MacBook Pro images demonstrates reason for battery recall

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware
Photos have been shared of a designer's Mid-2015 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro that has suffered a catastrophic battery failure, images that illustrate why Apple recently instigated a recall program for some units of that particular model.

The hole in the base of the 15-inch MacBook Pro following a battery failure (via Steve Gagne/Facebook)
The hole in the base of the 15-inch MacBook Pro following a battery failure (via Steve Gagne/Facebook)


On June 20, Apple launched a voluntary recall of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, specifically those sold between September 2015 and February 2017, over concerns the battery posed a safety risk. Under the recall, which provides a replacement battery for affected Mac notebooks, Apple explained the battery "may overheat and pose a fire safety risk" in some cases, something that has been illustrated by one unlucky owner.

Designer Steven Gagne of Pensacola, Florida, encountered a failure of his MacBook Pro's battery on June 17 while in bed, according to a Facebook post spotted by PetaPixel. The battery "blew and a small fire filled my house with smoke," wrote Gagne, noting the sound of the event and the strong chemical and burning smell.

One concern was that the MacBook Pro wasn't actively being used by Gagne at the time of the incident. He claims it was sitting "screen closed, unplugged, and in Sleep Mode" on a coffee table. Gagne was lucky in that normally the MacBook Pro was kept in a basket filled with notebooks and journals, or on the couch, with either location potentially causing far more damage than what transpired.

The scorched trackpad of the 15-inch MacBook Pro (via Steve Gagne/Facebook)
The scorched trackpad of the 15-inch MacBook Pro (via Steve Gagne/Facebook)


The images shared by Gagne shows a round hole on the base of the MacBook Pro, where the battery burned through, complete with a matching hole on the coffee tablet itself. Burn marks, soot, and other marks caused through the spilled chemicals are also visible, while notably there are also scorch marks around the front side of the trackpad.

Apple's recall site includes a serial number checker to see if a concerned user's MacBook Pro is eligible for a replacement battery. If it is one of the affected models, Apple advises to immediately stop using the notebook and to request a replacement battery, either via the Apple Store, an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or by mail via Apple Support.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,018member
    Missed out on marketing opportunity...

    4th of July smoking hot fire sale on 15-inch MacBook Pro.

    We promise not to explode your wallet, but if you get burned call 911.
    MisterKitjbdragonemig647Carnage
  • Reply 2 of 19
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,059member
    Has Apple detailed what 'some cases' refers to?

    Every single Mac laptop I've owned has had battery problems (swelling only up to this point) except the MacBook Air, fingers crossed.

    I wonder if heat is one of the cases as, for example, it can get very hot where I live and I don't have air conditioning.

    I also wonder if Apple is substituting these damaged machines with MBPs from a more recent generation or the same line with 'fixed' batteries.

    With a little luck Apple can proactively contact owners in most cases to notify them and rely less on other channels.
    willcropoint
  • Reply 3 of 19
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 530member
    Batteries are batteries. 

    It’s very mature tech, but like anything else, you are going to have some problems. 

    Apple, Samsung, Tesla, Microsoft, Google, etc. have all found this out the hard way. 

    Kinda scary though. You just never know. Checked my mbp yesterday and it’s clear, but wow. I’m taking a lot more care where I place my electronics when I’m not using them. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 19
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,358member
    Batteries are batteries. 
    There's more to this than that.

    Yeah, every manufacturer has had battery problems. But Apple is doing a voluntary recall of specific serial numbers. There is clearly some problem they discovered through their own research or information from their supplier.

    Batteries are batteries and are mature tech (pretty much) and almost always just die, eventually, sans conflagration. There isn't any intrinsic randomness that Li-Ion says 'Hey, how 'bout I go out in a flaming ball of glory. 

    Something went amiss. We may never know exactly what happened, or someone may tell. But it would be nice to know why Apple focused on a certain range, batch, or run of MacBooks.


      
  • Reply 5 of 19
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,018member
    avon b7 said:
    Has Apple detailed what 'some cases' refers to?

    Every single Mac laptop I've owned has had battery problems (swelling only up to this point) except the MacBook Air, fingers crossed.

    I wonder if heat is one of the cases as, for example, it can get very hot where I live and I don't have air conditioning.

    I also wonder if Apple is substituting these damaged machines with MBPs from a more recent generation or the same line with 'fixed' batteries.

    With a little luck Apple can proactively contact owners in most cases to notify them and rely less on other channels.
    This is a very strange post...

    I’ve been a tech/network admin/IT manager and I’ve never experienced this working with hundreds of Windows laptops (only a few Macs).  I’ve had many many bad battery’s but the failures are related to charging/cables/other/electrical shorts (prevent machine turning on) but I’ve never seen flames or burns on batteries (yes, burns elsewhere).

    Batteries should have similar failure rates (not that many manufacturers) between PC and Macs.  The only reason rates should differ is because of the laptop design.  These MacBooks must be experiencing excessive flexibility and not enough clearance around the batteries, resulting in damage to the batteries.

    That said, both MacBooks or PC laptops have extremely low failure rates. (These 15” included, just higher than normal)

    You know that, even though the MacBook Air (etc) can fit in an envelope it shouldn’t be transported in one...right?  
    mike54
  • Reply 6 of 19
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,059member
    avon b7 said:
    Has Apple detailed what 'some cases' refers to?

    Every single Mac laptop I've owned has had battery problems (swelling only up to this point) except the MacBook Air, fingers crossed.

    I wonder if heat is one of the cases as, for example, it can get very hot where I live and I don't have air conditioning.

    I also wonder if Apple is substituting these damaged machines with MBPs from a more recent generation or the same line with 'fixed' batteries.

    With a little luck Apple can proactively contact owners in most cases to notify them and rely less on other channels.
    This is a very strange post...

    I’ve been a tech/network admin/IT manager and I’ve never experienced this working with hundreds of Windows laptops (only a few Macs).  I’ve had many many bad battery’s but the failures are related to charging/cables/other/electrical shorts (prevent machine turning on) but I’ve never seen flames or burns on batteries (yes, burns elsewhere).

    Batteries should have similar failure rates (not that many manufacturers) between PC and Macs.  The only reason rates should differ is because of the laptop design.  These MacBooks must be experiencing excessive flexibility and not enough clearance around the batteries, resulting in damage to the batteries.

    That said, both MacBooks or PC laptops have extremely low failure rates. (These 15” included, just higher than normal)

    You know that, even though the MacBook Air (etc) can fit in an envelope it shouldn’t be transported in one...right?  
    None of mine (all mac laptops) have exploded, emitted fumes etc. With the exception of the Air (2011 I believe, and still going strong) they have all 'died' safely and by design. That is, the cell casing has expanded to contain the chemical issue. In those cases the problem isn't the battery but the damage the swelling can do to nearby components (the trackpad being a potential victim).

    As I mentioned though, I wonder if the sometimes very high ambient heat has played a part in the failures.

    I don't have any laptop affected by this recall.
    edited July 3 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 19
    SteveGagneSteveGagne Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    So, this was my computer. I need to correct an error in the article. I never said that the black spot on the bottom of the MacBook was a hole. It is NOT a hole. That is where the paint on my coffee table melted from the heat. The MacBook was stuck to the table when I tried to pick it up. I had been using the computer only a few hours before doing some design work for a client. When I was done, I simply closed the screen, which puts the computer into Sleep Mode. I then went to bed, only to find myself jumping out of bed at almost midnight to a loud sound and the smell of chemical smoke. It was a crazy experience.
    edited July 3 fastasleepFileMakerFellerbonobobmike54bigtdsmazda 3scolinngberndogmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 8 of 19
    maltzmaltz Posts: 144member
    Nice to have the source here in the comments!  Had you noticed any swelling before this happened?
    mike54SteveGagne
  • Reply 9 of 19
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,059member
    So, this was my computer. I need to correct an error in the article. I never said that the black spot on the bottom of the MacBook was a hole. It is NOT a hole. That is where the paint on my coffee table melted from the heat. The MacBook was stuck to the table when I tried to pick it up. I had been using the computer only a few hours before doing some design work for a client. When I was done, I simply closed the screen, which puts the computer into Sleep Mode. I then went to bed, only to find myself jumping out of bed at almost midnight to a loud sound and the smell of chemical smoke. It was a crazy experience.
    Thanks for posting and the clarification. I often use my 2011 MBP in the same way as you do. I sleep like a log so probably wouldn't have heard the noise although my dog might have raised the alert. I have a lot of lithium batteries all over the place. it's incidents like this that get me thinking about smoke alarms. I live near the sea so a bucket of sand wouldn't go amiss.

    What have Apple told you about a replacement or solution to the problem? I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that if the machine was part of the affected batch, Apple would cover the damage too. I understand if there is a limit to what you can say publicly and glad to see things didn't get out of control in spite of the scare.
  • Reply 10 of 19
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 362member
    avon b7 said:
    Has Apple detailed what 'some cases' refers to?

    Every single Mac laptop I've owned has had battery problems (swelling only up to this point) except the MacBook Air, fingers crossed.

    I wonder if heat is one of the cases as, for example, it can get very hot where I live and I don't have air conditioning.
    There was an article (I can't find it now) that detailed the number of incidents. 1 in Canada, no fires. A larger number in the US (obviously), but it wasn't a very large number.

    They've obviously noticed something unusual in a range of batteries that demand replacement. Better to be safe.

    Heat may be an issue. We get some swelling here, but it's not terribly common. Most often a customer notices a battery life issue or the "service battery" in the charge status menu before the swelling is noticeable from the outside. The worst cases tended to be older models that were in storage for extended periods so the swelling wasn't caught until it had pushed out the trackpad, bulged the bottom case, and occasionally bent the top case. I've seen a unibody plastic MacBook that was bulging several inches in the middle - the battery did not burst.

    avon b7 said:
    With a little luck Apple can proactively contact owners in most cases to notify them and rely less on other channels.
    They really need to do both - there are second hand units in circulation, gifts, corporately purchased machines, etc.
    edited July 3
  • Reply 11 of 19
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 189member
    avon b7 said:
    .
    With a little luck Apple can proactively contact owners in most cases to notify them and rely less on other channels.
    I would think they could co-opt the system update channel to notify owners of the problem. 
  • Reply 12 of 19
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,059member
    bonobob said:
    avon b7 said:
    .
    With a little luck Apple can proactively contact owners in most cases to notify them and rely less on other channels.
    I would think they could co-opt the system update channel to notify owners of the problem. 
    Definitely. Something that would be impossible to miss.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    jdwjdw Posts: 774member
    Quite unfortunate in light of the fact the mid-2015 15" MBP was the last great MacBook "Pro."  I own one -- a top end model with maxed out SSD, RAM, dGPU, CPU, etc.  I have zero interest in purchasing any newer MBP because none of those models afford me the port and usability practicality that the mid-2015 model does.

    With that said, I checked my SN and found I don't qualify for the battery replacement program.  No doubt there's a reason for this, but suffice it to say, I would rest a bit easier if the battery was swapped out.  And I say this even though the battery I have now is fine (I keep it plugged it most of the time, so the battery heath is still quite good.  Hopefully my battery really is fine and there's no fiery inferno taking place while it's plugged in at home while I am at work!
  • Reply 14 of 19
    I walked into an AppleStore with a 2013 MBP last year and they offered to replace the battery free of charge for no apparent reason. Odd, I brought it in for a special warranty screen repair. Even odder, they had a small quiet group meeting over my MBP repair before making the offer.
    edited July 4 tipooCarnage
  • Reply 15 of 19
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,057member
    Wonder what the problem was, I wish they would be more specific. 

    In the Note issues it looked like a combination of the battery packaging being thinner on the outer layers and the interior of the phone having a sharp edge that it would expand into when hot. Wonder if it's something similar here, and if there's been enough time to learn from the design flaw if so for the next several years of batteries since 2015. 
  • Reply 16 of 19
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,261member
    Lovely how we are constantly carrying around these little potential explosive devices with us... I don’t leave my charging iPhone on a flammable surface. Same for my 2009 MacBook Pro, which is still in good shape. Though my back injury two days ago has caused me to do things abnormally. I should remedy that because it’s not like I can attack a fire or remove a burning device quickly when I’m using a walker...
  • Reply 17 of 19
    SteveGagneSteveGagne Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    maltz said:
    Nice to have the source here in the comments!  Had you noticed any swelling before this happened?
    Nope! It may have been so gradual over time that it's possible there was some swelling, but nothing that I had attributed to swelling, honestly. Thinking back, there was some slight flexing in the bottom, but simply assumed it was from a few years of wear and tear.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    SteveGagneSteveGagne Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    avon b7 said:
    So, this was my computer. I need to correct an error in the article. I never said that the black spot on the bottom of the MacBook was a hole. It is NOT a hole. That is where the paint on my coffee table melted from the heat. The MacBook was stuck to the table when I tried to pick it up. I had been using the computer only a few hours before doing some design work for a client. When I was done, I simply closed the screen, which puts the computer into Sleep Mode. I then went to bed, only to find myself jumping out of bed at almost midnight to a loud sound and the smell of chemical smoke. It was a crazy experience.
    Thanks for posting and the clarification. I often use my 2011 MBP in the same way as you do. I sleep like a log so probably wouldn't have heard the noise although my dog might have raised the alert. I have a lot of lithium batteries all over the place. it's incidents like this that get me thinking about smoke alarms. I live near the sea so a bucket of sand wouldn't go amiss.

    What have Apple told you about a replacement or solution to the problem? I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that if the machine was part of the affected batch, Apple would cover the damage too. I understand if there is a limit to what you can say publicly and glad to see things didn't get out of control in spite of the scare.
    Apple was very understanding and have offered replacement for all damages. I was required to take pics and upload them to their technicians via a special link on their Support Site that was connected to my case filed with them. I spoke with 2 different Apple Support members, both who were very professional and also very compassionate to my situation.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    Apple is slipping: The Jobs' effect of driving design to a high quality, no compromises, has been replaced with mediocre/typical corporate management, and the attendant quality control problems that brings. Sigh. Don't buy Apple hardware unless you absolutely have to.
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