The batteries can short circuit, even when not in use, causing them to become extremely hot, smoke and potentially catch fire, Dell said in a statement. Consumers with machines containing the defective batteries can return them for replacement, Dell said.
Dell emphasised the recall is for specific Sanyo Electric's batteries only, and not the computers they work in.
"The root cause that we identified was that (Sanyo Electric) had a short-term flaw in part of their manufacturing of battery cells," said Dell spokesman T.R. Reid. "Within less than a week, they had identified the problem."
Specifically, Reid said it was possible there was a "very small piece of metal" released into one of the battery cells. Potentially, it could cause the battery to short and over heat, he said.
A US consumer reported on August 29 that smoke damage occurred to a laptop because of a battery problem, said Kim Dulic, a spokeswoman with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Reid confirmed it was a corporate customer. Dell is working in cooperation with the US agency in the recall.
"We immediately moved to purge those batteries from our operations," Reid said. "By Labor Day weekend (September 2-4), we were working with outside folks to identify the root cause and effect of the problem and understand the situation."
The batteries were sold primarily with Dell notebook computers shipped directly to customers from June 22 through September 15 of this year in North, Central and South America, the company said. Also, they were sold from June 22 to October 4 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Dell also sold the batteries separately during the same periods.
The specific batteries were sold primarily with Latitude CPiA, CPiR, CPtC, CPtS, CPtV, CPxH and CPxJ and Inspiron 3700 and 3800 models. The batteries insert into the front left and/or front right of the computer. The batteries say "Dell" and "Made in Japan." The batteries subject to recall have the following identification numbers: DP/N followed by 01691P, 001691P and 42011, 42012, 42013, 42014 as a separate code.
They also will have one of the following codes: 06F, 06J, 06K, 06N, 06Q, 06S, 06T or 07I (letter I), 073, 074, 075, 07A, 07R or 081, 082, 083, 084, 087, 088, 089, 08A, 08B, 08C or 08L.
Dell is asking consumers whose batteries include the identification codes to contact the company for battery-discharge information and to arrange to return the battery and be eligible to receive two replacement batteries for each one returned.
Dell last had a recall in October of 1997. At that time, the company voluntarily recalled 233,000 AC adapters for Latitude LM notebooks. Dell received 111 reports that the AC adapter's connector pins could break off from the adapter and remain in the power cord, posing a shock hazard.