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Adge Cutler- Dorset AO

Motorhome Battery Woes!

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Adge Cutler- Dorset AO

Thought I would share this, may help somebody?

Slight "technical" problem with our motorhome! Which for info is parked on our drive.
Awoken recently at 3.00 am by a bang followed by m/home alarm going off. Grabbed a torch, went out to look, found this:

(photos taken next morning in daylight)

 

image.thumb.jpeg.7d3adddbfb850f7cfd0d06e7d9364668.jpeg

 

First thought was, some b-----d's part ripped the locker door off and tried to nick the cat!
Looking further was faced with this in the leisure battery locker!

 

image.jpeg.fec0a86b9d98a145e271f3a7214758a5.jpeg

 

One of the pair of leisure batteries had exploded, acid and bits of plastic everywhere!
Disconnected mains electric hookup, gabbed hose and washed everything down.
Checked inside, fortunately batteries are under the floor, no sign of damage inside.
Unplugged solar panel regulator to remove this as a potential charging source when it got daylight.
With the acid everywhere glad I hadn't been a whimp and had taken one or both our dogs out with me!
In daylight, found the force of the explosion had ripped the locker door front hinge fixings out, ripped the front lock out, and left it hanging on the rear hinge! Back and side panel of battery housing (plastic material) had been completely shattered and spread around.
Removed intact battery, then remains of exploded battery:

 

image.thumb.jpeg.07bcec4277750b25cdf4dcc7883bc31c.jpeg

 

Neither local battery fuse had blown, wiring intact. Fluid level in intact battery fine.
Built in charging system was on at the time. This can be left on all the time according handbook. In theory monitors and charges/maintains both vehicle and leisure batteries. I tend to put it on and off according to the weather, particularly in winter when the solar panel output is low.
Initial thoughts were, has the charging system got a fault? Not sure however as second battery and vehicle battery appear to be ok. Wondering if the battery developed an internal fault and shorted internally? Looking back through my paperwork the batteries are just over 6 years old, but they were "budget"!
Always thought a "battery was a battery", seems I'm wrong. Appears internal battery design, has advanced in line with "start/stop" technology.

Food for thought!!

 

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Ian Kinder (Bagpuss) - Joint Peak District AO

Wow, that's pretty catastrophic failure and you're lucky no one was injured and the vehicle didn't catch fire.

The charging system will only produce a certain amount of volts. The fact the fuses are intact, indicate it's not current flow into or out of the battery issue. 

Batteries can produce gas when charging and perhaps this could have ignited? 

As you suggest more likely to be an internal battery fault.

I guess you don't know if the electrolyte levels were all fine recently? If allowed to drop too much the battery plates can warp and hence short out. Given the severity of the explosion it's going to be hard to conclude cause and effect etc.

 

When you put a new one on, just check the volts on the battery when charging and that it drops down once charged etc.

 

 

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Terry Everall - WSCC Competition Secretary

if this was not a sealed battery it would have needed checking and the electrolyte topping up regularly. If its sealed type its ok. On my  2year old motorhome the battery was not a sealed type and lost fluid resulting in red hot barttery and wrap sides which I luckily spotted in time or else it would have exploded.

Get a sealed battery to replace yours I suggest

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DamperMan

A few years back I drove our camper van to work to give it a run.   There was aweful smell.. I thought it was the waste water tank gone off! Again!  But no...  the smell was acrid and was almost enough to take your breath away and getting worse and worse.   .   I found that the second starter battery under the seat was swollen, hot and worryingly possibly about to blow.    I quickly disconnected it.    In this case I think the battery had an issue but since it was wired in parallel with a second larger battery in the engine bay.   The huge un fused  cables between the batteries allowed big current to flow to the battery with a discharge problem.   Batteries connected together in this way should be matching pairs, not unpatched ransoms.  I no longer have 2 batteries wired up this way.  But if I was to do it I’d join the batteries with a fuse. 

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RobH72

Not sure if my experience is relevant, but working in logistics for 20+ years I've seen a few forklift lead acid batteries go bang...

 

I've been told it happens when the electrolyte starts to boil (normally due to overcharging creating excess heat) which releases oxygen and hydrogen. With poor ventilation and an ignition source (normally a short) then you get an explosion. 

 

I'd be checking your charger, look for faulty wiring and make sure the battery area is properly ventilated to allow the gas to escape. Weird that the fuses didn't blow... 

 

Glad nobody was hurt and the damage was minor! 

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Adge Cutler- Dorset AO

Thanks for your thoughts. Really glad it didn't cause a fire, makes me shudder to think the batteries on our previous motorhome were under a seat in the lounge!

Batteries were a matched pair bought and fitted at the same time, they were not a sealed type. Past checks of battery fluid levels on current, and previous motorhomes (owned various over last 30 years) has required minimal topping up. Undamaged battery level was ok when checked after I removed it. Thus my suspicions the battery could have developed a fault. Guess I'll never know the answer.

Will have to get a new pair of batteries whatever happens, lots of claims made by varying manufacteres. More homework to do.

Locker door repair/replacement going to be the costly item I believe, it's a big plastic moulding over 4ft long!

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Steve (sdh2903)
27 minutes ago, Adge Cutler Dorset AO said:

Locker door repair/replacement going to be the costly item I believe, it's a big plastic moulding over 4ft long!

 

Time for some carbon upgrades ;)

 

Glad all is ok though. Could've been much worse.

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neptune

Adge, glad no one was hurt.

 

I recently had a very lucky escape from a similar incident in my caravan. My battery had a dead cell and wouldnt hold charge for too long. However as I was on a mains hook up it didn't bother me.

 

But it should have . I came back to the caravan and detected a sulphur like smell. Opened the windows and thought no more about it. 

 

Luckily i needed something from the under seat locker later in the evening where the battery compartment is. The smell and heat when i lifted the seat was shocking. The plastic  battery locker was hot. When I opened the locker lid from outside, my battery looked like some one had pumped it up to 100 psi !  

 

I believe the dead cell had caused a high internal resistance which had in tern heated the battery and caused it to gas profusely. I think another few hours and mine would have looked just like yours.

 

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BigSkyBrad

Your new batteries need to be from a brand serious about leisure batteries, such a Victron, or to a slightly lesser extent Banner et al. Most 'leisure' batteries under £100 are starter batteries with a different label and are not built for repeated discharge cycles which will destroy the cells if not built for it.

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Snags
13 hours ago, RobH72 said:

Not sure if my experience is relevant, but working in logistics for 20+ years I've seen a few forklift lead acid batteries go bang...

 

I've been told it happens when the electrolyte starts to boil (normally due to overcharging creating excess heat) which releases oxygen and hydrogen. With poor ventilation and an ignition source (normally a short) then you get an explosion. 

 

I'd be checking your charger, look for faulty wiring and make sure the battery area is properly ventilated to allow the gas to escape. Weird that the fuses didn't blow... 

 

Glad nobody was hurt and the damage was minor! 

I would agree with this as I have had a few explosions with batteries on hire equipment.

Usually it involved majorly discharged batteries producing large amounts of gas when being recharged and then coming close to a ignition source with dramatic results, the discharging can happen if a cell has issues. 

Normally with forklifts and battery run equipment the batteries were 6v and rated as "traction batteries" therefore in a much higher category than "leisure batteries" although this has all changed with Lithium technology.

I would fully check all the wiring etc. to make sure nothing is wrong to produce a spark when replacing batteries and it's always good to use high spec equipment.

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Mark Stanton

non sealed leisure batteries should be fully vented to atmosphere - when I had my motorhome this was as simple as a clear plastic tube from each battery taken to outside of motorhome

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Lyonspride

Can someone link this thread to ALL the posts i've made about battery charging safety and exploding lead/acid batteries? ;)

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Adge Cutler- Dorset AO

@Lyonspride I've added "Charging, Safety & Exploding" as tags on this thread. Might help?

 

Fortunately the leisure battery "box" is effectively outside this motorhome, under the floor. The large locker door "covers" the side of the battery box and cable storage box beside it, certainly doesn't seal it, so it's well ventilated. Have/had(!) short lengths of plastic tube venting batteries into "fresh air" between batteries and door.

Battery box is principally made of what appears to be a plastic material. So presumably an insulator in case a cable comes astray. 

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DonPeffers

I found a couple of Lyonspride's posts regarding battery and safety.

 

Sorry to read of your problem Adge.

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Lyonspride

^^ I was only joking, I might take copies of the photos though for next time I get into that conversation! :)


Going right back to the OP, apparently battery theft is a thing at the moment.
https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/local-hubs/telford/donnington/2019/11/21/warning-after-spate-of-caravan-battery-thefts-in-telford/
One link of many I found via Google!!!

There's something quite satisfying about imagining some would be thief, fag in mouth, prying open the battery compartment and getting a face full of exploding battery :p
 

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