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FIRE! Disconnect battery!


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Today a 1990 Mercedes burned down at my place yard.It sat already outside for some time so i put a battery in to put it inside .I had to go for some time and while i was gone it burned down .No contact keys in it or nothing was on .Luckily it was still outside and no other vehicles around it .My lesson : Always disconnect the battery when the car is inside .

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WoW, sorry about that, glad it wasnt worse and hope you had insurance. My benz is parked in the barn with the battery hooked up, I go out once a week and start to keep it charged. After seeing this (and already losing one shop to a fire) I think I will disconnect it in the morning.

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Every battery in our shop is disconnected for this very reason. Even a healthy car can develop a short (or critters can get in there) and who knows what happens next? That's why I never mess with cigarette lighters, either. People frequently ask if the lighter works (presumably for their phones) but there's just no way I'd test it in an old car for fear of something like this happening.

 

Glad there was no additional damage, but losing a car to a fire is heartbreaking. I sympathize.

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So I guess my question is does this only apply to long term stored cars? Do you not even keep trickle chargers on a disconnected insitu battery or is it presumed the fire risk is from the myriad of circuitry included in a connected battery? Not to be snarky but I would think this implies then that daily drivers should be unplugged each night or really any time the driver is not onboard due to this risk.

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Actually every time I drive any of my old cars and they get backed, back in the garage at the end of the day,  I pop the hood and unhook the battery.  Cheap easy insurance.  Even my 30's Chrysler products I use to own with the battery under the seat,  which was a little bit of a pain but no worries then.

Edited by auburnseeker (see edit history)
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I check battery voltage & lighter function with one of these.

and either have a small maintainer (computer cars) or a knife switch (don't trust ones with a knob) on ones not driven often.

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3 hours ago, deaddds said:

but something within the last 20 years, do you also disconnect? 

No but equally I wouldn’t really care either, it’s insured and it’s a mass produced car (though there aren’t many vw golf R station wagons in the country)

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In the shop, I have three Snap On special cable cutting pliers just for such an event. They will cut through any battery cable with ease, and they are quite small.  I have them placed next to the fire extinguishers. All our cars have cut offs..........but not every visiting car has them, and often they can be hard to find..........

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On 12/17/2020 at 10:30 AM, deaddds said:

So the second part of my question is assuming your daily driver isn’t 80+ years old but something within the last 20 years, do you also disconnect? 

Actually if it sits I do disconnect the battery.  Though I don't on my 10 year old tractor or excavator.  Though those are also in a different building with no old cars stored in it.  

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I'm also very sorry to hear about your fire and property loss, Daniel. And thanks for risking public rebuke by telling us about the incident - it's the one way to turn something negative into a positive: warning others not to make the same mistake.

 

Many years ago, my way of dealing with old, weathered and frayed (and sometimes nonexistent) cloth insulation on original wiring was to paint everything I could see with liquid electrical tape...several times. A good product, but a very bad decision, because there are always wires you don't see. So, I went out to start my car once and some of the wires I couldn't see under the dash started smoking...and smoking and smoking. I never drove the car again until I rewired it properly many months later. A lesson well learned.

 

One thing I did right, however, was always put battery disconnect switches on all of my antique cars, and always turned the switches off when the cars weren't being driven. Be sure and put the switches on in way that turns everything off when you flip the switch, though.

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What a shame, luckily no one was injured or any other structures were damaged.

 

Fire is always a consideration, my whole machine shop got burned out in 2001. Some stupid kids built a fire out in the parking lot in the middle of the night and the exhaust for the paint booth which always drew air out, sucked embers under the front door. It set some boxes on fire in the front and burned anything it could. The back was just heavy smoke and heat damage. I had no fire insurance because fires in machine shops are very rare, not much combustible. I ate the whole thing about $100k in damage, lost my forklift, all the office equipment, had to throw tools away because the liquid the fire department uses rusts everything immediately and I was down for two months while the building was repaired. I got an attorney and went after the kid and his family and got nothing because they had nothing. Definitely a Friday morning I'll never forget. Sometimes ya get punched in the face for no reason.

 

Now I leave nothing flammable laying around, spare cardboard boxes, oily rags etc.

 

Also, I have the ''one hour rule'' on welding and grinding. If leaving at 6pm, no welding or grinding past 5pm. Those little red shop towels are notorious for smoldering behind a bench and flaring up a half hour later.

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