FIL Smoked Jumper Cable

gathermewool

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My FIL doesn’t know much about cars. He just called my wife to ask me how to help him figure out an issue he had when he attempted to jump his wife’s car. He said he used the (unknown) cables he had and it “caught on fire”. He disconnected them. He figured the cables were bad, and wanted to get a new set, because his only concern (seemingly) is to get his wife back on the road, so she doesn’t miss work. He‘s a highly skilled blue collar guy (with experience with hot work) and because of his hard work he has a good chunk of change saved. His wife can miss work…

His English is also very bad, so it was hard to get info, even though my wife is fluent in his language. There is an automotive language barrier, as well, if you will.

My response: ALL STOP! Disconnect the cables and you’re done (the cables were already disconnected when he called, from what I gather). Don’t touch anything else, and most certainly don’t try to jump it again. Most importantly, call 911 if the smoke is still there or comes back or if you’re concerned for any reason whatsoever.

I then asked if he knew how to jump a car, and if not, did he consult the Googles. It does not seem as if he looked up how to do it and when I told my wife to relay how it should be done he didn’t confirm nor deny that it was done correctly, leading me to assume he shorted the cable.

He also said that the donee vehicle, his wife’s vehicle that wouldn’t start, is now displaying Christmas tree lights on the dash. He does not have a DMM nor a code reader. He was looking for help, but I’m 3 hrs away and I’m assuming that my checks will reveal that a repair that I’m unable to do is possible, meaning I’d be wasting my time driving up just for that.

I couldn’t even determine from my wife asking him why he even decided to jump it to begin with, ie, what were the symptoms? I had to ask, because I’ve personally been asked for a jump by people who‘s starter cranked normally, ie, not likely a battery issue.

The latest is that it was just smoking, not actually on fire.

The fact that the bad vehicle’s dash lights are on after this is a good sign, I guess.

He doesn’t know how to email, but basic sketches of how to jump a vehicle are easy to find online. I had my wife send him one I liked via text. I’m now trying to determine:

1. How he hooked up his jumpers and the sequence of events (more clearly)
2. What kind of jumper cables he has and what they look like now
3. Where the smoke was coming from
4. Whether there is any risk of fire and further damage to the vehicle or home (car is in garage).

I want to have him remove the battery from his wife’s vehicle and just remove all potential energy, but is that too extreme?

I apologize for the hectic nature of the thread. I’m just kind of blown away by the fact that it is likely user error, based on trying to jump a vehicle and not really knowing what he was doing. Again, he is a smart man, but there are some serious gaps in his knowledge based on past interactions.

I‘m only posting this to figure out whether anything else should be done or if I should risk driving up 3+ hrs just to check on this. He has no one else near him he knows or trusts.
 
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Sorry for the worthless post. My wife is exasperated and I‘m at a loss. Her dad’s wife is not happy and wants AAA to come and jump it tomorrow. He is now hands-off and refuses to discuss anything any longer. He’s letting her deal with AAA.
 
Not helpful regarding the immediate concerns, but it sounds like a lithium booster pack with reverse-polarity protection (and maybe the override button disabled) would be a good idea for the next gift-giving occasion.

I plan to do just that. It’s better than nothing and infinitely better than causing a fire. The issue is that it wouldn’t solve why it needed to be jumped in the first place. He very well may be able to get his wife on her way, but then she could be stuck the next time she tries to start it. While many of us can quickly diagnose a bad battery or alternator, they can’t. I don’t begrudge him for that.

My whole issue with this whole situation is that they’re not taking it seriously enough.

I have a NOCO booster in my wife’s car for just this reason. We have roadside assistance, but my wife knows how to jump a car (or at least look it up instead of guessing!) and how much I change a tire, worst case scenario.

//

What’s also wild is that her dad will take advice on many things, placing great faith in my other BIL’s and my choices and opinions, but he can be very weird about other things like this. He has even asked us to help him choose /research things we have no experience with and then, when I personally say that I need more time to compare and price shop, he sometimes jumps on and purchases impulsively. He did this recently with an expensive massage chair and again with an expensive safe. We offered to help out for months, then we were enlisted to help on our last visit and he spent thousands based on the 2 hrs of research we did!

When I offer to buy things for him that he actually needs, he then says he’ll take care of it - he doesn’t. There really isn’t much rhyme or reason to it and I now know better than to just give him things. Case in point: he liked to use an electric grill, pot and such. He had mentioned wanting to buy a better extension cord so I bought a 12/3 cord that would suit all of his various needs. He said no thanks. Fast forward a few months. He wanted to do hot pot and gathered a ton of ingredients for a feast. When we got there he informed us that he had just tossed his only extension cord, because it wasn’t good. He also failed to tell us that his electric pot was pretty much worthless. All of us in the family own at least one butane/propane stove…

Again, he’s hard working and very smart in the things he knows. He’s also very kind and incredibly generous. Some things, like what I’m posting, might seem very frustrating, but he’s really too awesome not to love.
 
A lot of the cheap cables from dollar stores and such have very small wire but large insulation to look larger than they are .They might be ok if you left them on to charge a run down battery but if you turned the key they can't take it.

Good point. It gas been a while, but back in the day I guess even the janky, partially damaged, probably-shouldn’t-have-been-used cables were better than the cheap crap sold everywhere these days. With that said, the Amazon basic cables I got before my booster packs SEEM pretty dang beefy, so…
 
This is why I have a GOLOO lithium jump pack in both vehicles. I stopped for a drink at Sheetz about a year ago and someone with some janky looking jumper cables asked for a jump. I gave some half arse excuse and declined, but I knew karma would bite me in the butt so I ordered those jump packs. I've used to to jump a couple different peoples cars at work, completely safe.

Might be a good after Christmas present...
 
This is why I have a GOLOO lithium jump pack in both vehicles. I stopped for a drink at Sheetz about a year ago and someone with some janky looking jumper cables asked for a jump. I gave some half arse excuse and declined, but I knew karma would bite me in the butt so I ordered those jump packs. I've used to to jump a couple different peoples cars at work, completely safe.

Might be a good after Christmas present...

I once had some bossy guy take charge of a jump (I was young at the time) and after he hooked up to the donor end he verified a good connection by repeatedly knocking the other end together, with the associated spark show. I don’t let any civvy touch anything on my car. If I don’t feel comfortable doing something it doesn’t happen. There are simply too many people who seem 100% capable but have no idea what they’re doing.
 
He hooked the cables up backwards, and with the dash “Christmas tree” lights on, it’s probably a certainty that he smoked a LOT of the cars electronics. Get it towed to a shop and have them check it out. Might need a new alternator, ECU, and probably more. Thousands of dollars in damage.
 
He hooked the cables up backwards, and with the dash “Christmas tree” lights on, it’s probably a certainty that he smoked a LOT of the cars electronics. Get it towed to a shop and have them check it out. Might need a new alternator, ECU, and probably more. Thousands of dollars in damage.

I think his wife gave him a hard time and he is embarrassed. Nothing but radio silence now.
 
There has been so many videos floating around lately of people hooking up jumper cables backwards. I know its common sense to those of us in the automotive community but its certainly not to the general public.
 
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