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Replaced battery in craftsman lawnmower 42" deck rider model 247203744.

Started up fine. Rode it for about 20 minutes... boom caught on fire under the seat by battery. I am thinking the positive cable caught on fire and spread. Now I have two charred cables and no idea what caused this.

Notes:

  1. I have replaced maybe 100 batteries in my life. This is pretty basic... I did not look for any issues with the cables, as they looked fine and didn't see anything.

  2. The lawnmower's only other issue is that it sputters. It runs and then after 10-15 mins will just die and need to restart. Sometimes it picks back up on its own. And sometimes runs fine the whole time.

Do I need to test something before putting new cables in? Can they be "repaired"? And how do you get to the positive cable connector without taking the whole thing apart?

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  • looks like the battery supply simple shorted out with the frame. Or did your starter burn out and take the cable with it?
    – narkeleptk
    Aug 29 '20 at 1:42
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narkeleptik (from comments) is exactly right. The (+) side battery cable grounded to the body of the mower. This caused the leads to go into global thermonuclear meltdown. The "fire" you found is the insulation burning because the wires were hot enough to make them burn.

You should be able to fix this without too much of a hard time. You need to get some wire which has enough girth to provide the amperage for the starter. You'd most likely need to run new power wires from the battery (+) to the starter as well as the ground on the body back to the battery (-). The easy way would be to look on line for Craftsman parts and find the pre-made leads, though this would be more expensive then building your own. I would bet if you check your battery, it still has a charge. It may be a bit low, though, so a stint with the battery charger may be in order.

EDIT: More than likely, the problem was, when the battery was replaced, care was not taken with the positive lead. Two things happened: the insulation on the (+) lead wore through; the paint on the body wore through. When those two things happened, the short occurred allowed unrestricted power flow through the wires, which was more than they could handle, heating them to red hot, burning the insulation and causing the small, but brief fire. Once the lead stopped making contact (was melted into oblivion), the connection was broken. It looks to me the lead was crushed between the battery and the body of the tractor. To tell for sure, look where the (+) lead looks good. Where it ends is where the connection happened.

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  • So the insulation had a hole or what? The starter looks fine as the cable was just burnt from the middle to the battery and completely clean after that. Just trying to figure out what caused the extra heat to get a flame going.
    – blankip
    Aug 29 '20 at 3:49
  • @blankip a possible cause is that the seat crushed the cable causing the short - one possibility is that a spacer got lost or the mass of the driver was excessive, seen that once on a Rolls Royce...
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 29 '20 at 5:28
  • I agree with everyone about a short. To find the cause, look for things that could cause a short to the positive battery post or cable. Check the bottom of the seat. Can it have made contact with the post while going over bumps? In your mind you'll have to recreate any scenarios. Are there any sharp bends in the cable? Any places that the cable may rub? After reassembly, it may help to have another set of eyes to search for areas where a short can occur.
    – Jupiter
    Aug 29 '20 at 11:08
  • Added some more details in my answer. Aug 29 '20 at 13:47
  • Thank you. Ordered some cables and they will be in on Wednesday and I can accept this once everything works. Any tips for getting to the other end of the + cable - seems like it is in the upper corner almost impossible to get to.
    – blankip
    Aug 30 '20 at 22:59

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