Jumper cables caught fire and melted - Toyota Nation Forum : Toyota Car and Truck Forums
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#1 Old 04-20-2008, 09:54 PM
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Jumper cables caught fire and melted

Today I went to jump start a friend's '06 Camry with my '06 Tacoma. We connected the wires correctly, so I'm at a loss. Immediately after connecting these cheapo jumper cables, they began to smoke and quickly became hot enough to melt off all the insulation and melt marks on my headlight and bumper. Got a serious burn in the process on my right hand while frantically trying to disconnect.

I think his Camry has a serious short. Why? Because this wasn't a case of a dying battery. It started strong minutes before with no signs of a weak battery beforehand. He attempted to start it back up after running into a convenience store to buy a drink. Goes to start it, and NOTHING... no weak turnover or anything... just dead.

My question here is... has this ever happened to any of you? And could I have damaged something in MY electrical system? Any ideas? Thanks in advance.
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#2 Old 04-20-2008, 09:59 PM
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If the jumper cables were connected correctly then this sounds like a bad short in the Camry. And he has probably even jumped his main fuse?

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#3 Old 04-20-2008, 10:34 PM
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the only thing I could think of would be maybe he burned out his starter and then the starter solenoid got arc welded shut causing a short. There is no fuse on the starter AFAIK because it draws the most current out of anything on the vehicle it's just straight connected to the battery. If you're positive you connected the cables properly then thats the only thing I can think of. The starter like that on the camry when working properly pulls 300+ amps and a short like I suggested above could potentially pull 1000 amps or more. Easily enough to quickly burn through any jumper cable. The only other thing would be a dead short inside the battery itself which could easily come on suddenly with a big enough jolt to the car if perhaps a large lead flake were to shed off one of the plates and short two plates together. This is all speculation though I could be totally off.

You sure you connected the jumper cables properly? Black to Black and Red to Red? If you perhaps connected red to black and red to black then that would completely explain it cause that would just cause a huge loop short. Thats totally understandable though since we are use to connecting batteries positive to negative when placing them in items such as flashlights I could see how one could become confused.

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#4 Old 04-20-2008, 10:34 PM
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Too small gauge? Probably 10 gauge. I'd use at least 6 gauge.
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#5 Old 04-20-2008, 11:13 PM
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check his battery !!! if internal short could explain it easily !

i had it happen once helping out a stranger, after that ( and a new alternator for me) i do not jump start anyone !

i carry a "hot shot" portable recharge with me! if that doesn't do it then a big "sorry"

if not the battery then look at his "heavy wiring" for a worn spot !

one other thing...read the terminals not the red or black wires !

Last edited by the.phantom; 04-20-2008 at 11:15 PM.
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#6 Old 04-20-2008, 11:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pb View Post
Too small gauge? Probably 10 gauge. I'd use at least 6 gauge.
Pb, if they just connected the cables and everything else was fine, then nothing should have happened even with 10 gauge cables. Unless you start cranking the starter, there should be a fairly small current (just from charging the empty battery), and it does not sound they even got to the point of turning the starter. So I think there must have been a short in the Camry's system, probably the battery itself.

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Last edited by sechsgang; 04-20-2008 at 11:23 PM.
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#7 Old 04-20-2008, 11:58 PM
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Since he said the camry started strong and then after going in the store for a couple of minutes it did not even turn over. Sounds like a ground problem on the camry, or could be positive side also. Do the battery posts look clean and the connections are tight? If so also check the other ends of the ground and positive, I would start with that. Gotta be careful with jump starts, I don't do them unless somekind of an emergency or something. I carry a 12V booster charge box, works good on 4 or 6 cly. just not big ole Lincoln or monsters like that.


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Last edited by roatan4us; 04-21-2008 at 12:13 AM.
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#8 Old 04-21-2008, 12:02 AM
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Oh. I was thinking he said it happened while using the starter. Yeah bad battery, or crossed terminals.

Was there any sparks? Did it get hot right away?
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#9 Old 04-21-2008, 12:16 AM
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sort of off topic, but when i was young an old guy told me that when a battery explodes (from sparks igniting the hydrogen gas) they go off like a 12 guage shotgun.
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#10 Old 04-21-2008, 12:16 AM
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i'm gonna say the cables were crossed.
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#11 Old 04-21-2008, 12:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaPerouseBay View Post
sort of off topic, but when i was young an old guy told me that when a battery explodes (from sparks igniting the hydrogen gas) they go off like a 12 guage shotgun.
yeah they do, i've seen it happen two times. pretty cool-scares the shit out of ya though, you're never expecting it.
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#12 Old 04-21-2008, 12:28 AM
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i always assumed it would be very difficult to hook cables up backwards. attaching that last clamp should throw massive sparks and start melting stuff immediately. never seen it done, so just guessing.

contemplated this idea today and decided i was wrong. hooking up cables backwards won't necessarily cause a short circuit.

Last edited by LaPerouseBay; 04-21-2008 at 09:04 PM.
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#13 Old 04-21-2008, 12:30 AM
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Could the "Jumper Cables" have a bad spot in them with the bare wires touching?
I know it's not likely but...it might happen, and even more so on the cheaper
cables.
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#14 Old 04-21-2008, 12:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaPerouseBay View Post
sort of off topic, but when i was young an old guy told me that when a battery explodes (from sparks igniting the hydrogen gas) they go off like a 12 guage shotgun.
My dad's did that, and yes it does!!
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#15 Old 04-21-2008, 01:33 AM
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Thanks for all the replies. Preliminary talks with his mechanic reveal that it could be a shorted battery in his car, but also a situation similar to what Sony mentioned. In addition, he emphatically warned against "budget" jump wires like we were using. They were one part of a road kit he got at Christmas... all really cheap stuff. Unfortunately, I could have ruined my alternator and battery, but early signs are that all is ok... knock on wood.

But about what Sony mentioned, he did try to start it, which sent the wires into a pretty rapid combustion... perhaps hinting at a problem similar to what he explained. One of his terminals was corroded, however. I've learned a lesson from all this, and I think I'm going to adopt the same approach as some of you... just don't jump people. Thanks again. I'll update later when we figure out what the heck went wrong.
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