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Old 09-05-2006, 08:31 PM   #1
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Well, I'll set the stage. 1500 miles from home, parked at Fort Stevens State Park on the coast in the very northern tip of Oregon, plugged in to a 50 amp hook up and had been for 2 days. Light rain falling, 0300 hours in the morning.

Suddenly there is a deafening explosion that sounds very close. The coach reverbarates with the echo. After I peel myself off the ceiling and the wife's nails out of my arm, I get up and turn on a light. Trying to gather my wits, I'm listening for other noises, and only hear what sounds like a spring vibrating. A hydrolic jack exploded? No, the coach didn't dip on any corner. Now I detect a chemical, hot smell and think something is on fire. I throw on sometning and run out in the rain with a fire extenguisher and a flashlight.

First I approach the power pedestal and cut the power to the coach which is still on, and the breaker is still in the on position. Opening the electrical bay door, at first everything looks ok. I get a little closer and discover that one of my Aliance starting batteries on the lower tray has grenaded. Literally, the plastic sides have blown off, the top has blown up, held only on by the heavy cables and what was left of the battery strap.

After it got a little lighter outside, I confirmed that the appliances still worked in the coach, and no appearant damage occurred to anything else under the coach. I threw the breaker on, and all the inside stuff still works. I tested the voltage at the that was coming into the remaining starting battery, and it showed 12.3 volts. I had removed the exploded battery, and turned the key on to test the starting system. It seemed to work.

I called Freightliner, then Winnebago to advise them of the problem. They wanted to tow the coach to Freightliner in Portland from the campground on the coast, about 100 miles. I was able to start the coach with the help of the house batteries and retract the slides and the jacks. I drove the coach to a large nearby parking lot, and waited for the tow. I had called Winnebago back and informed them that I had the coach driveable and would drive to Portland if they wanted. They declined and insisted on the tow.

Coach Net supplied the heavy duty tow to Portland. The driver elected to tow the coach from the front, so he dropped the drive shaft. He caged the brakes and towed the coach with no problems. I saw the eventual bill from the tow to Freightliner and Coach Net. Nearly $1200, of which Freightliner would pay $450.

At Portland Freightliner (which was very busy) at about 7PM, a tech came out to the coach, tested the remaining starting battery, tried to test the blown up battery (really) and wound up putting in two new starting batteries (same brand and size). No test of the charging system, didn't check for codes, just changed out the batteries and left.

I thought about arguing about it, but by this time the wife and I are beat. The coach started right up, and truthfully starts better than it ever has (quicker, stronger starts). I really don't think the charging system was at fault, I think I had a bad battery from the start, and it just failed. Can't say for sure, I'm not a eletrical guy. So, for $1200, I had 2 new batteries installed, and had a brief view of Portland.

Anyone ever hear of a battery blowing up when it wasn't being charged?? I checked the out put of the charger the next time I was on shore power, no unusual voltage at the batteries. By the way, just before I left on this trip, I installed a surge protector, so no voltage spike was likely.

Sarge
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Old 09-05-2006, 08:31 PM   #2
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Well, I'll set the stage. 1500 miles from home, parked at Fort Stevens State Park on the coast in the very northern tip of Oregon, plugged in to a 50 amp hook up and had been for 2 days. Light rain falling, 0300 hours in the morning.

Suddenly there is a deafening explosion that sounds very close. The coach reverbarates with the echo. After I peel myself off the ceiling and the wife's nails out of my arm, I get up and turn on a light. Trying to gather my wits, I'm listening for other noises, and only hear what sounds like a spring vibrating. A hydrolic jack exploded? No, the coach didn't dip on any corner. Now I detect a chemical, hot smell and think something is on fire. I throw on sometning and run out in the rain with a fire extenguisher and a flashlight.

First I approach the power pedestal and cut the power to the coach which is still on, and the breaker is still in the on position. Opening the electrical bay door, at first everything looks ok. I get a little closer and discover that one of my Aliance starting batteries on the lower tray has grenaded. Literally, the plastic sides have blown off, the top has blown up, held only on by the heavy cables and what was left of the battery strap.

After it got a little lighter outside, I confirmed that the appliances still worked in the coach, and no appearant damage occurred to anything else under the coach. I threw the breaker on, and all the inside stuff still works. I tested the voltage at the that was coming into the remaining starting battery, and it showed 12.3 volts. I had removed the exploded battery, and turned the key on to test the starting system. It seemed to work.

I called Freightliner, then Winnebago to advise them of the problem. They wanted to tow the coach to Freightliner in Portland from the campground on the coast, about 100 miles. I was able to start the coach with the help of the house batteries and retract the slides and the jacks. I drove the coach to a large nearby parking lot, and waited for the tow. I had called Winnebago back and informed them that I had the coach driveable and would drive to Portland if they wanted. They declined and insisted on the tow.

Coach Net supplied the heavy duty tow to Portland. The driver elected to tow the coach from the front, so he dropped the drive shaft. He caged the brakes and towed the coach with no problems. I saw the eventual bill from the tow to Freightliner and Coach Net. Nearly $1200, of which Freightliner would pay $450.

At Portland Freightliner (which was very busy) at about 7PM, a tech came out to the coach, tested the remaining starting battery, tried to test the blown up battery (really) and wound up putting in two new starting batteries (same brand and size). No test of the charging system, didn't check for codes, just changed out the batteries and left.

I thought about arguing about it, but by this time the wife and I are beat. The coach started right up, and truthfully starts better than it ever has (quicker, stronger starts). I really don't think the charging system was at fault, I think I had a bad battery from the start, and it just failed. Can't say for sure, I'm not a eletrical guy. So, for $1200, I had 2 new batteries installed, and had a brief view of Portland.

Anyone ever hear of a battery blowing up when it wasn't being charged?? I checked the out put of the charger the next time I was on shore power, no unusual voltage at the batteries. By the way, just before I left on this trip, I installed a surge protector, so no voltage spike was likely.

Sarge
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Old 09-05-2006, 09:50 PM   #3
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Any chance of a spark in that compartment? The only time I have heard of a battery blowing up is when a spark ignites Hydrogen gas.

Glad there was no one hurt and no other damage.
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Old 09-05-2006, 10:05 PM   #4
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I don't think so, the batteries are isolated away from the converter and generator switch. The batteries are open to the air in the back, so no chance of any gas buildup. Also at that time of the morning, nothing was running.
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Old 09-06-2006, 02:41 AM   #5
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Here's what happened:

Hydrogen gas built up in the battery. Should not have built up, vented caps, regulated charge, etc.
Any spark in the batttery and BOOM! Might have been a plate to plate spark because the electrolyte was too low.

Another reason to chnage batteries when they get to be 3 years old.

Sulphate grows on the battery plates, it drops off to the bottom of the battery and eventually shorts across the plates. This causes that cell to run hot, electrolyte boils/gases producing hydrogen gas. Enough of the electrolyte boils off and the plates are exposed, then comes the spark and you know the rest.

Check that charging system to make sure you are not over charging the batteries.

You did clean up the spilled electrolyts didn't you? If not is will cause a lot of corrosion, wherever acid got to. Wash it down real good with water and baking soda to neutralize the acid.

Always wear eye protection when working around batteries. Picture what would have happened if you had been right on top of the battery when it went.
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Old 09-06-2006, 07:32 AM   #6
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Are your starting batteries sealed??

If so, you possible had an internal spark that ignited H2. A rare occurance. This is probably what occurred.

If the starting batteries are not sealed an external spark ignited the H2.

Make certain there is suffcient air circulation above your starting batteries and no area where the H2 gas can become trapped.

>>>-----> Always wear safety glasses when working around one's batteries.
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Old 09-06-2006, 09:14 AM   #7
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Tom and Gunny,

Thanks for the info. Yes, the starting batteries were both sealed. They should have been new, but no telling how long Freightliner had them on the shelf before building the chassis. I washed down the whole area withing an hour of the event, and so far no chalking has been noted.

Oh, by the way, when the tow truck drover got me to Portland he informed them that their company policy is not to re-install drive lines. Too much liability if they don't do it right. Freightliner response was "we charge for a reinstall, and it's not under our warranty". I called up Coach Net before the repair was even started and talked to them. They said that they had been running into this lately. Coach Net called Freightliner and told them that they would pay the $96 to put the drive shaft back on
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Old 01-21-2007, 08:24 PM   #8
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Why am I not surprise. Charge for reinstalling the drive shaft.
Just how old were your starting batteries?
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Old 01-22-2007, 06:30 AM   #9
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I had only had the coach for a few months, and the batteries were new (at least to me). I imagine they could have been nearly a year old by that time..........
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