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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
O.k. this is non-nova, but I assume it could happen to any of our cars and the answer to this question would be helpful in this situation for any car.

My buddy came out of the grocery store tonight, put his key in the ignition of his 97 Pontiac Grand Prix, turned the key and !BANG! smoke curls out of his hood. He pops his hood looks inside and the top is totally blown off his battery. You can see right down inside to the liquid. There is some battery acid splashed around in the engine bay and on serpentine belt etc.

Two questions

1) What would cause this? (it was 93 degrees today heat?)

2) What should he do? How do you clean up battery acid to prevent corrsion? How do you dispose of battery? etc.
 

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My best guess is that the battery was leaking some gasses and when he started it a spark from a corroded or loose battery cable ignited the gas and blew the top of the battery off. You could take the car to a car wash and spray down the engine compartment to clean up whatever spilled on the engine. As far as getting rid of the blown battery I'm not sure, I know autozone and some other auto stores take used batteries but if it's all open and leaking they might not want it.

-Aaron
 

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To neutralize the battery acid pour a solution of baking soda in the affected area.
 

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Baking soda works, or just do the car wash thing and rinse the heck out of it.
 

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Most auto parts stores will take the old battery (I know Advance Auto will). We have seen that happen A few times at the store I work, usually the battery is leaking up around the terminal and like earlier posted it just takes A spark to pop the top. The only other thing I could think of would be an over charging alternator but not likely. A good soaking with baking soda and water and A rinse then new battery should be all you need. If the battery was A side post it could have eaten the terminal bolt from the leak up so check that and replace it if need be. If the acid eats that bolt it may strip out your new battery threads when you try to tighten it.

Tommy:)
 

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Luckily no one was hurt. I had a freind years ago have one blow up in his face while at a rest stop and from what we figured it was a spark that ignited the fumes.

I would really check to make sure with the new battery that the alternator is operating properly. If it is overcharging the battery it will make it out-gas more explosive fumes which the smallest spark could ignite it again and blow up the new battery.

I would also make sure the battery terminal cable ends and bolts are clean.

I've done a lot of hookups to batteries for audio and security systems and once in a while when I open the hood I can smell that the battery is being over charged or it has a problem and at that point I let the fumes dissipate a while before doing any work around it.

Jim
 

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If there is someplace nearby that has a "Cold Storage" they use Hydrated Lime to scrub the moisture out of the air and usually will give it away after they have used it.

1 - 50 pound bag of Hydrated Lime will neutralize all the acid in one group 24 battery. Just in case you can't get the parts store to take it.

Tough deal! Glad no one was hurt!
 

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Batterys generate hydrogen. Ignite the hydrogen and BOOM. It is rare, but happens. Can be caused by one or more cells being low on water and when starting it sparks internally. Also as the others have said, a cracked or badly corroded post letting the gas out and causing a spark.

This is why jumping a battery should be done carefully. One blew up in my Dads face and his 20-20 vision went to 20-100 or so. I do positive to positive on the batteries and then the ground cable to the engine in both cars, not the battery. So no sparks near the battery when connecting the ground last or disconnecting the ground first.

My brother blew up a battery in a stock car by moving the car with the battery charger attached. When the clamp fell off it caused a spark. We also had a rubber boot around the battery for roll-over protection. It caused the hydrogen to accumulate also. BOOM it blew the top off the battery. The fun thing was he did the exact same thing again a week later.
 

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not sure but...

Im not sure but I dont think the Grand Prix has a flooded cell battery. I think they have whats called AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) and they work by actually maintaining a couple pounds of pressure in each cell. If it is a flooded cell GM uses side terminal batteries and I know of couple (ours was one) where the weld from the group to the case broke, luckily ours just leaked.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Yes...this battery definitly had the side posts.....so what does it mean to AGM? Should it not be able to explode? It definitly did...and the top of the battery is shoved over far enough that I can see liquid down inside...and when I dumped baking soda it fizzeled!
 

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mychevyii20 is absolutely right.

When I was in 8th grade, about 17 years ago now, we had to perform an experiment in science class, and my group decided we were going to produce pure hydrogen gas and our teacher allowed us to do it. All it takes is sulfuric acid and zinc to produce hydrogen gas, the two main components of car batteries, and because of it's volatility it don't take much of a spark to ignite it.

In essence it's really a very small version of the mega-bomb tested in the Pacific and the desert back in the late 40's and early 50's.
 

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A friend of mine bought a 302 ford motor to put in a CJ3A jeep (we're going back 30 yrs here) out of a wrecked mustang. He had it on the ground out of the car, and outside his shed and decided to see if it would run. Hooked up a battery and a can of gas and it started right up. In his glee, he revved it up and the motor torqued onto its side right on top of the battery shorting the posts. BOOM went the battery igniting the (small) can of gas with the motor still running. Lucky for him there was snow on the ground so that gave us something to throw on the motor and something for him to immediatly clean the battery acid out of his eyes.

If you think all that is bad, you should hear some of the stunts he pulled when he finally got the motor IN the Jeep.....
 

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Hey NovaNate,

Anything you put into the acid with cause it to fizzle, that's caused by the chemical reaction. Diluting it with water will cause the same reaction. I know when I did that experiment in science, we diluted it with 10 parts water to 1 part acid to neutralize it and simply dumped it down the sink, but I'm sure EPA would have something to say about that now if they knew about it. That and you'd be taking a chance at eating up your plumbing if it isn't totally neutralized.

Hopefully you don't ever come across that problem again, but if you do, it's always best to put your neutralizing agent (baking soda or water) in a little at a time to control the reaction. Sometimes the reaction can be as violent as the explosion.
 

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Sorry I didnt reply sooner..havent been online lately. First, this will be the first year for an AGM battery. As far as a vent getting clogged..absolutly!! But this is also what probably happened to your buddy. Any vent (or frit) can get clogged. The AGM is supposed to be able to sit longer without needing recharging and there is no free floating acid. The Glass absorbs the all the acid, when measured correctly, so you can drop this batt. on the ground and it wont leak. I believe the Optima is an AGM, but a spiral cell AGM. They curve the plates to make the spiral, the company I work for says(and I believe) allows the lead oxide paste to fall out of the plate. Check out the link(if it works)...the Intimidator is one of our AGM products and the MF construction shows how a typical (flooded cell) battery is made. Anything I can do to help on battery topics just let me know..if I dont know Ill ask at work.

http://www.eastpenn-deka.com/products/automotive.html

Also most places that sells batteries will take them back. The manufacturers belong to BCI (battey council international). They buy them (something less than $1) to find out why they failed.
 
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