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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
About a month ago I winterized my 5th wheel camper, then backed it into the unheated portion of my barn.. just like I’ve done the past 7 years. Today I noticed what looked like water on the floor under the front compartment… weird spot for something to drip from, but my first thought it was from the wash I did right before I tucked it in.. then looking closer I saw signs it wasn’t water, but acid. WTH?!? So I opened the compartment and the battery box and saw this..

Green Automotive tire Tread Electrical wiring Motor vehicle


Green Motor vehicle Bumper Gas Automotive exterior

Only a few years old, was working fine when parked as I ran the front legs with the unit unplugged when I unhooked from the truck. I did plug the unit in after as I have a 50a outlet for it.
Never seen one blow apart like this before. Turned the battery disconnect and started looking for gloves and a way to deal with the acid. Luckily I found where my wife hid the baking soda and covered the spill completely before cleaning up the mess.
Not sure what could have caused this, anyone have a clue and is there anything I should check in the Unit?
Thanks!
 
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FTWR,

I've never seen one do that either, and being an Interstate.

I would give Interstate Customer Service a call to see how you should proceed with cleanup and disposal. They may want it to do some research on it. Glad no one was hurt but I would be cautious handling it.

CCMoe
 
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'81 Gravely tractor, 50's 60's 70's 80's 90's Gravely tractors Various Honda Power equipment
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Lead Acid batteries create Oxygen and Hydrogen gas in their cells. Mix the 2 gasses together and have a spark from a cracked or broken plate or connector bar, and if there is any current flow, the spark from the arc created when the current tries to jump the gap across the break in the metal components inside the battery will ignite the gasses, and you will have a battery explosion like that.
I've seen that happen many times. It will usually happen when the battery is either being charged, that's when they will produce the 'gasses' more, or when there is a load draw on them, causing current to flow and try to jump the gap, like a sparkplug, and the Hydrogen gas combined with the Oxygen gas causes the explosion.
When an electric current is induced in water, it will cause a battery to 'Gas' by splitting the water molecules into their separate Atoms, Hydrogen and Oxygen. That causes the water level to get low in the battery and you have to add more, it is a normal occurrence in a lead acid, or 'Wet' battery. The water 'evaporates, the sulfuric acid stays in the battery, usually absorbing into the plates inside of it.
 

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I have seen a pair of 6 volt batteries do that on a semi out of a four battery group.
I was hooking up jumper cables when they blew, so I was right there.
Hydrogen gas from charging or discharging lead acid batteries is very explosive.
One of the reasons you see warnings about making the last electrical connection with jumper cables at a location not on the batteries you are jumping.
I made my last connection on the reefer unit battery, but that was still to close to the battery box on the tractor.
Negative cable, my last connection made a little spark, that turned in to a flash bang kind of deal. Flash was hydrogen gas igniting, bang was the battery tops blowing off. The batteries were outside, no wind and between the tractor and trailer, so somewhat confined. And thinking about it, hydrogen gas is lighter than air, so it was going up. My last connection was above the tractor battery box on the reefer battery.
Tops of the batteries hit my stomach, ruined my coat and shirt from the acid, and I considered myself very lucky.
Acid hit clothing, battery tops hit clothing, a couple layer since it was cold.
I was lucky, no bare skin, no eyes, no face involved and only two batteries out of four exploded.
But then again I was only jumping the two batteries that exploded. Two six volt batteries in series being jumped from a 12 volt battery on the reefer.
It could have been much worse. I learned my lesson the hard way, charging or discharging lead acid batteries need to be in a well ventilated location.

You said you opened the battery box.
Is that box not vented to let the hydrogen gas out?
Great it kept the acid in the box, bad it kept the hydrogen gas in the box.
But the bigger question, what was charging or discharging the battery to make the hydrogen gas and where did the spark come from that ignited that gas?
 

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I’ve had a couple explode over the years. Only one when I was around. My father and I were working on their farm and he went to go start the tractor to move it to the next section of fence. BOOM! Obliterated that battery, acid was everywhere. Took us a couple hours but we got it cleaned up.hasn’t happened again as far as I know.
 
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not saying this was the batteries fault but
I think your pretty lucky the whole rig didn't go up in flames! I've never had good success with interstate batteries although kirkland is made by interstate and I find them really good!
My friend drove delivery truck for interstate and I couldn't believe the amount of batteries he was bringing back for warranty,kinda confimed my thoughts about them!
 

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Decades ago, I was told that jumpers should be connected on the positive dead post to the positive battery post on the jumper vehicle battery first. The "circuit" is still "open" at that point. Then, connect the cable's negative clamp to the dead battery's negative post. Only then, connect the other end of the cable to a negative frame or engine ground on the jumper vehicle, to complete the jumper circuit, keeping yourself and especially your face well away from either battery. That way, any spark at the engine or frame ground isn't near either battery's gas vents, and if there is an internal short in either battery with hydrogen present, you are not standing over either one if it blows open.

A mechanic at the gas station I worked at in the 1960s also laid a heavy towel over the dead battery to blunt any potential exploding acid, especially when we were out on a "jumper call". That old Chevy truck had long jumpers pre connected and so you had to connect only to the dead vehicle. I can't remember if he'd had an explosion experience or not, but he was adamant about the blanket or towel cover every call we made.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all the responses! I’ve written Interstate, but we’ll see if there’s any response from them.
The battery box is vented to the outside, plus an 1-1/2” drain hole.. which luckily allowed me to see that something had happened. There was quite a puddle on the concrete floor.
Hood Automotive lighting Automotive exterior Automotive tire Bumper


Wood Gas Flooring Road surface Concrete


I remember looking at it last spring, as part of my usual routine, but have never needed to add water to it. The camper is always plugged in at house as I’ve got 2 50a outlets for it. There’s been no changing to any wiring or draw in the shop that might have caused a surge.. I’ve never really thought about how the camper is wired, but I assume,( there’s a dangerous word.. lol), that there’s a built in trickle charger that monitors and tops off as necessary? Something I’ll explore farther.. I checked, and there’s nothing on plugged in or running like usual when it’s winterized.
First thing I did was turn the disconnect switch, then safety glasses, gloves and a whole bunch of baking soda.. luckily my wife, who’s not a baker, had a new box so I covered every drop I could find to neutralize the acid before I cleaned it all up. I’ve added a few boxes to the shopping list as I now want to have some on hand down at the shop.. just in case. Lol
 

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Dang!
Never saw a deep cycle explode like that. Had a car battery do it once, pretty much like previous posters. I am a bit curious as to how it’s wired. I see a small red and big black wire going to the positive side, and small black and big white to the negative. Generally when there’s black, red, white, and green, green is positive, white is negative, and black could be either one. Are the small red and black wires add ons like solar panels or breakaway for the brakes or something?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Dang!
Never saw a deep cycle explode like that. Had a car battery do it once, pretty much like previous posters. I am a bit curious as to how it’s wired. I see a small red and big black wire going to the positive side, and small black and big white to the negative. Generally when there’s black, red, white, and green, green is positive, white is negative, and black could be either one. Are the small red and black wires add ons like solar panels or breakaway for the brakes or something?
Those are just for an couple LED lights on the outside to light up the driveway while I’m backing up in the dark, on a switch and with an in line fuse. Rarely used.
They’ve been there since 2015.
 

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Some, but not all batteries are 'Vented' to let excess gas pressure escape. '
'Sealed' batteries aren't 'Vented'. They use 'Gas Recombination Technology' to re-combine the Hydrogen and Oxygen back into water again, so the water level does not get too low.
When the Gas pressure builds up inside the battery, it is vented out in some of the batteries that use the vents, but vents get clogged and won't release the pressure.
The 'Explosions' occur inside the battery when there is an electric 'Arc' or spark, causing the gasses to ignite.
Because it is self-contained under pressure, that causes the rapidly expanding burning gasses to build up excess pressure and 'Explode'. Normally blowing the top of the battery off.
Hydrogen gas mixed with Oxygen that accumulates under a hood will cause a 'Flash Fire', which burns off quickly, but can ingite other things around it.
 

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yep, batteries can explode. I had one explode on me when trying to jump start a car. Fortunately I was inside the vehicle when she blew. Very loud bang !
 

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When they blew on me, the hydrogen did make a very fast flash when it ignited. I felt no heat it was so quick. i was wearing an insulated flannel jacket, which did not even think about burning. I am fairly sure a puddle of diesel would not have ignited, gasoline, well with temps in the 30's I would probably still been OK, but if it had been in the 70's or higher, probably would not have been good.

When you say there is a vent, I hope it is above the battery and goes up.
That drain would have done nothing to get rid of the hydrogen since it wants to go up.
With that style of cap, that was a vented battery, I guess it is actually vented much better than a stock battery now.
To just explode while sitting there, with nothing on sounds strange to me.
If there is a trickle charger, and with temperature swings causing expansion and contraction, I guess it would be possible to create an internal spark. It don't take much spark to ignite hydrogen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
When they blew on me, the hydrogen did make a very fast flash when it ignited. I felt no heat it was so quick. i was wearing an insulated flannel jacket, which did not even think about burning. I am fairly sure a puddle of diesel would not have ignited, gasoline, well with temps in the 30's I would probably still been OK, but if it had been in the 70's or higher, probably would not have been good.

When you say there is a vent, I hope it is above the battery and goes up.
That drain would have done nothing to get rid of the hydrogen since it wants to go up.
With that style of cap, that was a vented battery, I guess it is actually vented much better than a stock battery now.
To just explode while sitting there, with nothing on sounds strange to me.
If there is a trickle charger, and with temperature swings causing expansion and contraction, I guess it would be possible to create an internal spark. It don't take much spark to ignite hydrogen.
In all my 55 years, this is the first one to blow up on me.. even on the farm growing up with my Dad using and abusing, charging and jumping in the tractors with questionable chargers in all kinds of weather and temps .. lol
In the pics, the hose hanging down is the vent from the box that goes up and out the front panel. Thankfully the box contained everything. I assumed it was the battery, but not until I unscrewed the top was I sure the issue. I was quite surprised at how it just burst apart.
I have received an email from Interstate asking for a phone call and more info and stating they might want to examine the battery itself, and offering to open a claim for any damage.
 
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Well that is a good thing.
We used to have an Interstate battery wholesale dealer local to us, and I had quite a few Interstate batteries over the years.
I always thought they had a good warranty back in those days.
Sadly they moved down the road about 70 miles, so I no longer deal with them.
Their resellers are very proud of that name.

It looks like your damage is confined to the battery, but with battery prices today a nice discount on a replacement would be nice.
 

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the battery obviously wasn't dry! but as batteries age they use more electrolyte! I have a feeling it had a low level and the plates got hot and shorted! I think most of us neglect battery maintanence other than golfcart owners who are well aware what 6 new batteries cost!
 
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