Laptop Fire Risk (from power cable connection)

  IanS1 16:20 18 Feb 2017

I thought it might be useful if I describe a minor problem that I recently had with my laptop, a problem which could easily have turned in a large scale disaster.

For several weeks my laptop (Lenovo G500) seemed to keep losing it's power connection the battery charging. I.e. one minute it was charging with the little icon at the base of the screen showing “connected and charging”, and then a few minutes later the icon was showing as not connected and not charging.

I could get it to start charging again by moving the power cable around until I found a position where charging resumed. But then if I moved the laptop again, and hence moved the cable slightly, it would lose the charging connection again.

But then, last week, I was working late at night in bed with the laptop propped up against my knees, when the laptop power cable suddenly burst into flames with a shower of sparks and cloud of acrid smelling smoke. Fortunately I was I able to pull out the plug immediately, so no damage was done apart from my surprise.

On examining the power cable I found a tiny split in the outer rubber covering where the cable had got bent at the junction with the flat plug that fits into the edge of computer. Presumably, inside the outer rubber covering, one of the tiny copper conducting wires had got broken and caused a short circuit.

If you carry your laptop around a lot as I do, and if you use it late at night in bed as I do, then that power cable inevitably gets twisted and bent at different angles, especially where it fit's into the plug that attaches to the edge of the laptop. So the danger of a split like that seems to be almost inevitable after a few years use. Of course you might say I should be more careful and avoid any sharp bends of that cable etc., but in any case I just wanted to point out that problem, because apart from it being a rather alarming occurrence, if it had happened while I was away from the laptop (or happened during the night), then it could easily have resulted in a major fire.

After buying a new power cable (inc. the correct 20V transformer), it now all works fine and battery charging is completely consistent and correct again. So a new power cable/transformer seems to solve the problem if you have those same issues where the battery charging suddenly stops and won't restart unless you move the cable around to a favourable position.

  wee eddie 16:26 18 Feb 2017

While I don't doubt the OP's analysis and his correct solution.

This thread could just as well be titled. Beware of the "killer kettles".

Anyone continuing to use a cracked, frayed or damaged, electrical cable, is risking an accident

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 18:44 18 Feb 2017

Hard to tell when a cable is broken sometimes.

The power lead to the "brick" failed in the molded part of the plug where it plugs into the "brick" - went with a Flash and a bang during a presentation - scorching the desk top in the process.

  IanS1 19:32 18 Feb 2017

As I said , the external break was tiny; you'd need a magnifying glass to see it. And of course I did not know there was a break at all, until it actually burst into flames on the 20V side next to the laptop input.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 20:04 18 Feb 2017

Mine was on the 240v side :0)

  Burn-it 22:33 18 Feb 2017

It is never a good idea to carry electrical goods around whilst connected to the mains and powered up. I would also suggest that having a power brick on a bed is also asking for trouble.

  IanS1 10:23 19 Feb 2017

Again if you read my post/description – the laptop was not being carried around whilst plugged in. And the “power brick” was not on the bed.

I am just pointing out, in case it helps anyone, who like me may have been unaware of any such danger, that there is a very real risk of a serious fire if you happen to have a tiny microscopic break in the 20V side of the charging cable.

I think the message is that you have to take great care not to ever have sharp bends in that charging cable, particularly where it attaches to the USB plug. However, it's almost inevitable and unavoidable with a laptop/mobile computer that the cable will certainly get twisted and bent over the course of a year or two … so it seems to me it's a problem just waiting to happen. If it was just a problem that resulted in your laptop not working, or an annoying software problem then that really would not be a serious issue … but an instant unexpected fire is a serious issue.

  Forum Editor 10:59 19 Feb 2017

The danger from damaged power cables is a well-known one, and the junction between cable and rigid connections is always going to be a vulnerable point.

All you can do to prevent the damage occurring is to be careful about repeatedly using cables that kink in the same place.

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