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Smoke from Battery

So, my wife and I are driving along in the 911 today, and she notices a (to her) very strong, sulfur-like odor. In past weeks I had caught a whiff or two of it, but since my sense of smell isn't that sensitive and I usually drive with the windows down, I thought it was just exhaust/etc.

After we stopped and popped the front hood, it was easy to tell that 1) the odor was much stronger to the front, and 2) the battery was smoking a bit. After shutting the car down, the battery continued to make a hissing sound for a time.

Background: the car sat largely idle over the winter. When I started it up (about 2 months ago) again, I discovered that the battery was dead. No problem; it went back to the store under warranty and was replaced with another new Optima red-top. So, this is occuring with a newish battery.

I haven't noticed any new problems recently, and the car has been used on my daily commute.

The closest description to the problem I can find on the boards is about a bad alternator overcharging the battery, here . I can get my hands on a multimeter; what is the procedure for using it to figure out if I'm providing to much voltage to the battery (it has been years since I touched one). Are there any other potential causes for this behavior? How ugly is an alternator swap as a DIY job?

Thanks--

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Last edited by shrouded; 05-12-2006 at 03:11 PM..
Old 05-12-2006, 03:09 PM
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Sounds like a short in the plates - Optima batteries have a spiral plate design and two layers of lead sheeting could somehow be touching each other due to a manufacturing defect. That would cause the gassing and smell you described plus kill the battery over time.
You can check the voltage at the battery terminals with the engine running and it should be about 14 volts.

Joe
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Old 05-12-2006, 03:16 PM
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My Optima red-top did exactly the same thing (smoke and sulphur-smell) late last summer and I had to replace it with a new Optima this spring when the old battery wouldn't start the car and wouldn't hold a charge for more than a week. The battery was 3 months out of warranty but the new Optima has been working fine (so far)...
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Old 05-12-2006, 03:46 PM
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I have returned more than 1 Optima, probably due to poor care. Leaving it unattended for a month or so in temps as low as...gasp...50 degrees!

Regarding charging voltage, Warren or John Cramer are two very sharp sparkies here, and they will no doubt set us all straight. But I usually look for a number in the 14.5 range in my cars, and I seem to remember the number 14.625 or something being mentioned as the proper level.
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Old 05-12-2006, 04:58 PM
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Err scratch that....Cramer says the bogey number is 14.0, and the resting state of the battery should be 12.6, and "not a penny less".

The thread is:Early 911 Batteries 101 - Help?

Also, a smoking battery makes me VERY nervous..VERY. Ever seen a battery blow up? You, and your car do not want to. I don't know what the "blow up mode" is for an Optima, but the LA batteries do it big and ugly.
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Old 05-12-2006, 05:06 PM
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Bad Voltage Regulator
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Old 05-12-2006, 05:11 PM
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I just took a meter to it. I can't give too many signifigant digits without a better meter (this is analog), but I see ~13.5V with the car shut down, and ~14.6V with it running. I am letting it idle for a few minutes, and will check once more before shutting her down (I am also very nervous about the exploding battery option).

I am reading the other thread now. If 14.6V isn't overcharging, and if that number doesn't spike after the car is warm, am I now leaning towards a short in the battery?

My local shop suggested today either the alternator or voltage regulator if the battery isn't the culprit. He said the alternator is the more expensive option (~$400 + labor), but that the regulator is cheaper overall (more labor, but $60 for the part). He does many more regulators than alternators, and thinks that is the more likely fix.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:03 PM
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Hmmmm, thats generally where the charging should be, IMO. You're certainly not in the 16V range. I might just run it down the the shop that sold you the battery, (Take some tools) if it's close (!!!!), and (call first so they have one ready) then show them. Let them see and test your charging circuit, and they will likely hand you the new one with apologies. Unhook (neg first!) and swap right there. Retest.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:18 PM
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With the car warm (idling about 10 minutes), I get the same result. Shut the car down, tried to start it again, and it won't quite turn over.

I'm going to have the battery replaced, and take it from there.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:18 PM
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Be sure to re test with a digital meter after installing the new battery. Test in DC mode and turn lights and fans on and off with meter attached. Look for 13.8 vdc at low RPM and no more than 14.5 around 3000 rpm. Switch to AC and look for any AC readings. More than a volt and a half of AC is likely a bad diode. Bad voltage reg will show up in the lights as well. Rev motor with lights on and observe if there is any dimming and brighting along with RPM change.
IMO Gel cell batteries are overrated for use on most cars and popularity is relative to the advertising that goes along with them. They do have some good features but they have many bad habits that conflict with normal automotive use. They are very sensitive to charge rate for one and the car makers did not build the elec system to suit them. Conventional batteries are more robust in some ways less so in others. Most car systems are built to take advantage of the good points of a conventional battery.

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Old 05-12-2006, 09:00 PM
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Green, I've had lots of issues with them as well, and suspected issues with charging rates.

I decided to go with an SLA battery this time, but a much less expensive one, LOL.

If I'm going to replace them regularly, I might as well do it for a third the cost.
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Old 05-12-2006, 09:16 PM
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any of several things noted above

FIRST & IMMEDIATELY: turn off engine; pull off leads & get the battery out of the car right away.
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Old 05-12-2006, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by randywebb
any of several things noted above

FIRST & IMMEDIATELY: turn off engine; pull off leads & get the battery out of the car right away.
Done. Hopefully tomorrow will revolve around a new battery, a digital multimeter, and some crossed fingers that I don't need to swap more parts.

It just hasn't been my day for mechanical devices. Earlier I started using a new chainsaw to cut tree limbs down in my backyard, only to find that the trigger liked to stick in the on position.

Thanks for the advice everyone-- I'll update the thread as the fun continues.
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Old 05-12-2006, 11:19 PM
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I put a new battery in the car, and it showed 14.6V at startup. After idling about 30 minutes, it was around 13.6V. I five minute drive, and I was up to 17.3V.

So... now how do I tell if I need to start with the voltage regulator or the alternator?
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Old 05-14-2006, 03:25 PM
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Generally speaking, if your voltage went down, it could mean your alternator, and maybe your regulator.

If the voltage goes up too high (your situation) it usually means the voltage regulator.
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Old 05-14-2006, 04:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Paulporsche
Generally speaking, if your voltage went down, it could mean your alternator, and maybe your regulator.

If the voltage goes up too high (your situation) it usually means the voltage regulator.
Thanks again for all the info. It sounds like it would be worthwhile to swap the regulator as a first step, even if I end up needing to do the alternator.

Now, for the last question. The regulator: how DIY-able is this?
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Old 05-14-2006, 04:17 PM
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IIRC regs and alts have been one unit for 25 years or so. The alt is behind the fan and accessed from the back. Remove what you need to to get the fan housing off the top of the motor. Remove fan and unbolt alt from housing. Inspect the condidition of the alt and look into cost of rebuild on yours or or just replace with rebuilt.

Old 05-14-2006, 05:22 PM
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