninjured. You'll probably be jumpy from now on working on electronics
Pretty easy to compare the energy from a wall outlet to your car battery.
Power (watts) = Volts x Amps
Typical Outlet in a USA home
120v x 20A = 2400 Watts
230v x 16A = 3680 Watts
Car battery is 12v and can produce 1000A
12v x 1000A = 12,000 Watts!!!!
Now you can really see why fuse links are so important!
get a new starter, it happen to me the starter not the battery, it took me 3 mouths to figer it out, it just kept chanking
All above apply.
You want to make sure you always do checks on your system. Make sure it is charging properly. A low battery in the start mode, has really a high amp draw, and causes pieces to weld quit easy. Do a battery test the right way(just joking), Keep your battery terminals clean and free from corrosion with grease, or a spray coating. Use quality cables, and if nothing else, use the next size bigger. Make sure all grounds, and connections are in good shape. Check water level every six months, or do a visual if the case is see through when ever you have the hood open.
I would say since that happened, replace the ignition switch. Get a new starter. I would just say solenoid, but a faulty starter drawing a lot of amps, will also slow the voltage flow, raising amps, making the solenoid disc weld together, so this could happen again. If you want to add a main cut-off, get the right one for race car battery setups, and locate it away from the engine compartment. And, also, never do maintenance around a battery without glasses at least. and don't forget that box of soda right there on the self for easy access. A battery implodes first, then explodes.
All here is good advise..
The bottom line is We are glad that you are uninjured and only suffered Minimum damage to you rod...The most important thing..Is your healthy and can post here to tells us!
And Again, thanks For telling us about it..It serves to reinforce some things that have been "Preached" here that may have been taken lightly by some..That being .. even at 12 volts..this stuff is dangerous and CAN hurt you!
I voted for the "Shoe " inside the solenoid too..and just about the only thing you cant electrically protect against!
Thanks for letting me know you have learned "Stuff" here, and from me...It's good to hear..
As for the solenoid, Find an outlet , there or online, (where your at, I don't know what is available to you..) And order a Genuine GM solenoid..to get a good quality part! And at that , they still have fail rates..but better QC so the rate with Genuine GM is much lower..
The price? about 3 X a "Made in China" but as you have seen .. well worth the cost.
The Fail rate on those and MOST other electrical parts today, is about 1 in 3 or 5 out of the box..Starters, Alternators, Regulators, senders, and ESPECIALLY ECM's (modules) .. They probably QC about 1 in 5000 on hose ... and it shows..
The best laugh I get is .. "It can't be that..It's brand new!" akin to the scene in Airplane.."They can't be off course..They are on Instruments.." Where someone will chase there *** for weeks and end right back up where they started because it's an OBF..
This time, Get a Gel~cell battery, and upgrade your cables to about a 1/0 or 0/0 gauge (about the size of the wire feeding power to your house) If you can't find the cables, you can make them with stuff from the hardware store ..but you need a nico press to install the crimp connectors..if you don't have one (and not many do..) the hardware store may be able to install them for you or an good electric shop will have one..Design a way to enclose your battery too If you have room and time to do that.
Bottom line here..Be safe! .. us rodders are a dying breed as it is..lets not help that along!..and nobody is dumb..just on a "Real time " learning curve! I do stuff, after it's over..and say ..now that was dumb...got in a hurry..
Please post back and tell us the EXACT cause you find..we are all interested..
Electronic & Electrical
If you cannot get stuff from a supplier in the Netherlands try these guys in the UK http://www.bauer-millett.com/html/aftersales_parts.html
or call 0044 161 872 7744.
I had the same thing happen to me last year on my 89 chevy truck, with the exception that my battery didn't blow up. Started the truck and the starter just kept on going untill there was a cloud of smoke, nothing that I tried would stop it, fortunately a new starter was all I needed, oh and a tow truck.
similar experience once. WE were moving and the van died at an intersection. Thinking it was a loose battery cable, I got out to wiggle it. The battery exploded as soon as I twisted the terminal, covering my entire face and upper are with acid and the such. I had several burns but fortunately I didn't lose my eye sight. It was blurry for several days. We concluded that the regulator was out and overcharging the battery as it seemed to be under pressure upon the explosion. It proceeded to go to the SCRAPYARD!!
* shivers *
I admit I have not read word for word this entire thread but wanted to make a comment for safety reasons.
A starter will continue to crank for one of two reasons. a) power continues to energize the solenoid or b) there is something mechanically wrong with the starter/bendix/solenoid. If the solenoid binds and can not retract, power continues to energize the starter motor, thus cranking.
My point is IF you decide to put it in neutral to kill power to the starter and its not "a)" from above and instead "b)" be prepared that the car is going to jump backwards as it passes from park to neutral. May not be much, but something to think about if you have vehicles or people in close proximity.
I got it up and running now. New battery, just a 65 A/h version, new battery cables and starter harness, and, after ordering a new solenoid, a whole new (rebuilt) starter.
Doc asked me to tell the exact cause, but I'm not very sure. I think it is a combination of different issues, as mentioned in this thread.
When I looked at the starter, I noticed that the wiring wasn't very good. The connections hadn't their appropriated insulation any more, but it is hard to see (and reach!) from beneath the car and behind the header. So there was a chance they made a short circuit, but I'm not sure. When I pulled the starter from the block I could examine it on the workbench. At first the snap-ring and retainer seems to be missing. I doubted if I had re-assembled it, but a close look learned that the drive gear had "drilled" it into the casting. Also the bronze bearing was almost completely gone. This as a result of several minutes cranking and getting hot.
As the new solenoid arrived, it came with a new spring. When I rebuilded the starter earlier, I haven't received that spring. So I can imagine that the combination of the old worn spring, the faulty solenoid that arc-welded itself, as caused by the new high-amp battery, was the main cause of the continuous cranking of my starter, which I had rebuilded af few month before with tender, love and care. And now it is beyond repair.
So I had to buy I new one. My 348 came with the original Delco 3-bolt to block starter, but I read that a two bolt big-block starter would fit also. So I went to a local starter/generator supplier and he had a rebuilt one for me. For the reasonable price of 125 euro's. I know that they are cheaper in the US, but shipping of such a heavy starter will in most cases double the price.
I needed longer bolts, and installed the new harness and battery cables. Its all working fine now, and, as we speak, I look out of the window from my office, looking at my chevy in the parking lot. It's fine wheater this week.
The explosion of the battery was caused by the big sparks the occured when pulling the cables from the poles. As I had the battery onto the charger that night, it was probably still full of hydrogen gasses, which caused the explosion. I wasn't soaked over with acid, and only some minor drops on the car. I wiped the most of them immediately, and some other spots I cleaned the day after. I has a devastating effect on metal!
Thanks for all your interest and replies, guys! It was of good use, and it was a relief after that scary morning. It feels good to have a place where I can find good solutions to my car problems.
I am glad that you got it figured out. I have accidentally gotten stuff crossed in that tight area. The worst part is not being able to see it when installed. Personally speaking, starters seem cheap enough that I would prefer a new rebuilt one that comes w/ warranty than attempting to rebuild one myself. Mine on my Chevy K5 Blazer w/350 goes out about once a year from the engine heat. I simply take it out and down to the local autoparts store and they give me a new one, free of charge. (Gotta keep that paperwork around though~!~!) As a matter of fact, I just did that exact thing about 3 weeks ago.
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