Exploding caravan

Submitted: Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 16:49
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This caravan exploded at 1.30am Anzac morning. Occupants escaped shaken but unsathed except for kneck problems. Incident was at Adelaide West beach big 4.
Caravan park management was great ,put them at no charge into a cabin. Funny thing was that they were surrounded by Vietnam veterans here for a reunion but none were woken. Their wives had to wake them up and ask them to help.

The bed was a north/south. Debris went upto 60metres approximately (forward). Blast was outward,NO FLAMES or FIRE. No gas leak. No batteries exploded. Gas tanks are unscathed and intact. Insurance investigator is mystified as are the owners.
As am I and everyone else in the park.
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Reply By: Member - Tony (ACT) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:00

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:00
Talk about incomeing.
AnswerID: 484287

Reply By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:28

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:28
Wow, that is unbelievable. Thankfully the occupants have survived to tell the story. Hopefully the correct people will investigate and find an answer. Bob.
AnswerID: 484294

Reply By: Kimba10 - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:52

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:52
Id be very suprised if the experts dont find that some form of gas explosion. I wonder if there is some form of gas joint in there and has built up in the front locker area and then some thing elctrical has clicked on eg internal battery charger ?? Things dont go bang like that from nothing so no doubt there will be an explanation. Would be interesting to find out what caused it. I wonder if the owners get on here ?? maybe they would be able to do an update at some stage to let everyone know.................
AnswerID: 484298

Follow Up By: Member - barry F (NSW) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 18:22

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 18:22
I reckon you might be right there Kimba. Anyway as others have said, fortunately the occupants & surrounding park tenants were not injured.
A bit scary though!
That was an interesting comment as well about the Vietnam Vets who were not woken by the sound of the blast. Just goes to show what those poor buggers were exposed to in serving for our country. Cheers
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Follow Up By: JimDi - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 19:28

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 19:28
Some of them slept thru 13 rounds of mortars at " The Horshoe" FSB in Vietnam in 1970.
FollowupID: 759551

Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:49

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:49
hi all
i have always had serious doubts about the way caravan manufactures have designed the front bootson there vans
(all with the focus of the owner having a secure from criminals -boot to lock stuff in)

imho to wrongly store and hold electrical chargers and batterys and fuel containers and gas bottles in some instances and i wonder how the relevant authorities can allow such designed vans to be registered and passed as safe in the first place something is amiss with these organisations including insurance companies????????????????
regardless of the type of battery sealed or others batties and chargers should not be in the same compartment
() under a car bonnet is different as there is a lot of air off the fan passing through to expell any such gases

chargers have relays and switch gear that can give off a spark enough to set of an explosiion and i have personelly over the years seen 3 batterys explosions when the hydrogen gas was triggered by a spark and its powerfull stuff
no i did'nt cause the problems but was lucky enough in each case to be far enough away not to get injured
and yes like bantam says it congregates in the upper areas of a cavity or enclosure and is not visible
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Follow Up By: Kimba10 - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 13:56

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 13:56
When we had our centre mount ski boat (for those who dont know this is a boat with the motor mounted roughly in the centre of the hull) generally most of these have a hatch/hood/cover what ever you like to call it, over the motor to protect from noise,burns, and generally a good family boat allowing for rear seating etc and normally not really that fast. First thing i did when we bought ours was put in 3 12V computer fans, when I turned the key the motor wouldnt even turn over for the first roughly 8 seconds (relay controlled), 2 of the fans would be sucking air out from the hood compartment while the 3rd was sucking in fresh air (didnt really need the 3rd fan) but was just to ventilate the hatch compartment before there was any big spark from the contacts from the starter motor JUST INCASE there were any fumes trapped under the hood. It wasnt a common thing to happen but had seen it happen before when my old man use to race/ski boats etc and he always use to tilt the lid back for a few seconds before he hit the key, Like this for eg.......
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Reply By: Member - Joe n Mel n kids (FNQ - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:53

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:53
...... DARE I SAY IT .....
a "fart" maybe ??????
I am sure i can see a tin of Baked Beans there hahahahha
AnswerID: 484299

Follow Up By: Hairy (WA) - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:38

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:38
Comments like that really STINK! LOL
FollowupID: 759702

Reply By: hopscotch - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:57

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:57
Was there a battery in the front boot? All I can think of is that the battery has been putting out gas while charging and there has been a spark from the charger.

When we blew up some batteries in our home lighting system some years back there was a terrible mess in the battery room but no fire and the batteries didn't have any outward signs of damage.

Kevin J
AnswerID: 484301

Follow Up By: JimDi - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 19:26

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 19:26
Two batteries in the front boot,both unscathed.
FollowupID: 759550

Follow Up By: Hairy (WA) - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:42

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:42
I think your on to something there Kevin.......Battery might have got overcharged and the gas has gone KABooooom!
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Reply By: Ross M - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:58

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 17:58
Has to be a gas leak with very little gas involved in tight space of front boot = no residual flames or the spare wheel exploded. Highly pressurized wheels will cause massive amounts of damage and throw things for a long way.
Have seen what an exploding truck wheel does, incredible damage, just a bit of cold air.

Ross M
AnswerID: 484303

Reply By: The Bantam - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 18:12

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 18:12
Interesting but hardly mystifying, I am surprised that there is not more of it.

So many people seem dismissive and uninterested when I mention, the need for ventilation for all batteries and all types of fuel storage.

So many times I see batteries, fuel, generators and all sorts of things stored or mounted in sealed unventilated cabinets and compartments in caravans, camper trailers and vehicles.

It looks like a pretty clean low energy explosion, I would lay odds at a hydrogen explosion from batteries being charged.

Its a likely senario
Caravan on mains power, batteries reach full charge and begin to gas.....a small amount of hydrogen gas is confined in the closed trunk......some of the electronics in the trunk offers an ignition source.......when the air fuel ratio reaches a ignitable level.... Kboom

The batteries may indeed be unscathed, they are fairly robust in comparison to the lighweight van cladding.

For good or bad hydrogen has a much wider ignition range for explosion than other fuels, it will explode at very low fuel to air ratios and is much easier to ignite.

Its a two edged sword, hydrogen will explode much easier than other fuels but fortunately it is more likley to explode when there is less of it to burn and thus less energy in the explosion.

Fortunately too, hydrogen explodes less violently and colder than other gasses.
If it had been accetlyene the van would possibly have been leveled to the chasis rails

Unlikley to be a fuel leak as fire would most likley follow.

LUCKY..hmm possibly......but completly avoidable.

Please listen when I say.
ALL batteries including sealed batteries and AGM battereies must be well ventilated to the outside air. ther is no such thing as a completely sealed battery.

ALL fuel storage including gases and petrol, and including things that have or have had fuel in them must be ventilated to the outside air.

When I say ventilated I don't mean a few little slots.

Pease think about this a be safe.

AnswerID: 484305

Follow Up By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 19:58

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 19:58
Hi Bantam. I am extremely interested in what you are saying. I have two 9kg LP gas bottles in my boot along with a 2KV generator. There is also an AGM battery under the lounge seat on the RH side of my van. What sort and size of ventilation would you suggest. At present there is only a 20mm drain hole in the front boot. Thanks,Bob.

FollowupID: 759555

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 21:14

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 21:14
If your AGM battery is a sealed gel type, then it shouldn't explode or leak gases.....

FollowupID: 759568

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 21:23

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 21:23
Here is Bantam's ventilation test.

If you where locked in and farted in the space in question, how quickly with the smell disipate.

If its not nearly as quickly as in open air its not quick enough.

I'd like to say I am shocked.....but I'm not.

The manufacturers and sellers of many of these vans must be completely ignorant of the risks.
They are all too keen to pander to the desire to have everything hidden away.

The gass bottles should not be in there at all.

If you turned up at CIG or Airliquid to fill or exchange bottles, they would not let you drive out their gate with any gas bottle in any enclosed space

Gas bottles should be mounted where there is free and open ventilation and that means big holes as a minimum...big as ya head...better still on the drawbar.

What is realy concerning is you have LPG and petrol stored in the same compartment......the flamable liquids guys are realy concerned about this combination, it has been implicated in some serious accidents involving spontanious ignition.

consider that LPG cylinders are the fuel of choice for improvised explosives in many areas of the middle east.
A 9KG LPG bottle contains a very large amount of fuel and leaks must be expected.

Put bluntly gas bottles should not be enclosed at all.

Now the generator...it contains fuel......there is a reason you petrol tank is mounted outside the pasenger compartment of your car...in the past many cars had the fuel tank mounted inside the boot....fair enough it was vented and filled outside the car...but I doubt you will find a car with a fuel tank mounted inside the boot these days.......does that tell you something.

If you open the boot on ya caravan and you smell petrol fumes at all....you are dragging a bomb arround.......all it needs is a source of ignition.

Again we are talking free flowing ventilation....it may require forced ventilation from a bilge blower or such

The problem is that this has not been thaught about in the design....where else is there to put it.........OH BTW where do you carry your fuel supplies?

It is illegal to carry petrol in jerries mounted on the rear of a vehicle.

NOW to the battery.
Unfortunately many people labour under the misconception that AGM batteries are completly sealed......they are not and cant be.
But people persist in mounting them in unsuitable places.

However the risk here is much lower than the other two.
ALL batteries can vent explosive fumes, even AGM if it is run at high temperatures and or overcharged...for some AGM 45C is above its recommended operating temperature.

But the fuems from AGM should be in small amounts.

SO it should be vented to outside air..a slotted vent at the bottom and the top of the space may be sufficient.

This whole management of flamables in caravanning and 4wding is something that is taken far too lightly and does not get given anywhere near enough thaught.


FollowupID: 759570

Follow Up By: Member - John G- Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 10:39

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 10:39
G'day Bantam

Thanks for both your contributions. We all (or at least the less practical or less scientifically minded amongst us) rely on manufacturers and dealers to keep us out of trouble, and it's good to be remined of the sorts of things we should be thinking about.

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Follow Up By: Member - Josh- Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 21:37

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 21:37
Bantam, you commented "It is illegal to carry petrol in jerries mounted on the rear of a vehicle".
So how do these 4wds pass a roadworthy with the jerry can holder mounted on the rear bar like a lot do. Most manufacturers made a rear bar with spare wheel holder and jerry can holder on the back.
My 80 series passed its roadworthy with a jerry can sitting in the holder.
I have been pulled over numerous times for breath test and random checks and never had it questioned.

FollowupID: 759677

Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:13

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:13
Their for carrying Diesel.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 10:57

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 10:57
The presence of the jerry can holder is not an issue because it could be used for carrying water or diesel ( Dieseil is " combustable" not " highly flamable").

The fact that somebody passes a roadworthy or for that matter a machinery inspection with a noncompliance is no proof that anything it is in fact legal.
Faults an noncompliances get overlooked every day.

If you are to carry jerry cans containing dangerous goods of the catagory of petrol, they must be outside of the peasenger compartment or other enclosed space but within the outer profile of the vehicle and adequately protected....

if you want detals chase up the dangerous goods standards and legeslation.

Most of the jerry can holders on the rear of vehicles are completely unprotected and outside the bumper line...therefor illegal for carrying petrol.

It is possible to carry dangerous goods on the rear of a vehicle, IF it is inside the bumper line, but satisfying the "adequate protection" requirement makes it very difficult indeed.

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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 12:46

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 12:46
Yep, that's what I said. Only In 4 words. :)
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Reply By: Wilko (Parkes NSW) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 21:08

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 21:08
Was it a terrorist attack?

Cheers Wilko
AnswerID: 484324

Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 22:36

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 22:36
Interested to get more info I Googled "Caravan Explosion". Up came 17,000 results from Australia! Clearly it is not a rare occurrence and I would endorse Bantam's warnings about ventilation.


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AnswerID: 484328

Reply By: Ron N - Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 23:50

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 23:50
It's got to be a hydrogen explosion from batteries gassing. It doesn't necessarily mean the batteries have to explode, you can get a big gas buildup and an explosion, and the batteries will stay intact.

An LPG explosion is usually accompanied by fire. Hydrogen igniting is usually just a massive bang.
I was treating some rusty components a couple of months ago, with an electrolysis bath, using washing soda and a 12V power source (batteries and charger). I was using a 157L plastic crate with no top on it, and it was out in the open. The tub had about 130 litres of washing soda solution in it.

I bent over the tub and fiddled with an alligator clip connection. It sparked. Next thing, there was this massive BANG, in my face!
Frightened the living bejeesus out of me. It was hydrogen buildup in the top of the tub, and it wasn't being dispersed, despite being out in the open! There was no fire, just a massive BANG! It's made me a lot more respectul of electrolysis treatment baths.
AnswerID: 484334

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 11:12

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 11:12
In response to a similar discussion on another forum, a member recounted an in the face hydrogen explosion on a machine he was working on.

the battery was mounted fairly open, but was enclosed on 3 sides and there was a sort of hood above.
The hydrogen gas had gathered in the space under the overhead hood, a spark from the charger clip and kaboom

No damage, no marks not even missing eyebrows, just a pounding heart, a mild ring in the ears and a need to change his underwear.

That is a thing to be aware of, because hydrogen is lighter than air, it will gather under overhangs and it the upper parts of spaces.

If it were not lighter than air, the space may be too big to get the right air fuel ratio.......but because the hydrogen will gather in the upper part and it has a such a wide viable air fuel ratio it will tend to be explosive in much smaller amounts and in larger spaces that would otherwise expected.

If ventilating for hydrogen make sure the upper vents are at the very top of the space.

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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:23

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:23
I always remember an episode in a small-country town garage in the 1960's. Harold was a very good mechanic and very orderly, and he had a small room built inside the garage where he kept and charged batteries.
A farmer client brought in a flat battery to be tested and charged if O.K.

The farmer returned late in the day to pick up his battery. He said - "How's my battery going, Harold?"

Harold replied, "It's still going! I reckon it's 2/3rds of the way to the Moon by now!!" [:-)

Poor old Harold had gone into the battery room to check on the battery, and had created a spark with an alligator clip as it was removed. The room was full of hydrogen due to a "gassy" battery, unbeknowns to Harold, and the room exploded - along with the battery! It blew the fibro-asbestos wall out of the room.

Poor old Harold got a hell of a fright, and it made the message of hydrogen gassing in confined spaces, a real one to him. Surprisingly, he'd been in business many years up to that point, and had never had a hydrogen explosion before, despite charging serious numbers of batteries. It appears the battery conditions have to be just right, to get a "gassy" battery.

Cheers - Ron.
FollowupID: 759626

Reply By: Member - Serendipity(WA) - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 00:14

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 00:14
If they pack everything like my parents do when traveling it is not surprising the caravan exploded. Just too much junk. Over night the caravan gets a bit cold and that front compartment is busting at its seams - only needs one loose rivet and BOOM.

Lesson - pack lightly. LOL


Seriously - glad no one was hurt.

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AnswerID: 484335

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 05:47

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 05:47
A pressure pak can of almost anything?

OKA196 Motorhome
AnswerID: 484337

Reply By: kev.h - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 11:31

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 11:31
Not a gas explosion in the first photo the gas bottles are on the drawbar so i second the hydrogen theory from a battery
One point with gas bottles its not wise to put a freshly filled bottle in any enclosed space (even the boot of your car) as they can vent a small amount of gas as they warm up after the fill (bottles get cold when filling) best left for a short time so the temperature can come back to ambient
AnswerID: 484360

Follow Up By: Kimba10 - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 13:41

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 13:41
I have seen connections inside these front compartments, where say two lines join into one, also have seen the flexi pipe from the bottle run into these compartments and then have a T connection, one for gas hot water systems the other for the stove, if this connection was leaking which would let the gas sit inside the compartment, then if you have battery set up with inbuilt charger, fuses, relays etc, light, then enough gas with a spark, kboom.................
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Follow Up By: kev.h - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 18:06

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 18:06
Yes you could be right about the gas lines but a gas explosion almost always results in fire or at least scorch marks - not evident - so i believe it was hydrogen from the battery same bang but much lower combustion temperature therefore no fire or scorch marks
Hydrogen explodes at far less consentrations therefore less fuel to cause a fire
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Follow Up By: Kimba10 - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 20:27

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 20:27
Thanks Kev, new batteries were dangerous but didnt know the exact facts. Learn some thing new every day....Cheers...........
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Reply By: spudseamus - Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:38

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:38
Baked Beans??
AnswerID: 484367

Reply By: Phil 23 - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 07:46

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 07:46
Is that black box on the left the battery?
Not the back end of an instant water heater?

Regards ventilation.

I know it's stating the obvious, but hydrogen, being lighter than air won't vent out any of the drain holes in the bottom of the boot.

It's going to have to be vented from the top enclosure.
AnswerID: 484424

Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:22

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 09:22
But in order for the hydrogen to vent from the top its volume must be replaced by air entering from the bottom. Hence the need for vents at both top and bottom.


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Follow Up By: Phil 23 - Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 11:08

Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 at 11:08

Both top & bottom venting is a necessity.

Remember, hot air doesn't rise!

It's displaced upwards by denser cold air.

Bit like a brick in a bucket of water.


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