Charging cords overheating

Pea-n-Me

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 18, 2004
A year or two ago I was in bed using my iPad when the charging cord actually poofed and caught on fire! Fortunately it was in my hand and I promptly unplugged it and threw it away.

Yesterday a cord was plugged into my iPhone but it wasn't charging so I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Right away it got incredibly hot all along the cord, to the point it was painful to touch. Thankfully I was there and it wasn't laying across fabric or something, as I'm sure there could've been a fire.

I've asked everyone at home to be careful with chargers and not lie them across bedclothes or throw clothes on top of them as there could be issues. We've all seen them in the news. I bought hooks to hang them on so they're not touching anything, though there could still be problems if they ignite.

Like most people I pick up chargers here and there. I like the 10ft ones in the bedroom and around the house for my iPad as it's getting older and doesn't hold a charge as well as it used to. I'm sure others must do this as well. I try to buy the MFi certified ones, but from now on I'm going to be absolutely certain of it. Fortunately they're easier to find now than they used to be (I buy a bunch at a time on Amazon) but I wonder if those can have issues, too, just by nature of the equipment.

Has anyone here had similar problems or concerns?

Here is some more information from Apple Support.

 

sam_gordon

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 26, 2010
A year or two ago I was in bed using my iPad when the charging cord actually poofed and caught on fire! Fortunately it was in my hand and I promptly unplugged it and threw it away.

Yesterday a cord was plugged into my iPhone but it wasn't charging so I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Right away it got incredibly hot all along the cord, to the point it was painful to touch. Thankfully I was there and it wasn't laying across fabric or something, as I'm sure there could've been a fire.

I've asked everyone at home to be careful with chargers and not lie them across bedclothes or throw clothes on top of them as there could be issues. We've all seen them in the news. I bought hooks to hang them on so they're not touching anything, though there could still be problems if they ignite.

Like most people I pick up chargers here and there. I like the 10ft ones in the bedroom and around the house for my iPad as it's getting older and doesn't hold a charge as well as it used to. I'm sure others must do this as well. I try to buy the MFi certified ones, but from now on I'm going to be absolutely certain of it. Fortunately they're easier to find now than they used to be (I buy a bunch at a time on Amazon) but I wonder if those can have issues, too, just by nature of the equipment.

Has anyone here had similar problems or concerns?

Here is some more information from Apple Support.

You seem to have a lot of problems with things catching fire.
We had a close call once with a near-dryer fire. Dumb thing, we'd left the dryer on when we went out. (We never do this anymore, nor the dishwasher with the heating element.) Fortunately Mom was home next door and smelled something burning. She followed the smell to the dryer and didn't see anything, but shut it off. When we came home we found that the lint inside the dryer vent had caught fire, it was all charred. By some miracle she found it and it stopped when she shut the dryer off.
The cords will overheat if you draw too much voltage through them. The amount of voltage the cord will handle will vary based on the size (gauge) of the wires inside. The age of the cord generally won't make a difference unless you've regularly been putting too much voltage through it for a while.
 
  • Hikergirl

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2016
    Stinks, but given that it's Apple, not surprising
    Is it happening to Apple cords, or the cheap third party ones?
    Can't really blame Apple if it's the latter.

    Also one thing to be careful of is letting the charging end not touch anything metal when it is plugged in.
    I almost had a fire in my car because I had the cord plugged in and sitting in a cup holder that had coins in it. The end started to smoke and burn.
     

    Pea-n-Me

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 18, 2004
    You seem to have a lot of problems with things catching fire.
    Yes, and we had an actual fire when we got hit by lightning, so I'm sensitive to it. I would not want to go through that again. Many people leave their dryers and dishwashers on when they leave the house, not realizing there could be a problem.

    The cords will overheat if you draw too much voltage through them. The amount of voltage the cord will handle will vary based on the size (gauge) of the wires inside. The age of the cord generally won't make a difference unless you've regularly been putting too much voltage through it for a while.
    Not sure what this means. The other night one minute it was charging the phone, and the next it was too hot to handle. Are you saying there was too much voltage going through the wire in charging the phone?
     
  • bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    You seem to have a lot of problems with things catching fire.

    The cords will overheat if you draw too much voltage through them. The amount of voltage the cord will handle will vary based on the size (gauge) of the wires inside. The age of the cord generally won't make a difference unless you've regularly been putting too much voltage through it for a while.
    A good quality power adapter shouldn’t put out more than the rated voltage past a certain tolerance. It might spike, but even that wouldn’t be continuous overvoltage.

    The biggest issue is when they're repeatedly flexed and there’s internal damage. Not necessarily when they’re wound, but when they get bent hard or are flexed excessively. Even MFi cables. The device is supposed to be the first line of defense. Typically there’s a message saying “This accessory may not be supported”. If the device doesn’t stop the current then that’s when the cable can overheat.

     

    sam_gordon

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 26, 2010
    If the gauge of the wire in the cord is too small for the voltage you're putting through it, it will overheat.

    The original cord design may have been with too small of a gauge, or, more likely, the cord was damaged. That damage could be from too many hard bends or kinks.

    The wires will all be braided (many small wires twisted together to make a thicker wire). If those small wires start to break, then the thickness of the everything goes down.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    If the gauge of the wire in the cord is too small for the voltage you're putting through it, it will overheat.

    The original cord design may have been with too small of a gauge, or, more likely, the cord was damaged. That damage could be from too many hard bends or kinks.

    The wires will all be braided (many small wires twisted together to make a thicker wire). If those small wires start to break, then the thickness of the everything goes down.
    They're not braided per se, but stranded. The ground wire is really surrounding the supply power and data lines. Here's a cutaway of one company's design:



    I've had a few fail before. And I could often see it failing before it finally gave up. Sometimes the grounding braid would start to pop out of the strain relief. I've seen a few where the jacket broke open. Quite often the strain relief separates from the jacket and you can see the exposed insulators and the ground connection is gone.

    More than likely when there's damage it's because the internal insulator breaks and there's a short between the supply and ground. Pretty much any Apple device should give up then, but a poorly designed power adapter might not shut down like it should.
     

    mousefan73

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 9, 2012
    A good quality power adapter shouldn’t put out more than the rated voltage past a certain tolerance. It might spike, but even that wouldn’t be continuous overvoltage.

    The biggest issue is when they're repeatedly flexed and there’s internal damage. Not necessarily when they’re wound, but when they get bent hard or are flexed excessively. Even MFi cables. The device is supposed to be the first line of defense. Typically there’s a message saying “This accessory may not be supported”. If the device doesn’t stop the current then that’s when the cable can overheat.

    ´ß
    Hey, question, I get this occasionally when I use a new charger I just bought It's a USB with 3 different phone attachements. Got it a the airport. was really cheap too. ( no wonder).. so should I toss this?
     
  • mousefan73

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 9, 2012
    I never leave any appliance running while sleeping. We dont charge our phones either. Only thing I charge is my iwatch at times. I did for the first time leave a crockpot on overnight, surprised I slept.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Hey, question, I get this occasionally when I use a new charger I just bought It's a USB with 3 different phone attachements. Got it a the airport. was really cheap too. ( no wonder).. so should I toss this?
    Depends. I got a few for free from my power company at a “resource center” during a planned power outage. One seemed kind of sketchy, as the card stapled to it said it wasn’t approved by Apple. That one was split with 3 ends. A couple were the Naztech brand and had the Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod logo. It had a micro-B connector attached to the cable and two captive Lightning/USB-C adapters.




    If it’s high enough quality it should be fine. The weak spot is with Lightning. 3rd party without access to Apple’s proprietary chips can fail. Sometimes the Apple device just puts out that “may not be supported” message although I’ve had a few do some crazy things to my computer.
     

    Klayfish

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 19, 2016
    Is it happening to Apple cords, or the cheap third party ones?
    Can't really blame Apple if it's the latter.

    Also one thing to be careful of is letting the charging end not touch anything metal when it is plugged in.
    I almost had a fire in my car because I had the cord plugged in and sitting in a cup holder that had coins in it. The end started to smoke and burn.
    Yes. Sorry, just a bad attempt at dead pan humor. Sorta. I'm not a fan of theirs to say the least.
     

    Pea-n-Me

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 18, 2004
    Thanks, Sam and bcla, for helping me understand this.

    it was scary to me that one minute it was plugged into my phone and fine, but the next it was super hot. And as I said, I had one that actually poofed into a flame in my hand before
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Thanks, Sam and bcla, for helping me understand this.

    it was scary to me that one minute it was plugged into my phone and fine, but the next it was super hot. And as I said, I had one that actually poofed into a flame in my hand before
    The only reason why it would have gone poof is that the power and ground are shorted. Most power adapters should shut off to prevent it, but not all will do that.
     

    willowsnn3

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 1, 2009
    I don't have Apple products but have noticed overheated/hot to touch cords & the part that goes into the wall also. Usually with the cheaper cords. My grandkids sometimes (ok always) seem to be charging something when they are at my house & occasionally forget to unplug the charging part when they leave so I always make sure to unplug it. A facebook friend, a few years ago, had her iphone charging while she was in bed & it was laying across the pillow next to her. It sparked & caught on fire, luckily she woke up but couldn't put the fire out quickly & it did quite a bit of damage. She did say the cord was very old & kinked so that was the reason for the fire.
     

    seashoreCM

    All around nice guy.
    Joined
    Aug 25, 2001
    If the cord gets hot all along its length then too much current is being drawn. This is most likely due to a defect in the iPhone or other device the cord is connected to. Or it could be the wrong kind of charger.

    If only the plug gets hot then either there is a loose connection inside where the cord goes in or the plug prongs are too loose fitting into the receptacle. Loose connections can get hot even when there is not enough current drawn to blow a built in fuse in the device or trip a circuit breaker.
     
    Last edited:

    wenrob

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 14, 2008
    I use charging blocks (iClever) with “Smart ID” and make sure all our cords are MFi Certified (RND.) Never had a problem. My DH and I have been using the same cords for years. Kids, I probably replace yearly or sooner if I see any fraying or extreme bending happening.

    Several years ago I bought older DD a combo charging block/portable charger from Photo JoJo. It was really cool until the metal part of the cable hit a big, metal industrial table and blew up. Scared the crap out of her. Never bought one again. (And she never tried charging her phone near industrial tables again)
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    The cords will overheat if you draw too much voltage through them. The amount of voltage the cord will handle will vary based on the size (gauge) of the wires inside. The age of the cord generally won't make a difference unless you've regularly been putting too much voltage through it for a while.
    I started thinking about it some more, and frankly the voltage that a Lightning cable is likely to encounter (even with a malfunction) will not cause a cable to overheat. Voltage in and of itself doesn't create heat. It's power that creates heat. Overvoltage has been known to damage the power circuits in devices though, but that would require that the power adapter/source be putting out excessive voltage and that the protection circuits (that are suppose to clamp the voltage) at the end of the cable aren't working or if it's not an Apple certified cable (which is supposed to have that).

    The most likely reason why it would overheat is a partial to complete short between power and ground. It's pretty simple.

    Voltage = Current x Resistance
    Power = Current x Voltage

    For a steady voltage source, if the resistance goes down to near zero (i.e. a short) the current shoots way up and the power goes way up. However, there's also resistance in the power adapter, which should be the limiting factor.
     



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