iPhone Battery Explosion

January 17

I might have almost burned down my house, but it wasn't totally my fault! I have an old iPhone 5s that I was using as an MP3 player since my iPod classic's screen cracked recently. The battery life wasn't that great so I figured why not try replacing the battery, they're relatively cheap on Amazon. The kit I purchased came with all the required tools. The only tool I didn't already have was for the tiny little 5-pointed pentalobe screws holding the screen in.

I got the phone open fairly easily and then seemed to hit a wall trying to get the battery out. The battery is stuck into the case using some kind of super human double-sided tape. It was really tough stuff and took a lot of effort to get it to let go. I had to use Rachelle's hair dryer to heat it up and break a couple plastic prying tools and it finally started coming out. While prying the battery out it started to bend slightly and unbeknownst to me, this was my undoing. I got the battery out and set it on my dining room table while I continued installing the new battery and reassembling everything. Five minutes later, I was almost done when I heard a loud pop like someone jumping on a zip-lock bag full of air. I looked over next to me and saw the old battery glowing like a charcoal briquet and shooting flames! My first thought was "crap, Rachelle is gonna kill me if I burn the table." So I picked it up off the table and I threw it on the floor. My second thought was "crap, it's gonna set the house on fire." I ran to get a drinking glass and used it to pick up the burning battery and tossed it outside into the snow. Black spot on the table, black spot on the floor, and smoke all over the place.

I know damaging lithium ion batteries can be dangerous and now I've witnessed this first hand. By bending the battery slightly while prying it out of the case, I damaged it internally enough to short it out and effectively light a fuse. I'm just glad I was still sitting there next to it when it blew. Had I gone upstairs to put the kids to bed, the outcome could've been disastrous. Imagine if it had exploded while it was still in my hands being pried out of the phone case? I did look back in the documentation that came with the battery and it doesn't mention using caution when removing the battery at all.

This is the aftermath...