Macbook Pro battery bulging

  • Posted: 18 July 2012 10:09 PM

    I took my late 2007 17” macbook pro off its stand last night to watch some hulu before going to bed.  When i picked it up, i noticed something sharp sticking down.  At first i thought my battery had become unlatched, but in fact one of the cells was bulging so much that it split the back of the battery cover open.  Granted my battery is old, but i only have 278 charge cycles on my battery and it still reports capacity of 4980mAh.  I can still last a couple of hours on battery or stream a movie without the cord plugged in.  If the battery just wouldn’t hold a charge, i would expect that, but in a 48 hour period (showed no bulge Sunday night and by Tuesday night, the battery expanded, separated the cover by over a quarter of an inch and the cover is detached between 1/2 to 2/3 of the battery.  I immediately removed the battery and left it in the middle of the driveway.  By the way, the computer gave me no software based warnings about the battery.  I called apple today and they said there was no fire hazard because the battery had been removed (from what i read I believe that to be false).  I obviously need a new battery.  Anyone have any recommendations?  Should i get another apple battery or go with a Newer Tech battery? (price wise they are about the same).  Are there any hardware failures other than the battery that could cause this?  Other than getting red in the face, should i complain to apple?

         
  • Posted: 19 July 2012 12:18 PM #1

    FYI, I checked out OWC and the apple battery was only an extra $20 so I decided to order a new battery from apple.  I still will take my old battery to apple to local apple store when I get out that way.  Kind of interested in what they say.

         
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    Posted: 19 July 2012 05:35 PM #2

    There was a known issue with early 2007 MBP batteries swelling due to a design defect from the battery supplier. There was a recall issued, but it did not cover the late 2007 machines, nor the 17 inch model.

    That being said, it is a 5 year old battery. It sounds like the circuitry inside the battery may have failed and it may have overcharged. From my experience, as long as you don’t try to discharge the battery rapidly, nor continue to try to charge it, there should be no fire hazard (it is spectacular when they do go, btw, if it doesn’t just let out the “secret smoke” and actually decides to runaway).

    Apple will point to the age of the battery and say that it absolves them from replacement responsibility, IMHO.

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    Posted: 20 July 2012 11:47 AM #3

    On a 2007 I’d doubt talking to Apple would get you anywhere.
    The battery on my ‘08 MacBook died (wouldn’t hold a charge) and when I replaced it I found the same thing you did. the price difference for “Genuine Apple Parts” was minimal so I went with them as well.
    I’d primarily suspect a failure inside the battery. It might be something external but that’s much less likely.
    (soapbox)
    This is why Apple gluing the new MacBook Pro batteries in place is such an issue. MacBooks do last a long time. I just replaced my ‘08. It’s gone to my wife, likely for another 3-4 years. Batteries are consumable. They do fail more than other components. They should be easily replaceable.
    —pant—pant—
    (/soapbox)

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  • Posted: 20 July 2012 12:36 PM #4

    This is an old article. I don’t know if it will help or whether Apple is still interested.

    The Case of the Swollen MBP Battery

         
  • Posted: 20 July 2012 01:24 PM #5

    While at the Genius Bar a couple months ago, a man brought in his (older) macbook complaining that the touchpad was not working very well.  Examination by the genius led him to remove the battery that sat beneath the trackpad.  The battery had bulged and was not allowing the trackpad to work. The man was polite, but when faced with the cost of a replacement battery, asked if it wasn’t a problem with the battery that it would swell up like that.

    The Genius responded that not only was the swelling normal, it was actually a safety feature and prevented the battery from cracking and leaking. A leaking battery would likely cause serious damage to the computer.

    I do not know if it is true or not, but the man bought a new battery.

         
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    Posted: 20 July 2012 01:34 PM #6

    Has anyone had this happen with a unibody MBP? I’m wondering what physical signs you would start to see.

    My mom just had this happen on her Penryn MacBook a few days ago. It was also not allowing the trackpad to work. I removed the battery and didn’t show her how to reinsert it (because she would, if she could figure it out),  and I’m getting a replacement battery for her.

         
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    Posted: 20 July 2012 04:55 PM #7

    Rhino - 20 July 2012 04:24 PM

    The Genius responded that not only was the swelling normal…

    Wow. That genius should not be talking about battery swelling being “normal”. It most certainly is not “normal” to swell enough to deform a case or apply enough pressure to cause the trackpad to fail.

    LiPO batteries do swell (a little) during normal use, but swelling enough to cause deformation is usually from overcharging, overly rapid discharging (or short), being fully discharged for an extended period of time, or heat. Overcharging of a cell can happen when the balancing circuit in the battery has failed.

    Apple actually applied for a patent for a pressure relief system for LiPO batteries to vent the gas buildup that causes swelling in the event of a failed battery, thus preventing a potential fire hazard.

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  • Posted: 20 July 2012 07:53 PM #8

    Intruder - 20 July 2012 07:55 PM

    Wow. That genius should not be talking about battery swelling being “normal”. It most certainly is not “normal” to swell enough to deform a case or apply enough pressure to cause the trackpad to fail.

    Maybe not so much “normal” as “expected behavior.” No, they shouldn’t do this, but when they do it’s far better to bulge than pop.
    Bulge = trackpad can’t click, case might deform in extreme circumstances.
    Pop = really caustic stuff in the open, and a fire in extreme cases.
    I’ll take batteries that bulge when they fail, thanks.

    Aftermac - 20 July 2012 04:34 PM

    Has anyone had this happen with a unibody MBP? I’m wondering what physical signs you would start to see.

    I’ve seen one first-gen unibody battery do this, out of hundreds of units. That battery had already failed and been replaced. It bulged while sitting on the shelf. So it’s rare, but it can happen. No idea what would show if it was still inside a MBP.

         
  • Posted: 20 July 2012 08:19 PM #9

    I had the same swelling battery problem with my 17” MBP (late ‘06). It got so bad that the trackpad became erratic and a couple of my keys on the keyboard started to quit responding. I finally discovered what was happening when I took it off the slanted stand I normally kept it on and placed on my desktop. It had swollen so badly that the whole laptop would rock and roll due to the bulge. I took it to my local Apple Store (Tampa, FL) and they replaced the battery without my even asking them to do so. My Applecare had expired a year or two before this event.

         
  • Posted: 22 July 2012 03:45 AM #10

    New Saturday update.  I had the battery sitting out of the machine at my desk at work.  I was going to take it to the apple Store in Natick MA for recycling when i go out that way (I’m in western ma so its about an hour away).  Well i’m glad i happened to pop into the office on my day off.  When i sat down on my desk i thought something was under the battery because it was sitting crooked. The battery packed grew in size last night.  Some time friday night it blew the back cover off the battery which did alleviate some pressure off the front of the batter.  The back cover is separated by over a half an inch.  I can see inside the battery and all the cells are flat except for one which is swollen like a balloon.  I immediately took the battery outside and its resting on a concrete pad in the parking lot away form anything flammable. THe attached picture is what it did overnight.  And i didn’t pull back or pry on the cover.  It literally swelled that much overnight.

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    Posted: 22 July 2012 10:41 AM #11

    I suspect there is a short in one cell.

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  • Posted: 25 July 2012 12:53 AM #12

    it continued to grow over the weekend.  Left it outside on a concrete pad to be safe.  Called the apple store about bringing it in Monday morning.  By this time the back battery cover had completely blown off and actually fell off when I picked it up.  Of the three cells visible from the back, two were perfectly flat with the last one looking like a frozen burrito.  It had even pulled the glue off the bottom as it transformed into is new spherical shape.  The person at first told me they don’t take back old batteries.  I made her confirm that with one of her coworkers.  She came back and said i could bringing it in.  Got to the Apple store at about 7:15, was told that i could leave it there to be recycled, but if i wanted to talk to someone about the battery i would need to come back another day.  (I was told i could hang around till the store closed and wait to see if they could see me, but she didn’t think they could) I left the battery there and I am waiting on my new apple battery from B&H Photo to arrive.

         
  • Posted: 01 October 2012 01:03 AM #13

    Intruder - 20 July 2012 04:55 PM
    Rhino - 20 July 2012 04:24 PM

    The Genius responded that not only was the swelling normal…

    Wow. That genius should not be talking about battery swelling being “normal”. It most certainly is not “normal” to swell enough to deform a case or apply enough pressure to cause the trackpad to fail.

    LiPO batteries do swell (a little) during normal use, but swelling enough to cause deformation is usually from overcharging, overly rapid discharging (or short), being fully discharged for an extended period of time, or heat. Overcharging of a cell can happen when the balancing circuit in the battery has failed.

    Apple actually applied for a patent for a pressure relief system for LiPO batteries to vent the gas buildup that causes swelling in the event of a failed battery, thus preventing a potential fire hazard.

    I was just told the same BS when I took my MBP in today for it’s 2nd swollen battery. I was informed that the “battery swells to let you know it is time to replace it.” Design feature, my ass!! I told the “genius” not to insult my intelligence with such nonsense and give me a replacement battery that is not defective. After working my way up the chain of command, they finally gave me one—free—as they should. So don’t give in by accepting such absurd explanations. Stand your ground!!
    (BTW, everyone I spoke with at the store today, from bottom to top, towed the party line with the same “feature” story.)