My Powerbook AC adapter blew up in my hand…

Fried_Brick-Thumbnail-DWC150.jpgMy Powerbook G4 AC adapter blew up in my hand today. We’re not just talking poof, here. We’re talking about sparks flying, fuse blowing, toasted flesh smelling, heart attack inducing, nerve numbing goodness! I’m just glad that the arc grounded out through a piece of furniture and not me. Luckily, my hand was just collateral damage and was not subject to the brunt of the attack.

On our drive back from Florida, we stopped off at a motel in Maryland since I was too much of a wimp to drive the full 22 hours in one leg. Plus I was on a working vacation, so the Powerbook was put through its paces, then got plugged in to charge overnight. When I unplugged it the following morning, the AC adapter blew up in my hand.

I sustained extremely minor burns, and the pain went away after a couple hours of driving. By the time the black char rubbed off my hand the redness had completely disappeared. Although I wasn’t seriously injured by the incident, someone else may not have been so fortunate. Since I’m not a sue-happy stereotypical American, no harm no foul. But I do expect a new adapter, and will be stopping by the Apple store tomorrow morning.

Now, I can understand hardware failure, but this is the third Powerbook G4 AC adapter that’s melted down on me! My wife has had one adapter melt down on her and her current adapter is about to. I’m no expert on statistics, but I’d be fairly confident in placing a bet on the fact that the above illustrates a trend.

My first adapter caught fire while sitting on my desk at work; the wire had worn through where it enters the case, shorted out, and started flaming up before it tripped the circuit breaker under my desk. My second spare adapter suffered a similar fate, except it shorted out on the side where the wire enters the plug. My wife’s first adapter shorted out on the plug side, and her new replacement adapter has just worn through the plug and I was just about to call Applecare for a replacement.

So, who else has this happened to? Please, speak up, leave a comment. I’m not sure where I’ll go with this, but it would be interesting to find out whether Apple has stricken me with bad karma or if this is a common occurrence.

Update (03/06/2004 07:45 PM): The Apple Store in the Mall at Rockingham Park replaced the blown adapter under warranty and stated that it would have been replaced as a hazard even if my warranty had been expired. My wife’s adapter with the friction-damaged wire was not covered because it hadn’t actually failed yet. So, Apple won’t issue a preventative replacement for her AC adapter, but they’ll replace it once it shorts out and catches fire. Go figure.

Update (03/10/2004 03:48 PM): I just noticed that the new 65W adapter that I was given has some design changes that improve on the old design. First, the cord that goes from the brick to the Powerbook is much thicker. Second, there’s more reinforcement rubber molding around the plug that plugs into the back of the Powerbook. Third, and most important, there is now a rubber grommet protecting the cord where it enters the brick. This is where one of my previous adapters shorted out and caught fire!

Update (03/12/2004 01:19 AM): Kelly’s Powerbook adapter bit the bullet this evening. She noticed that it was getting extremely warm and called me over to check it out. The the stress relief grommet on the plug had torn through, the wire had a short, and there was a dark layer of char starting to form. The brick itself was so hot it was painful to touch; basically, the same temperature as my first adapter that caught fire on my desk at work. So, instead of the Apple Store replacing it as preventative maintenance a few days ago, we now get to call Apple and open a fire hazard claim.

Update (03/15/2004 03:42 PM): I just got off the phone with AppleCare Customer Relations, and they’ll be cross shipping a new AC adapter for Kelly’s Powerbook G4 DVI. Since her system was out of warranty, they said that this is a one time deal. Whatever. I don’t care how out of warranty a system is; if it’s a fire hazard, I expect a replacement. Interestingly, I’ve also found some other people who have had adapter failures.