Portable Car Charger Explosion
When it comes to getting me gifts apparently I'm not easy to buy for. To help alleviate this pressure I decided to make a "wish list" on amazon, that way I could pick exactly what it was (car guys have to get specific parts and tools) I wanted and all they had to do was add it to their shopping cart, easy as pie! The list was targeted at my girlfriend, we'd established a budget so I started finding things that fit within that budget. One of the things I selected as an option was one of those portable jump starting devices that'll fit in your glove box or your jacket pocket. I've seen these things around and I've heard that people really like them so I figured I'd better jump on the band wagon and see about getting one (I'm an old school jumper cable sort of guy). Sure enough when Christmas morning came I opened a package that contained one of these wonderful little magic boxes I'd heard so much about thanks to my very considerate (and understanding) girlfriend. It was the
"AFTERPARTZ Alligator - World's Unique Smart Mini Car Jump Starter 9000mAh 500A for Gas / Petrol / Diesel, 5V/2.1A USB Output Portable Battery Charger Power Bank for Phone / Tablet, with Smart Clamp Cable - Built-in Protection & 5W 6000K LED Flashlight"
This is one of their product photos:
Man alive was I excited to try this baby out! I currently own 7 cars and trucks and let me tell you right now that low batteries are not an uncommon thing on the older ones at my house! I couldn't believe that they'd packed so many great features into a little magic box of wonder for under $100 (it was on sale for like $65 at the time), what a deal! The unit appeared to be well built, well optioned and very high quality.
I immediately read through the instructions and and began charging the battery, I had a bronco that could use some help getting started and this little baby was just the tool for the job. After what seemed like forever the little unit was finally charged and ready for action, I grabbed my kids and headed for the bronco with my new toy (my boys love helping dad with his cars).
We followed the directions to connect the unit to the vehicles battery and in no time we had the signal that it was ready to use! I told my oldest son to go ahead and crank the bronco over to see what it did (the bronco battery was not dead but it was weak). Sure enough the engine was cranking! "What a great tool" I thought to myself. The old bronco is carbureted and it was cold outside so I knew it was going to take a couple of tries before she started but no worries, this portable jump starter said it was good for something like 30 jumps so I wasn't the least bit concerned.
After the first attempt the indicator on the unit said that it had gone from a 100% charge down to an 87% charge. I waited a minute then told my son to try her again. The bronco turned over for a second then he let go of the key (he's only 9 years old, he wasn't sure how long he should crank it). I looked to the indicator again and this time it was down to 78% charge. I figured we'd better let dad have a turn to see if we could get it started before the unit was out of juice. I hopped in the bronco and started cranking the engine and pumping the gas pedal, it couldn't have gone over more than 2 or 3 times when my youngest son (who was standing in front of the bronco watching the engine turn) yelled out "Dad there's smoke!". "Smoke? why the hell is there smoke" I thought to myself. I was immediately graced by a recent memory of the carburetor fire under the hood of my 72 ford pickup (here's the link to that blog post) I jumped from the drivers seat and rushed to the front of the bronco to see what was the matter. I would have sooner expected to see a unicorn sitting under my hood eating a jar of mayonnaise than what I actually saw. There it was my brand new super wazoo portable jump starting magic box bulging and smoldering under the hood of my bronco. I told my son to get back as I quickly unhooked the unit from my vehicle battery. Smoke was pouring out of this thing, it was burning my eyes and stinging my lungs as I rushed it to the nearest snow pile to keep it from igniting. I had on heavy winter gloves and it's a good thing I did! I could feel the heat on my palm and I was sure it was about to go up in flames any second. When I reached the snow pile at the other end of the yard (where it was safely away from everyone) I tossed the smoldering unit into the snow, it hissed as it melted the snow around it. By this time the battery had gone from being flat (like a cell phone battery) to almost completely round, it was going to explode and I didn't want myself or my kids anywhere near it when it did. We closed up the bronco and headed into the house for a couple of hours while the little acid bomb smoldered in the yard. After giving the unit 2 or 3 hours to cool down I decided it was time for an inspection, had it exploded? Was there a giant crater in my yard? Had the unicorn finished the entire jar of mayonnaise? There was only one way to find out.
I approached cautiously as I got to the corner of the yard, taking my time to watch for smoke and listen for anything that might signal that this little bastard was still trying to blow up on me. Everything seemed to be ok so I decided to dig it out of the snow and see exactly what was going on. I was relieved to find that the time in the snow had SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the bulge in the battery and it no longer looked like it was going to burst.
As you can see from the photos it actually separated the case of the unit, it's hard to see from the photos but that case was held together really well, that battery must have put quite a lot of force on that case for it to split like that. When I initially tossed the unit into the snow the battery looked like a ball and the upper part of the casing was standing up almost vertically. I'm guessing that little battery wont hold a charge anymore!
The plastic on this thing was heavy duty and it had an almost velvety rubber coating over it, I'm assuming it was to help protect it from weather and from being damaged when it got banged around etc..
You can see where the heat started to melt the coating and the edges of the heavy plastic.
This piece had a thick rubber boot on it, you can see where it started to melt as well.
Needless to say I carefully placed this unit back in its convenient carrying case and asked my wonderful girlfriend if she would be so kind as to send it back and trade it for something a little less likely to explode and cover me with battery acid and fire. Afterall I was the one who'd picked this piece of junk out so thank goodness she was understanding and agreed to exchange it!
After all of this excitement and having the opportunity to try out this incredible new piece of automotive (or chemical warfare) technology I think I've decided to stick with my old fashioned jumper cables.
For those of you wondering about the bronco, you'll be happy to know that I tossed the old battery and upgraded to an Optima yellow top (just like my Super Duty).
Thank you for reading this weeks blog.
Clint J. Grover