Camper Van explosion

Discussion in 'Motorhome Chat' started by Dalek, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. Dalek

    Dalek Read Only Funster

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    Camper van explosion wakes up Meltham

    Sep 9 2010 by Sam Casey, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
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    AN OVERHEATED camper van battery caused a large explosion in Meltham.
    The battery was plugged in to charge outside a house on Nab Crescent overnight on Tuesday.
    It exploded at about 2.20am on Wednesday, setting fire to the van.
    Crew commander John Gant, from Meltham fire station, was one of the many people woken up by the loud bang.


    Crews from Meltham and Marsden were dispatched to deal with the incident.
    Mr Gant said: “There was a loud explosion. Most people in Meltham heard it.
    “You could see the flames from about 150ft away. The whole street were out in their gardens when we got there.
    “The van was almost totalled.”
    Firefighters told people to stay indoors and moved back to fight the fire from a distance because of concerns that some liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders might blow up.
    They spent about two hours dealing with the blaze.
    No-one was hurt in the incident.


    A news article copied from the Huddersfield Examiner, 9.9.2010
     
  2. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    snap ... you beat me by about 3 mins ... :Laughing:
     
  3. 1_man_and_his_dob(lo)

    1_man_and_his_dob(lo) Funster

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    Yikes...excuse me, while I go and unplug mine... :Eeek:

    So...being a bit of a newbie, I have to ask...what's the most likely cause in these sorts of incidents? Dodgy battery? Gas from charging not being ventilated?
     
  4. rainbow chasers

    rainbow chasers Read Only Funster

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    Regular over-charging. Damages the cells, and eventually it will expand and pop.

    If you really are not sure, then fit a battery meter. Need not be a visable one, just have it near the battery box - just somewhere you can check the charge of the battery before recharging. It pays to allow it to drain before recharging. Unfortunately many are over cautious and keep boosting it over and over.

    If you want to top up before you go away, an hour or two will suffice....it will be charging as you drive anyway if the battery needs more. This is also true whilst on hook-up. Just boost it every 3 or 4 days, or when the light comes on and stays on. no more than 3 hours will do nicely!
     
  5. 1_man_and_his_dob(lo)

    1_man_and_his_dob(lo) Funster

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    Thanks. My van has an 85Ah battery and a simple, not very linear, 4 light meter (green, two yellows and a red) and to be honest even after a couple of weeks in storage it's still got two yellows.

    The problem is the compressor fridge - the battery will be down to red in 36 - 48 hours at Shepton so I'll take it out for a decent run while there, but I also wanted to make sure it was fully charged before I set off, so I'd been charging it today for 5 hours or so. Sounds like I might be overdoing it.
     
  6. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    For a battery explosion to occur it requires an ignition source, ie a spark., a battery won't explode by overcharging. It will gas and eventually boil dry.

    The cause of this particular explosion is pure speculation, I would suspect a loose connection on the battery pole, the guy MAY have been using a bog standard charger with croc clips.. but who knows.

    If you have a proper multi stage charger there is no reason to switch it off, nor will it do the battery any good by 'running it down' periodically .. that is a myth, it has no memory and exercising does it no good, only harm.

    Th life of a lead acid battery is measured in cycles, ie charging and discharging, , so if kept fully charged using a smart charger it will last many many years , the more you cycle it the sooner it will die..

    Where ever possible I have always kept my batteries on charge, my RV had four cheap 85ah batteries which were five years old when I sold it and they were still giving good service.. three of these years we were living full time and charging was either on ehu or by genny. using a 70A multi stage charger.

    Uninterrupted Power Supplies or UPS, such as found in computer suites, telephone exchanges , hospitals , refineries, etc are kept fully charged by a multi stage charger.. Quite often you will find these cells for sale on ebay .. maybe five or more years old, but have been routinely replaced due to age .. not because they are duff.

    Look after your battery, keep it topped up with deionised water and invest in a multi stage smart charger and you will have no worries..
     
  7. 1_man_and_his_dob(lo)

    1_man_and_his_dob(lo) Funster

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    Good point - my APC 1500's battery has just failed after 8 years, and it was still running the PCs when the power failed about 6 months ago. Even though the manufacturer wants you to replace the battery after a few years.
     
  8. johnp10

    johnp10 Funster

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  9. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Hi John ,
    it depends on the type of charger, modern solid state multi stage chargers have a 'float ' or trickle charge stage which maintains the battery when it's fully charged so never actually switch off and can be left switched on permanently.

    Do you know the make of your charger / power supply unit ?
     
  10. MIN663

    MIN663 Read Only Funster

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    Hi Jim

    (invest in a multi stage smart charger and you will have no worries.. )

    For the benefit of the non techies (me) what are smart chargers and what companys make them.

    Cheers Min:thumb:
     
  11. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    There are several good makes, CTEK and Sterling are well known and respected makers.

    Have a read here for a better understanding of smart chargers http://www.motorcaravanning.co.uk/shopuk/battery_chargers.htm
     
  12. johnp10

    johnp10 Funster

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    Jim,
    The van is 98 Mobilvetta Driver 52.
    The only obvious markings are on the control panel face: "CT eletronica".
    The charger can be heard when charging, (faint humming) appears to be in the gubbins behind the control unit.
    John
     
  13. rainbow chasers

    rainbow chasers Read Only Funster

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    Most chargers have thermal cut-outs, some are automatic, some are manual. It really depends on what has been fitted, and if what has been fitted is working as it should!

    Research your charger fitted and test it is working.

    You may not necessarily to overdoing it on a 5 hour charge - it depends on how flat the battery is. If it is only lasting at best two days - i would get it tested, or alternatively go for a bigger battery to suit the equipment you are running.

    It is not uncommon for a battery to lose its' charge fairly quickly if it is faulty. It usually starts with a cell or two breaking down, and losing running time. I have had batteries that have tested fine - the 'indicator' on the battery reads it is fine - but will not hold charge for very long. one or two days usually. When these were removed and charged up fully and later tested, the voltage came up perfect...i always leave the tester on there for 5 minutes or so. That is when the voltage will start to drop off on a faulty battery, which in effect is only having the tiny drain of a tester on it.

    Most batteries should last three days or more when off hook-up - alot depends on use, but I say 3 days of general use of all fitted appliances.

    But you are doing the right thing by draining and charging, it keeps a battery healthy. If it needs a good charge, do so but do keep an eyte on it. I always do two/three hour bursts of trickle to allow the battery to settle and cool.
     
  14. pappajohn

    pappajohn Funster Life Member

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    not always the case Jim.

    during my stint doing breakdowns i got called to a none starter.

    the driver had parked in the multi story and gone shopping for a couple of hours.

    i could smell the acid/electrolyte before i lifted the bonnet and and there wasnt much battery left.

    both pos and neg terminals were tight and no stray wires in sight.

    this obviously didnt ignite but had overheated to the point of bursting open.
     
  15. Douglas

    Douglas Read Only Funster

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    One possible ignition source is the fridge, Hydrogen, one of the gasses given of by a charging battery is lighter that air, unlike propane or butane which is heaver that air and sinks. So aside from wind and ventilation the gas will rise in to the accommodation.

    Doug...
     
  16. Jaws

    Jaws Funster Life Member

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    Perhaps, before a world wide panick breaks out, we should put this in to perspective ?

    Just how many vans have exploded against how many leave on permanent hook up ?

    Me, I shall carry on as usual :Wink:

    In all aspects of life there are risks.. How many on here 'do' the lottery ? It is statistically MORE likely you will be hit by a meteorite than win 'the big one'...
    Given that, do you walk around with a large tin umbrella strapped over your head ? :Rofl1:

    Yes, of course there is a danger and thank you to Dalek for bringing it to our attention..

    But if you ARE concerned take the van to a competent automotive electrician and get him to check out properly the charging circuits and batteries and if need be have a new updated charger fitted as Jim suggests :thumb:
     
  17. rainbow chasers

    rainbow chasers Read Only Funster

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    I agree - it isn't a panic situation as it is rare. Rare because people do tend to have better 'house-keeping' most of the time.

    What it will do, is enlighten those new to motorhoming the possible effects, and show them how simple these things are to avoid - thus they rarely happen. In this case I would imagine the charger was probably faulty, thus was constantly charging the battery, rather that cutting out giving it a source of ignition in a confined area of box/locker.

    Good housekeeping is the key - not to save a fire - but to save you money in batteries (which have gone up 20-30% recently)

    1. Fit a battery meter - it will show you when your battery is low rather that guessing. Only cost around £10 and easily fitted. Let the battery drain before recharging to maintain a good charge cycle.

    2. CHECK your battery every 4-6 weeks. Make sure the levels are ok and the battery is not swollen, and the cells are good. Check terminals for corrosion, security and check the cables for chaffing or breaches.

    3. Make sure your venting/breather pipe is attatched and terminates beneath the van. If there isn't one there - fit one. It stops gases building up in your locker.

    4. During winter, you can purchase a smart charger system - there are plenty around. Some will keep the battery topped up, others will drain and recharge on an on-going cycle (conditioners). Some vans have these fitted as standard - but check. If unsure, a £30 charger will save you a £100 battery next year!

    If you have a manual system, every few weeks leave your interior lights on inside the van and drain the battery down, then hook up and recharge as required. This just manually keeps the cycle going.

    You should have a good healthy battery that will last years with good house-keeping. :thumb:
     
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