Fire under the hood of my TJ caused by winch - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
CTJeepWJ
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Fire under the hood of my TJ caused by winch

Sounds pretty unbelievable right? Well, thats what I thought yesterday when I had a pretty big scare. This is a long story but I will do my best to try to keep it brief and include all the important details.

I recently had my winch serviced and I reinstalled it yesterday. I pulled out some cable and was getting ready to re-spool it when I hit the switch and it stuck on, at full speed. (BTW, it is an older Warn 9000i and just had the brush assembly replaced, it was bench tested at the shop and twice by me before I reinstalled it on my front bumper).

I threw it neutral (free spool) in order to disengage the drum from spinning and sucking the cable all the way in and raced for my ratchet to undo the battery terminal. It ran at full speed, with no resistance (load) for about 30 -45 seconds while I ran and undid the terminal. No sooner did I get the terminal unhooked, I had a fire coming from in and around the area of the brake fluid reservoir.

After two full fire extinguishers from my house (the one in my jeep didn't work when I went to use it after the first one was empty), I was able to put the fire out and disconnected the battery entirely.

I know what you are thinking, how the F could that possibly happen. Well, the best explanation my mechanic and I could come up with was that somehow, somewhere, there was a short (possibly in the winch).

He thinks that the winch sent a surge through the vehicle via its ground and heated up the brake fluid to a tremendous point where it melted/burned at the weakest point, a steel braided rubber hose under the brake fluid reservoir. Nice, huh?

My mechanic suggested that I disconnect all accessories, winch, fox and aux lights etc, hook up the terminal again and try to start it. if it starts, then try to reassess anything else that might not be working, alternator, computer, etc. Since it has no brakes, I obviously can't drive it. I guess i have a project on my hands the next couple of days.

I know it sounds like a ridiculous story but this is the most possible thing everyone I have talked to could come up with. Anyone have experience with an electrical fire in their jeep, small or large and what caused it? Also, if I did have an electrical short of this magnitude, what other things should I look for?

BTW other details, 02, TJ, 4.0L, 5spd. Warn winch bolted to a Trail Ready front bumper.

I am up for any questions, comments, suggestions you guys have. Thanks for reading..sorry it was a novel.

-Ed


-Ed

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post #2 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 11:09 AM
Jerry Bransford
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Wow. What is your winch's black cable connected to? The chassis or directly to the battery's negative post? What it is connected to wouldn't affect how something inside the winch shorted but it would affect smoking other connections on the Jeep.

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post #3 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 11:17 AM Thread Starter
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Hi Jerry, the negative cable was hooked to the negative terminal on the battery and the positive cable to the positive terminal. Is it possible I have a bad chassis battery ground? I haven't had any other problems in the past and the winch worked before the bearing in housing seized. Nothing about this situation makes sense to me and I feel at a loss. I am probably going to be tossing this winch out, I just can't risk anything like this happening again. I just hope the Jeep isnt fried...
-Ed
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post #4 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 12:19 PM
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Same thing happened to my buddy's FJ the night he brought it home from getting a winch installed. Nice FJ too, had coilovers and some other stuff.

Here's a picture of the carnage...the fire spread big time. Total loss.



Never figured out what happened. Insurance definitely came in handy for him though. And I will not disclose the shop that installed the winch for him.

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post #5 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 12:35 PM
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Just a guess, but sounds like for what ever reason, the winch housing used a chassis ground rather than the cable ground to the batt.

I could believe there may have been some grounded wire next to the brake line that got hot and melted the line, but the fluid itself sounds unlikely.

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post #6 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 12:38 PM
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Not winch related but fire related Jeep Fire Prevention - Jp Magazine


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post #7 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 12:47 PM
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had something similar happen to me with my winch, minus the fire ... while re-spooling cable after washing the jeep from a offroad trip, the solenoid in the winch locked up and the winch would not stop from spooling the cable in, i did manage to throw it in neutral and cut the positive cable before this caused more problems than it did on yours. the problem with mine was mud and water under the plastic cover of the winch, to correct the issue i ended up replacing the entire controller box (free from smittybuilt) and to avoid having a problem with this in the future i moved the box to the inside of the jeep. no problems since then for me. I hope you recover your jeep without spending a fortune.

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post #8 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 02:03 PM
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Wow, i'm definitely going to install a disconnect infront of my grill when I do a winch now.


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post #9 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyryder View Post
Just a guess, but sounds like for what ever reason, the winch housing used a chassis ground rather than the cable ground to the batt.

I could believe there may have been some grounded wire next to the brake line that got hot and melted the line, but the fluid itself sounds unlikely.
I agree.

I'm not buying that the brake fluid itself got hot enough to set that line on fire from the inside out.
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post #10 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 05:39 PM
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That's why I have battery post quick disconnects...

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post #11 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 05:53 PM
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FWIW I had a friend with trailer wiring under the hood open on ground, the system then used the brake line as a conductor to the remaining chassis ground which caused a hole in the brake line and it caught fire. All the brake lines around the master cylinder where completely shot when it was over. He tore the truck down in order to solve the mystery. It was hard to believe until I saw it.

Did you disconnect the negative terminal first? If so, the winch proabably continued with chassis ground burning out something in the vicinity of the brake lines. Remember the brake lines will conduct. Also, if you let the negative lead of the winch fall and it makes contact with the chassis, your problems resume until the battery and alternator arent in the circuit.

I labored over having an electric winch on my jeep for this vary reason, also it stands a good chance of shorting and catching fire in a front collision. That is why I have a quick disconnect.
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post #12 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 06:07 PM
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Happened to me too. Mine shorted out when out in the field. Took it home, fired up the grill, popped some steaks on there while drinking a beer and for some reason decided to pop the hood. Found a lovely fire above the brake booster. Warn replaced the winch and any and all destroyed parts.

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post #13 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 06:09 PM
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I have a similar thing happen to me
The winch had a bad ground and used the hard brake line has a return path.
The hard line being thin tubing got red hot and the brake fluid was doing its best to cool the tubing down, but the inner fender shield was resting against the brake line and it caught fire.
Luckily I had a fire extinguisher handy and put it out before it caused any real damage

Last edited by kokomo22; 02-02-2010 at 06:58 AM.
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post #14 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 06:40 PM
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Related question, I recently got a used warn xd9000i. It was not mounted to a vehicle when I tested it. I hooked the positive to the positive on my battery and the negative to the negative on my battery and the winch would not run. It only ran when I used some jumper cables to ground the winch housing to the vehicle. Is this a sign of a short in the grounding of the winch motor or normal?

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post #15 of 88 Old 02-01-2010, 06:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Divinitous View Post
Wow, i'm definitely going to install a disconnect infront of my grill when I do a winch now.

Where is a good place to buy these??

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