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Old Aug 26, 2003, 2:22 AM   #1
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Default PowerEx MH-C204F charger in the car warning!

I was out with my camera on a bit of a day trip and decided to bring my charger with the car adapter along for the ride to see how it works. Well, it was a first and a last. I had it plugged in and went for a quick hike and came back about 45minutes latter. I'm glad I got back when I did! When I opened my car door I could smell something, a chemical like burning smell. Not knowing what it was I put my pack in the front passenger side footwell and started up the car and pulled away back on the highway. After driving for a couple minutes I reached over to the passenger side seat to grab my water bottle and brushed the charger. This is when I discovered what was making all the smell. The charger was smoking HOT! :shock: I quickly pulled over, unplugged the charger and took it out of the car. I could barely hold onto it it was that hot! After it was on my roof for about 5minute I decided to try and get the batteries out of it. They were so hot I couldn't even pull them out of the charger. So after about 30minutes with it on my roof I put the charger with the batteries back into the car and decided to head home.

Has anyone else had this happen to them? I have no idea what occured to cause this unless its something faulty with the design. I usually have my cell phone adapter plugged in all the time so I don't think its an issue with the car. Also, at home the charger when plugged into the ac outlet only gets slightly warm, but never hot. The charger doesn't seem to have suffered any damage as both it and the batteries seem to still work fine. I have used the batteries almost constantly in my headlamp since if anything were to leak from them it would only be a $60cdn headlamp I would be replacing instead of a $800cdn camera.

So just a word of warning if it is something to do with the design to everyone else. Please make sure you watch youself if you plug the charger into your cars outlet. I would hate to think what would have happened if I went for a longer hike. I might not have had a car to return to after a couple hours! :shock:
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 5:23 AM   #2
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1. Did you have the lid/cover of the charger closed? This will get the cells hotter than normal since there's no air circulation...

2. Unlike a wallplug power supply that is limited by the current it put out to the charger, a car 12V jack has much more current available (limited only by the car fuse), so in effect the charger is actually charging your batteries a little bit faster than usual, that's all!

... It's still within its operating limit or the internal temperature sensor of the charger would have shut it down. In effect if you changed to a more powerful 12V supply to the charger @ home, you'll get the same results!
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 6:15 AM   #3
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Quote:
2. Unlike a wallplug power supply that is limited by the current it put out to the charger, a car 12V jack has much more current available (limited only by the car fuse), so in effect the charger is actually charging your batteries a little bit faster than usual, that's all!
The first think I would do is ask if a fuse is fitted and it's rating on the 12 volt input side (don't forget the 12 volt cable rating in this). I wouldn't expect the charging current to be any different to Mains since the same regulators will be used. Inside a car with windows closed on a hot day, the charger is in a confined space.

If these units are expected to get hot, then there should be some protective device to ensure if it gets too hot it shuts down. If your car has a separate fuse for the lighter accessory socket (most do), and you don't use the lighter plug, consider down rating it from the 30 Amps it probably is at the moment. I wouldn't think it should be more than 3-5 Amps. Don't forget your car is full of foam, plastics and other flammables - so fire risk has to be taken very seriously. I think that's why most car accessories are in metal boxes - I'll bet your charger isn't. Imagine leaving your charger powered in the car with your kids in it, when you stop to buy something? Very few things in a car are actually powered when the ignition is off. I discovered the oher day that my lighter socket is only powered when the ignition is on. Frustrating, but if I change it I'll make sure it's protected.

If all else fails fit smoke alarms and auto triggered CO2 fire extinguishers! VOX
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 3:01 PM   #4
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Well the wall adapter for the charger for using it in the home has an output of 500mAh's just like the charger is capable of using according to the label on it. The car adapter doesn't have a built in regulator like the wall adapter, its simply a power transfering cable. This is a design fault more than anything. Because without the power regulation built into the charger itself when plugged into the car adapter its free to draw whatever its pleases basically (up to the limits of the fuse), while at home its limited to the 500mAh rating of the AC/DC adapter.

The problem with replacing the cars stock 15amp fuse with a lower one would be that it would still be well over specifications. Lets say I replace it with whats pretty well the lowest amp rating standard plastic fuse, a 5amp model. This still provides 10x the current compared to the regulated ac/dc cord the charger used at home.

The ac/dc adapter for the charger when used in the house has an input of .15amps @ 120volts for an 18watt draw while its output is .5amps @ 12volts for 6watts. If you hold the same figures for a the car adapter I would need a 1.5amp standard plastic fuse. :? I don't think these are available, but I am going to look to see if this will give me the oppertunity to use the charger while on the road.

Hhmmm, maybe I should re-read through the manual that came with the charger to see if I missed anything in it about situations like this. :P


P.S. I won't use the charger in the car if it still gets as hot as it did. When I use it at home I have the cover closed and the batteries get to about 40'C or slightly warmer at the most. When I try to remove them from the charger after being in the car I would say they where around 80'C or warmer. I could also smell them which is something I have never had when charging at home. :shock:
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 5:06 PM   #5
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The car lighter plugs are usually large enough to get a fuse inside. Failing that, fit an in-line car fuse close to the car plug. Car radio fuses are usually about 2 amp. I can't believe a manufacturer would provide a charger from a car battery without some sort of regulator to determine end of charge. As well as setting fire to the car, the batteries could explode whilst driving - and that would give you a fright! From what I can see of their spec sheet, the adaptor lead plugs into the battery holder unit - and that's where I'd expect the regulators working on a 12-16 volt input. They will be the same circuits that are used with the 12Vdc mains driven transformer unit.

If the manufacturer is making direct connections to a nicad battery pack from a car battery, without protecting the cable and preventing the batts from overheating and exploding, I'd talk to an official about getting the product banned! If the instructions are to connect up things differently, but the connectors allowed a hazardous situation - still talk to an official, you might save a life or a car! However, you may have misunderstood that the unit is regulating, although many vendors still forget to fuse at the car jack, to protect the cable. Your unit may be running hotter because it is seeing nearly 14.5 volt instead of 12. They may be using a 12volt series regulator (rather than an efficient switcher), and extra volts from the car are being dissipated as more heat in the unit.

When considering fuse ratings, don't forget that a fuse rated at say 5 amp will take 30 minutes to blow at this current level, and ten times this in hundreds of milli seconds to burn it out, So that's why the possibly flimsy bit of wire that might connect the car supply to the battery back, which just might get trapped by the seat rails, door or hand brake, is just as important, because at the moment you could get 150 Amps down it before your car fuse blows= vapour ware! VOX
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 10:24 PM   #6
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Gee, when I got my C204F kit about 2 years ago, it came with a car (cigarette lighter) adaptor which included a built-in 1.5A in line fuse. The fuse is housed in the little center conductor plunger thingy. My unit has a knurled ring which secures the spring loaded plunger and the fuse in the plastic lighter plug/ cable assembly.

That being said, I only used the car adapter hook-up once just to see if it worked... it did. I didn't notice that the batteries were any warmer than when charged from house power.
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 10:26 PM   #7
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Gee, when I got my C204F kit about 2 years ago, it came with a car (cigarette lighter) adaptor which included a built-in 1.5A in line fuse. The fuse is housed in the little center conductor plunger thingy. My unit has a knurled ring which secures the spring loaded plunger and the fuse in the plastic lighter plug/ cable assembly.

That being said, I only used the car adapter hook-up once just to see if it worked... it did. I didn't notice that the batteries were any warmer than when charged from house power.
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 10:26 PM   #8
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Gee, when I got my C204F kit about 2 years ago, it came with a car (cigarette lighter) adaptor which included a built-in 1.5A in line fuse. The fuse is housed in the little center conductor plunger thingy. My unit has a knurled ring which secures the spring loaded plunger and the fuse in the plastic lighter plug/ cable assembly.

That being said, I only used the car adapter hook-up once just to see if it worked... it did. I didn't notice that the batteries were any warmer than when charged from house power.
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Old Aug 26, 2003, 10:29 PM   #9
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I didn't mean to be so redundant, so redundant, so redundant, so redundant, so redundant.

Sorry--don't know what 'bad' I did.
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Old Aug 27, 2003, 5:03 AM   #10
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I'm sure we used to be able to delete posts a while ago, as long as they were the last. The option doesn't seem to appear any more.
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