Battery Explosion, The Sequel

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Jim Becker
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Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Jim Becker » Mon May 03, 2021 12:25 pm

About 6 years ago, I reported on a battery I had that exploded while on a battery tender. Two weeks ago I had another battery explode. Once again, it was a failed battery that I should have removed long ago.

I have a '49 Cub with a flail mower. Last year it got used infrequently. It starts so easily with a crank that all last summer I ignored the bad battery and crank started it. This year, I wanted to get at some things that were blocked by the Cub. It hadn't been run since last fall. It easily cranked it up, but stumbled and missed as it first started. So when I ran it outside, I decided to let it warm up for a while.

I had been off dealing with the tasks at hand and was on my way back towards where the tractor was sitting, running at a fast idle. I was 100+ feet away when there was a LOUD bang. I happened to be looking at the tractor at the time, and noticed a small object land next to the tractor. As I approached it, I could see liquid running out the bottom of the battery box. The liquid turned out to be battery acid and the fallen object turned out to be a battery cap. The old battery couldn't handle the output from the generator. The tractor was still running. I shut it off then doused the whole thing with several gallons of water. After disconnecting the field wire from the generator, I drove it to the nearest garden hose and did a more complete washing it down. You can see the damage in the accompanying pictures. Note the explosion blew the ground cable out of the cheapo terminal that had been attaching it to the battery.

I'm just glad it decided to blow up while I was at a distance. It could have just as easily done this while I was mowing last summer. Ironically, before this happened, I had been thinking that I needed to get that battery off the tractor. The message from this is don't mess around with a bad battery. Get it out of service. It is a message that I evidently didn't absorb as well as I should have last time.

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Bob McCarty
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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Bob McCarty » Mon May 03, 2021 2:19 pm

Glad to hear you were at a distance when it happened. I think you might need a new shifter knob!! :D
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we need to think differently."
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Don McCombs
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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Don McCombs » Mon May 03, 2021 2:31 pm

I thought that was a detent button for locking the shift lever in gear. :D
Glad no one was hurt.
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wrz
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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby wrz » Mon May 03, 2021 2:52 pm

Do you think the explosion was caused by a spark at the poor connection(cheapo terminal) that ignited the fumes coming from the charging battery?
Wm

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Jim Becker » Mon May 03, 2021 2:58 pm

That shifter knob is too poor to use but too good to throw away. If I pull it up so the lever doesn't stick through, it moves back down. If I leave it down, it stays in one place.

The front cell was blown open, but only that one. I think the spark was probably inside that cell.

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby raystractors » Mon May 03, 2021 3:01 pm

Glad your alright Jim, that could have been really bad.

I don't want to steal your post, but would like to tell you about my experience with battery explosion. When I was a young lad (many years ago) my father had made a 12 volt battery into an eight volt that was used on a 1942 model A. It worked fine for a long time, but one day I had driven the A to the little country store for fuel, and on the way back BANG right in front of me. It was a good thing that I had a pair of sunglasses on when it happened. No damage to me but my clothes did not survive the wash.

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Scrivet » Mon May 03, 2021 9:24 pm

From the routing of the ground cable it looks like you didn't have the covers on. What difference do you think properly installed covers would have made? Especially if the explosion had occurred while driving.

(Please note I am note criticizing but inquiring as I have four Cubs, three older batteries between them, and only one with the covers currently in place)

I'm thinking it's time, after your experience and a previous one I had with exploding batteries, to find my stash of flattened copper pipe to finish making the jumper lugs (from a how to) and put the covers on and leave them there only to be removed for battery terminal maintenance.

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Larry in WNY » Mon May 03, 2021 9:42 pm

Agri Services makes heavy battery cables from #0 welding wire with heavy connectors. I have them on my Cub. Loose connections are a good way to generate sparks. Excellent wiring harnesses too.

https://www.wiringharnesses.com/

Larry

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Jim Becker » Mon May 03, 2021 9:49 pm

Scrivet wrote:From the routing of the ground cable it looks like you didn't have the covers on. What difference do you think properly installed covers would have made? Especially if the explosion had occurred while driving. . . .

You are correct. Neither covers were in place. I have mulled over what difference it would have made. I have a hunch that the covers could have contained the explosion. If so, the plastic battery parts would have stayed in the box. Flying acid could have hit the lid and then run down the outside of the box. But it would have been largely contained. On the other hand, if the covers had come loose they would have added to the flying debris (although probably reduced the total scatter). I am not going to try to repeat the experiment with a closed box. 8)

After this, I think I am becoming a bigger believer in keeping the covers in place. I also, as I already said, am going to try to be better about getting defective batteries out of the tractors.

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Dale Finch » Tue May 04, 2021 6:35 am

On all but the 2 newest cubs, I installed these connectors that came with my Schumacher Battery Maintainers. I had to replace the Ring Connectors with larger diameter ones, but they stay on permanently, are fed out of the battery box with the battery cable, and have caps to keep them clean when disconnected & using the tractor:

318skFQBBzL._AC_SY1000_.jpg
318skFQBBzL._AC_SY1000_.jpg (7.4 KiB) Viewed 594 times

Very easy to keep my batteries charged up.
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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby dgrapes59 » Tue May 04, 2021 7:07 am

I'm glad you weren't injured during the misshap, could have been ugly.

I also use the plug leads that Dale posted, makes it simple to hook up the maintainer. I have several I move around, probably not as often as I should.

I replaced the 12V battery on my '51 Cub a month ago. It needed to be charged before it would start the Cub and had boiled (?) fluid out during the last charge. Made me nervous thinking about some of these explosion stories. I believe it was 8+ years old, so was time!

The 6V battery in my '55 LoBoy is needing some time on the maintainer before it will start. I think it's 9+ years old, so I'll get a replacement, I can't complain, it had a good life!

I've been using a L&G tractor battery in the Ugly '55 LoBoy for several years without any issues. Guess I will put the battery box front and top back on it.

Thanks for the safety reminder, Jim!
David

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Super A » Tue May 04, 2021 8:17 am

Probably close to 20 years ago we blew up a big 12v battery on a JD 2940. The battery boxes are under your feet--one on the left and one on the right--and the floorboards form the covers--1/8" diamond plate. Anyhow the voltage regulator in the alternator went haywire, I had been smelling rotten eggs all morning but I was also working in a field that had turkey litter scattered on it so my sense of smell was messed up. Anyhow the box held the explosion in nicely but it was still a pretty spectacular failure.

I'm kinda known for leaving my battery box covers off. This is a good lesson in using them!

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby JustJim » Tue May 04, 2021 9:06 am

Wow, pretty good tale! Glad you weren't operating the Cub at the time, might have been pretty exciting...

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby SamsFarm » Tue May 04, 2021 9:18 am

Jim Becker wrote:About 6 years ago, I reported on a battery I had that exploded while on a battery tender. Two weeks ago I had another battery explode.


Praise the Lord you were not on that thing!

I have 2 questions!

1) Was both of your batteries the same brand?

2) Who made those batteries?
1968 Cub fast hitch

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Re: Battery Explosion, The Sequel

Postby Lt.Mike » Tue May 04, 2021 9:31 am

I use battery tenders on my bikes, boat batteries and tractors. On the bikes and tractors I have the connectors like Dale has hooked up. Don’t use them on the boats because of saltwater and it’s corrosion.
A number of years back i was charging the Lo-Boys battery and about 6’ away I used a cutoff wheel on a chain. Bad idea. Pretty sure I lost some hearing to that blast when a spark found its mark.
Last fall I hooked up a boat battery in the barn to my heavy duty battery Jump starter / charger. That unit is powerful and not automatic so you have to keep an eye on it. My old automatic sears charger that had served me some 30 years had finally quit so I was out of options.
Well I screwed up and the next morning waking up :shock: it hit me I had forgotten it.
Thankfully I left the door open but still the battery was cooked and there was “a visible fog around it.” I took that as a bomb with all the safeties removed and itching to blow !
I put a rag around the plug as I unplugged it. This I’ll admit scared me.
Never seen vapor hanging in the air before.
I removed the plug from the wall with a rag to avoid spark. I figured removing the clamp from the battery post would have been suicide.
Next step was to go in the house for clean drawers.
I’ve since bought a couple of the larger battery tender 4.5 amp auto charger/maintainers.
Much safer for someone that tends to forget things these days.
Quote by Gary Pickeral I like
"If it can cast a shadow, it can be restored"


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