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So I was pulled up at the traffic lights yesterday in my 1980 Nissan Urvan (E23) diesel after just coming off a 30 minute commute on the freeway when all of a sudden the engine cut out and a few seconds later the battery exploded/ruptured spraying acid all over the battery compartment. After pushing it of the road I tried hooking up the deep cycle battery that is usually wired through an isolator and noted with nothing connected the cables were carrying enough current to heat them up significantly within about five seconds so something would appear to be shorted. With a multimeter reading zero ohms between the positive and negative battery terminals of the vehicle I went through each fuse removing it noting the battery circuit was still zero ohms then replacing it before moving on to the next.

Can anybody offer some insite as to potential causes and or locations to check for the fault or advice in general on trouble shooting so I can reconnect a new battery and get the van back on the road?

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The most likely cause is that the cable that runs down to the starter motor has been rubbing against the body or the engine and has worn through the insulation.

  • +1 Well yes indeed, as it is typically the only cable that does not have a fuse on it. OP says he checked the fuses, which is fairly futile as the type of current which would cause the battery to explode should easily cause the fuse to blow - unless some idiot previously replaced a fuse with a bit of wire or aluminium foil. – Level River St Oct 27 '18 at 20:36
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    Bingo as you predicted, positive to starter motor was resting on the exhaust - even though it was wrapped in a heat shroud obviously it wasn't meant for that and it finally said no more! – norlesh Oct 27 '18 at 21:17
  • Some photos of the disastrous event would have been really eye catching...!! – soosai steven Nov 1 '18 at 6:39
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Sounds like a dead short, one large enough like that should be easily visible, either through burn marks on a metal edge or bracket or a hole in the insulation.

Check and follow all the main or thick wires.

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