Battery Explosion

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Jim Becker
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Battery Explosion

Postby Jim Becker » Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:55 pm

OK, this battery didn't happen to be in a Cub, but we have discussed battery explosion hazard in this forum before. So here it is.

I was out of town for a few days. I got back this afternoon and the pictures show what I found on my barn. The battery had not been working well but I was still using it. When left on a battery maintainer, it might or might not start the engine without a jump. After the tractor had been running a while, it would restart the warm engine. When I left town, I left a maintainer connected. When I got back, the first thing I noticed was the puddle you can see in the first picture. Next I noticed a bit of junk on the floor, which I quickly id'ed as a piece of the battery. So far, I have found pieces as far away as 15 feet.

I put the clean-up off until tomorrow as I didn't feel like getting into it today and figured most of the damage was already done.

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Eugene » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:35 am

5 or 10 pound box of baking soda from grocery store to neutralize the acid. Rubber gloves to pick up the battery pieces.
I have an excuse. CRS.

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Jim Becker » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:45 am

Eugene wrote:5 or 10 pound box of baking soda . . .

Yeah, that is about what it will take. One cell is still holding liquid. The other 5 have drained onto the floor. Interestingly enough, it looks like very little acid was actually splattered anywhere away from the battery.

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby ScottyD'sdad » Wed Mar 18, 2015 7:10 am

It's payback, for owning a GREEN tractor, Jim!
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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby cub.bub » Wed Mar 18, 2015 7:32 am

Jim, I've seen this happen before on an old pickup truck we had. Just be thankful it didn't blow while you were hooking up the maintainer.
Do you know what causes this? dead cells shorting out?
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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby bob in CT » Wed Mar 18, 2015 8:06 am


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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Jim Becker » Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:40 am

cub.bub wrote:Do you know what causes this? dead cells shorting out?

I figure it was just bad luck. It seems like the chances of something like this would have been higher when it was running (and being vibrated) and the tractor engine was charging with more amps than the maintainer provides. So maybe it was good luck it didn't happen when I was sitting on the tractor.

Since the top was blown completely off along with chunks of the sides, it was clearly an explosion of hydrogen that had accumulated inside the battery. Beyond that, anything is just a guess. Previous behavior, the maintainer would indicate fully charged but the battery was weak on starting the engine. That seems to suggest a high resistance connection somewhere internal to the battery. If that connection failed while on the maintainer, it could have caused the fatal spark. Another possibility could have been a spark when a cell shorted out. Charging with a shorted cell would overcharge the other cells, which would produce a lot of hydrogen in the good cells. As I recall, I had checked fluid levels not that long ago. I don't recall whether I added any water or not. There wasn't anything strange like one cell that was exceptionally low.

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby John *.?-!.* cub owner » Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:43 am

Never seen one go just on a maintainer, but we used to have a 51 Chevy pickup that had the battery under floorboard that got against the cover and exploded. While working in Wentzville for Contel a customer brought in his truck to get mobile phone checked. 35 years ago the only mobile phones were mounted in vehicles and old. I opened the hood to check the fuses, and noticed all over the hood were white spots, and around the sides of the engine the same, and a new battery. He owned a construction company and was using the truck to jump a crawler inside the shop when someone reversed the cables. When the crawler started things got interesting. They found the top of the battery over 30 feet away laying against the wall and never did find the caps. Motoroal took things like that into to consideration in the design of those old rigs, and built in appropriate protection circuits. Only thing the phone needed was a couple of new fuses (one of them was a 50 amp).
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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Paul Van Benschoten » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:56 am

I had a similar situation, but mine was merely a battery that was knocked of a stool while charging. All or most of the acid spread on the floor but I did not notice it for several days. I did have a 50lb bag of soda that I used about 1/2 of it sprinkled around and let sit over night. The next day I used a spackle knife to clean up.

I was wearing my Carhart pants with the double layer knees. Now one leg only has one layer. Maybe I should have used more soda?

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Stanton » Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:14 am

That's an Orville Redenbacher battery...it blows the top off!

Seriously, glad you were not injured or anything too damaged. Did it blow the hood to the up position or did you raise it?
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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Doodle » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:07 pm

In my younger rammy days I had two explode on me. One while hooking jumper cables and the other while hooking up battery charger. Second one was a full face explosion just inches above the battery. Had to leave my eyes closed while walking across a busy road to house for water. After that I finally learned a few things that are obvious but easily ignored when busy. Both pieces of machinery had a bad alternator. The batteries had been jumped numerous times and acid was leaking out. A spark while hooking up cables caused the explosions. It may be possible you had acid leaking and when the maintainer kicked on created the spark or it somehow sparked. I no longer keep charging or jumping bad batteries more that a couple times.

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Jim Becker » Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:32 pm

I had left the hood open after I hooked up the maintainer. If it had been shut, things probably wouldn't have scattered as far as they did. I've dumped about 4 pounds of baking soda on it, which seems to have been enough for any spilled acid I have found. It now looks more like the explosion had been a bag of flour. The tough part remaining is going to be removing the remains of the battery. One cell still has a lot of acid in it. Normally you would use the built-in handle to lift a battery out of that space, but I doubt it can be trusted now.

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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Bus Driver » Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:25 pm

The poor internal connection between cells is highly likely. I had one with a battery for my Diesel tractor. It often failed to start but fortunately never exploded.
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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Stanton » Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:53 am

Jim Becker wrote:...The tough part remaining is going to be removing the remains of the battery. One cell still has a lot of acid in it. Normally you would use the built-in handle to lift a battery out of that space, but I doubt it can be trusted now.


I'm sure you will, but be careful. Heavy-duty rubber gloves, long sleeves and eye protection.
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Re: Battery Explosion

Postby Bigdog » Fri Mar 20, 2015 11:27 am

I had one blow in a Ford 4000 series tractor that belonged to a neighbor. It was stored in my barn and the battery was weak and had been charged several time. The day before it blew another neighbor borrowed the tractor (common practice) and it would not start so they put a quick charge on it and started it up. I needed to move it to get out another tractor behind it. When I hit the starter switch the battery blew the hood open on the tractor and battery pieces went everywhere. Thankfully the hood being closed (but not latched) kept the big pieces from doing me any harm but I was showered with electrolyte. A quick shower prevented any serious injury but the pair of bibs I had on came out of the wash with hundreds of pinholes. I guess it could have been worse but it is an experience I do not want to re-live.
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