Vehicle fire or auto fires are one of the scariest things that can happen to anyone on the road. Many people have a notion that car fires rarely happen and that it isn’t something anyone should worry about. But reports from the NPFA (The National Fire Protection Association) say otherwise. In the US alone, about 33 car fires are reported every hour. 18% of these fires occur either on a road or high way. Young adults and teens with driver’s licenses are most likely to be involved in fire-related accidents as reported by the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
According to a report from the USFA, about 171,500 fires occurred in the United States from 2014 to 2016. These fires resulted in an annual average of 1.1 billion dollars in property loss, 345 deaths, and 1,300 injuries.
While the above statistics are sobering and somewhat frightening, they don’t mean that your car is suddenly going to catch a fire while you are driving. As you guessed, car fires don’t happen without reason. Dangerous driving and a handful of other factors can cause it.
In this article, we are going to be looking at the causes of car fires, steps to take when your vehicle is on fire, signs that your car may catch fire, fire safety tools you should have in your car at all times, the right fire extinguisher for cars, and some car fire safety tips.
Before we dive right into the meat of this article, we are first going to be looking at some of the worst car fires that occurred over the last couple of years.
5 Recent Years Auto Fire Cases
These are just a handful of some tragic vehicle fires, some evidently due to electrical or mechanical problems, arson, and accident.
1. Texas Bus Disaster – 2005
On September 23, in Wilmer, Texas, a bus conveying 44 elderly residents burned spontaneously after a tire caught fire. two were seriously injured, 23 passengers died, and 19 other passengers including the driver of the bus sustained minor injuries.
2. Limousine Fire – 2013
On May 4, five women were killed in a limousine fire. The driver of the vehicle believes the fire was caused by an electrical problem. The fire was later linked to a failure of the air springs of the vehicle.
3. School Bus Fire – 2013
On May 25, a fire accident involving a school bus occurred in Pakistan, about 120 miles from Islamabad. 16 students and a teacher lost their lives in the accident. It is believed that the fire was caused by a short circuit next to a leaking fuel tank.
4. China Bus Tragedy – 2013
On June 7, In Xiamen, China, Chen Shuizong an unemployed and impoverished man left a suicide note that explains why he set off an explosion that engulfed a bus and resulted in the death of 47 people.
5. French National Day -2015
About 721 vehicles were set ablaze in France.
14 Common Causes of Car Fires
As you probably know, automobile fires don’t just happen. Most times, human error, mechanical or electrical failure, or malfunction results in a car fire. In some cases, two or more factors combine to cause a car fire or increase its intensity. Knowing these factors can potentially help you avoid a dangerous situation or reduce the odds of your car going up in flames, but there are no guarantees. And remember that when your car is on fire, the factors or things that caused it will be of little significance because your car is on fire (although that information can potentially help car manufacturer fix design or mechanical flaw). Don’t worry about the fluid that might have spilled and caused the fire or if your engine overheated. Right now, it is critical that you get as far away from your burning car as possible. Keep in mind that a small car fire isn’t going to remain small for long. Other complications can make the situation much worse. Read on to find out some common causes of car fires.
1. Poor Maintenance
Human error is likely one of the major causes of automobile related fire. Human error isn’t as direct or intentional like striking a match. But if you are lazy and don’t take car maintenance seriously, your car is figuratively going to be like a moving timebomb. If you don’t take care of your car, you are indirectly increasing the odds of it going up in flames. Forgetting to take your car to an auto shop to have it fixed or maintained every now and then is understandable. But neglecting or continuously procrastinating taking your car to a repair shop to have it looked at is unacceptable, to say the least. The obvious reason for this is that faulty wiring, leaky seals, and broken parts can make a car more inhospitable or prone to the conditions that may cause a fire. Frayed wiring is likely going to spark and even worse make contact with flammable materials. Also, an engine with a bad gasket is likely going to drip flammable fluid. See, don’t save a few bucks and skip car maintenance at the expense of your life and that of your family.
Arson, which is the criminal act of setting a car on fire is becoming more and more popular these days. In the last couple of years, there have been a lot of reports of arson in different parts of the world. Now, you are probably wondering why anyone would deliberately set a vehicle on fire. Well, there are a lot of reasons why people may want to set a working automobile ablaze. For example, it could be to cover up the evidence of another crime or to cover up a theft. It could also be plain old vandalism, which is destroying something for the thrill. There are several more reasons why people set their car on fire, but let’s leave that to the criminal masterminds.
As you probably know, setting a car on fire is pretty easy. However, doing it without being detected is difficult. But a skilled auto arsonist who knows what he is doing can easily set a car ablaze and get away with it.
3. Electric Vehicle Batteries
A Few years back, a Tesla Model S, which was awarded the title of the safest car in the world by the media, caught fire in late 2013. The incident was a terrible blow for Tesla, who has implied on several occasions that its electric Model S was immune to the battery-related issues that have affected electric cars in the past. The batteries in electric cars behave like any other battery, it ignites when punctured. So, if for example, an electric car travelling at top speed hit a small object of debris that punctures its battery, it would ignite.
The Chevy Volt made headline in late 2011 and early 2012 when a couple of test fire cars burst into flames during impact testing. After a thorough investigation into the incidence, federal regulators determined that the fire may have been caused by the interaction between leaking coolant with damaged batteries during the test.
The concerns and risks associated with electric or hybrid cars go way back. There are even more risks with every new design or model that comes out. It may take a while for these high profiled incidents to ebb away from the mind of a lot of people.
4. Design Flaws
A design flaw in a car isn’t going to make it go up in flames. The reason for this is that there is no on/off button for setting a car ablaze. However, design flaws can create a condition that may lead to a fire. Most times, car manufacturers detect these issues when soon-to-be-launched vehicles are subjected to different tests. They may even issue recalls to get dangerous or flawed vehicles off the road. As previously mentioned, not all design flaw results in a fire, but a number of them can increase the odds of a fire happening. It is worth noting that most of the car manufacturing giants and even some smaller ones have recalled their cars due to fire-related hazards.
5. Overheating Engines
The chances of a single problem or fault in a car starting a fire is very slim, to say the least. However, you have to keep in mind that one problem or fault in an automobile, regardless of how insignificant it is can lead to another one. For example, an over-heating engine isn’t going to burst into flames. But it can make fluids like coolants and oil rise to a critical level and gradually spill or leak out of the area they were designed to stay. As they spurt, drip, and drizzle on hot parts, they can easily start a small fire and spread rapidly.
An overheating engine may be as a result of a design flaw and can be fixed with a software upgrade. In 2012, about 90,000 Ford vehicles that had a specific EcoBoost power were recalled. Modifying the computer in cars can help keep engine temperatures at safe levels.
On a general note, overheating vehicles need mechanical attention. The reason for the overheating may be because the radiator isn’t functioning properly or a leaky gasket or seal. So, if your car engine has been overheating lately, then you should take it to an auto shop as soon as you possibly can to have it looked at.
6. Car Crash
Normally, a car isn’t supposed to burst into flames after a collision. This is because the crumple zones of most vehicles are designed with a sturdy metal sheet that absorbs the force of an impact, thus protecting dangerous spots like the battery, the engine and even the fuel tank. But there isn’t much barrier there that is tough enough to prevent fuel leaks, as well as smoke and heat. As you know, spilled fluids and heat can easily lead to a fire. Since it is difficult for the driver or occupants of a crashed vehicle to get the full picture of the extent of the damage while they are still inside, the threat of a fire occurring may not be apparent, however, it is wise to get far away from a damaged car. Count yourself lucky if you aren’t trapped in a crashed car—because even if it burst in flames moments later, you will be in a safe distance.
7. Fuel Leaks
Fuel leaks are the most common cause of automobile related fires. As you likely now know, a number of factors can cause a fuel leak, but at times they can arise on their own with little or no warning. A leak in the fuel system in a car is dangerous. The various fluids in a car are poisonous, corrosive, and flammable. Gasoline is the most dangerous among them, as it can easily catch fire from a spark at 7.2 degree Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit. So, it is easy to see how gasoline dripping on a hot metal can cause a fire within seconds and spread rapidly. The most effective way to reduce the odds of a fuel system fire occurring is by properly maintaining your vehicle. And remember, if you ever smell gasoline around or in your car, find the leak promptly and fix it.
8. Catalytic Converters
Overheating is a fire hazard that most people overlook. The exhaust system is one of the hottest parts of your vehicle. The Catalytic converters in most vehicles sometimes overheat because they are endlessly labouring to keep up with burning more exhaust pollutants than they are designed to handle. This may occur because of a series of factors. If for example, the car engine isn’t working properly, due to worn out spark plugs, it won’t burn fuel thoroughly thus adding to the workload of the exhaust system, which makes it hotter than it usually is. An over laboured or clogged catalytic converter can easily go from 1200 degrees Fahrenheit to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. On the long run, this is going to cause serious damage to the car. If the catalytic converter gets hot enough, it could easily ignite, carpeting through the metal floor pan or the cabin insulations.
9. Dangerous Cargo
Some drivers see nothing wrong with storing gasoline and other combustible materials in their car. Certain containers like plastic jugs allow fuel to expand and leak into carpeting and trunk liner when they are under intense heat. Chemicals can also cause a car fire when they come in contact with or react to other chemicals or substances.
Don’t store dangerous materials or chemicals in your car. Propane or gasoline tanks (even when empty) can easily start a fire under the right conditions. In the event of a collision, they can fuel a small fire and make it ferocious.
10. Smoking and Driving
While the number of Americans that smoke and drive has dwindled slowly over the last couple of years, there are still enough around to make it a common hazard. Flicking a cigarette butt out the window while driving isn’t as harmless as it seems, as it could enter the back window of another vehicle and land on the carpeting or upholstery. The unaware driver is only going to sense the danger of the situation when he feels uncomfortable with the heat or the smoke coming from the back seat.
There are countless scenarios of how a still-burning cigarette can start a car fire without the knowledge of the driver. For example, the still-burning cigarette butt that a pick-up truck driver throws out of the window may land at the back of the truck and light up all kind of materials ranging from sawdust to cardboard boxes and oil spills. Keep in mind that some cargo doesn’t need an ignition source. Under the right conditions, even organic materials like manure could generate enough heat to start a fire.
You may be surprised to see animals on this list because they cannot strike a match and start a fire or put a wick into your gas tank and ignite it. But their activities can create the perfect condition for a disaster. Vehicle technicians often discover stashes of nuts and nests within the warm confines of a car engine. Twigs, dried leaves and other combustible materials introduced into the engine compartment by rodents are likely going to cause or intensify a fire in the engine area.
The use of recyclable organic materials in the auto industry has introduced a new propel. For example, soy-based electrical wire insulation has become a favourite snack for mice. This issue is becoming commonplace in automakers like Subaru, Honda, and Toyota who has turned to soy-based insulation, as reported by the CTV.
A rat chewing the wiring of Toyota CR-V, for example, isn’t only going to cause damages that will cost hundreds of dollars to repair but will also expose wires that can potentially start a fire. One of the best ways to address this problem is by using rodent repellants.
12. Electrical System Failures
Research has shown that electrical system failures are among the top 3 causes of automobile-related fires. Many people have the notion that only all-electric and hybrid vehicle batteries pack are problematic and can start a fire. But the truth is that batteries in every car, including the one you are using, is capable of causing serious trouble. You likely might be wondering how. Well, the battery’s charging cycles can lead to the build-up of explosive hydrogen gas in the engine bay and loose or faulty wiring or even the electrical current the battery provides can easily produce sparks that can quickly ignite a fluid. Keep in mind that electrical system hazard isn’t confined or limited to the engine area, as electrical wiring runs through the entire vehicle, under the carpets, through channels and heated seats, just to name a few places.
13. Aftermarket Accessories
Poorly installed accessories can introduce an electrical fault that can start a fire. Something as simple and insignificant as mounting screws piercing through the wrings of a stereo can easily start a small fire. Also, off-road lighting installation and sound systems can malfunction and start a fire. To make things even more complicated, many trucks and cars have a second battery that powers entertainment gears in a car.
Buying and installing accessories if you aren’t a trained technician isn’t really a smart move, as you may make a mistake that will affect the performance of your car or even worse, set a fire in your vehicle. It is always a good idea to get your aftermarket accessories installed by a reputable and authorized technician.
Getting your car fixed by an amateur mechanics who only know how to use a screwdriver and a wrench is a recipe for disaster, as they may do more damage to your vehicle that may result in a fire.
As you likely now know, the engine area is a dangerous place. So, only allow authorized technician that knows what they are doing to service that area.
14. Spilled Fluids
The engine and other parts of a car is home to a lot of flammable and dangerous fluids like engine oil, power steering fluid, diesel and gasoline fuel, engine coolant, and even brake fluids. While you are driving or when your car is on, these fluids start circulating through your car and can catch fire easily if their hose or lines are damaged. Of course, it is unlikely to see these liquids dripping or spewing out of nowhere- something has to go wrong first. The fact that these vital fluids are flammable is a problem of itself. Combined with other factors, like a collision or design flaw, the result could be a fire. Most times, spilled fluids related fires start from the hood or the engine area, where these flammable liquids are in high concentration. Keep it at the back of your mind that some of these fluids move along the entire car.
Dealing with a car fire
It is estimated that an average of 33 cars catches on fire every hour in the United States. As you now know, cars catch on fire for a lot of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a collision or a car accident. Statistics have shown that the majority of vehicle fires are linked to ill-fitting batteries, electrical issues, lack of maintenance, and from leaking fuel. Having your car checked by an automotive technician is a sure way to prevent your car from bursting into flames. Even if you are able to do this consistently, there is no assurance that your car is 100% protected. Factors that you have little or no control over can cause a fire.
As a car owner, it is your responsibility to protect yourself and the passengers traveling with you in the event of a fire.
Signs that your car is on fire
It may take you a while for you to realize that your car is on fire especially if it starts in an area that isn’t visible to you. That said, there are some signs that might indicate that your vehicle is on fire. Below are a few of them.
- When you see smoke
- You smell burning rubber or plastic
- If your vehicle feels hotter within a short timeframe
- If fuses are blowing out
- If there is a rapid change in oil and fuel levels
- If the exhaust system produces strange or loud sounds
- If the engine temperature increases rapidly.
- When you see flames
- If you observe oil or fuel leakage
The best way to respond to a fire
Below are some actions you should take if you notice any of the above signs.
Seeing the rear of your car on fire while you are driving with family and friends is a frightening experience but panicking will only make things worse. The best way to respond to this situation is to remain calm and reassure your passengers. Try to talk calmly and ensure that your passengers know the quickest way to get out of the car.
Find a safe place to pull over
Carefully observe your surroundings before pulling over. Find a safe place (sidewalk median strip, bus lane, and roundabout) that is free from people or combustibles to park your car. Don’t forget to indicate your intention to pull over and stop your vehicle.
Turn your vehicle off
If the cause of the fire is because of an electrical malfunction or a split fuel line, turning off the engine may stop the fire from spreading to other areas. Be sure to put your car on a handbrake before leaving your car, as it may slide down and injure someone.
Leave the car quickly
As soon as you turn off your ignition, leave your car as quickly as you can. As a driver, it is your responsibility to get everyone (including animals) out of the car. Instruct your passengers or those traveling with you not to retrieve anything but just to get out of the car as quickly as possible. If it is safe, shut the car doors, as this can help contain the fire for a while.
Help young children, disabled persons, and the elderly to get out as quickly as possible. If someone is stuck and needs assistance, direct other passengers to the person needing assistance.
If it is safe, remove any animals in the vehicle or the cage holding them as you leave. A dog or a cat may be able to get out by itself if it has a free passage. If it isn’t safe to go back to the car, use voice command to encourage your pet to leave quickly.
Don’t stand close to the car
Move as far away from a burning car as possible (45 to 50 meters minimum) not only to avoid the heat and flames but also the smoke and toxic fumes that may arise during the burning. If any of your passengers tries to retrieve anything from the burning vehicle, do all you can to prevent them from doing so. Explain to them that their belongings and valuables in the burning car can be replaced.
Take a headcount
Check if all the people you are travelling with are accounted for and safe. Ask them to stand together in a safe place to prevent anyone from accidentally walking into an oncoming vehicle.
Call the authorities
If you live in the US or Canada, call 911 or 999. 121 in the UK. 000 in Australia. 111 in New Zealand.
If you aren’t with your phone or you can’t make the call, ask a bystander to call emergency services.
Wait for them to arrive
Fight the urge to return to the car to see the level of damage caused by the fire. Stand far away from it until the emergency services arrive.
Inform pedestrians and onlookers to keep away from it. If possible, use signaling means to warn oncoming vehicles to keep away.
Putting out the fire yourself
Don’t attempt to put out your car fire by yourself, especially if you don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher. Even if you know how to use it, only attempt to put out the flames if the following conditions exist.
- The fire is small, visible and confined to an area far away from the fuel tank.
- You have a working fire extinguisher
- You know how to use a fire extinguisher or have been trained to use one.
- You cannot smell burning rubber
- The car doesn’t run on LPG.
If the above conditions are met, it may be safe for you to put the fire out yourself. If the fire is large, you perceive a foul-smelling smoke, or you don’t have a fire extinguisher which will be able to put it out, then you should wait for the authorities to handle the situation.
If the fire spiral out of control
Move away from the area as quickly as possible if your attempt to put out the fire fails.
Dealing with a fire in a tunnel
Dealing with a car fire when in a tunnel is more difficult than in an open area. The limited space and a few other factors may make putting out the fire a little more difficult. Below are some steps you should take if you notice that your car is on fire while in a tunnel.
Find a safe place to park as soon as you notice that a part of your vehicle is burning. Resist the urge to speed up and drive out of the tunnel. Pull over as quickly as possible. However, if you are close to the end of the tunnel, then you should drive out and stop the car.
Turn off the ignition
If the cause of the fire is linked to an electrical fault, turning off your engine may prevent the fire from going out of control or spreading.
Leave the car
After turning off the ignition, leave your car as quickly as you can. Do well to check traffic passing before opening your door, so that you don’t get hit by an oncoming car. Encourage your passengers to do the same. Ensure that all that everybody is out before shutting the doors.
Dealing with the fire on your own
If the fire has just started and you are confident that you can put it out, then get a fire extinguisher and put out the flames. Keep in mind that some tunnels have extinguishers. So, if your own isn’t working properly or wasn’t able to put out the flame totally, then you should locate a fire extinguisher in the tunnel you are in. Be observant of incoming vehicles while you are doing this.
Putting out a hood or bonnet fire is a tricky business because you may not be able to open it due to heat or the flame. The safest way to put it out is to release the catch to create a small gap and aim the extinguisher at the small space formed by releasing the catch and spray the content of the extinguisher into the bonnet. If the fire intensifies after doing this, flee to safety.
Alert the authorities even if you are able to put out the fire on your own successfully. If your phone isn’t working, find and use those provided by the tunnel operator.
If you aren’t able to put it out
Despite your best efforts, there is a possibility that you may not be able to put the flame out. Well, if that is the case, then you have to leave the keys in the ignition of your vehicle and stay a safe distance away from the car or better still, exit the tunnel on foot to avoid the toxic fumes emanating from the burning car.
Water deluge system
Some tunnels have small detectors that trigger a sprinkler system. Don’t be surprised if the water deluge system kicks in.
After the fire
Resist the urge of approaching your car even if it has stopped burning until the firefighters say otherwise. Once you have been given the all-care signal, take photos of your vehicle for your insurance claim. Ask the firefighters if it is safe before opening the doors of your car to remove anything.
Make arrangement for your car to be disposed of or repaired
The damaged car should not be driven until it has been checked by an authorized mechanic.
Tell-tale signs that your car may soon catch fire
Truth be told, car fire rarely occurs. However, that doesn’t mean that they cannot happen, especially if the car has been damaged, have a fault or old. Regardless of your driving experience, you need to keep in mind that it is almost impossible for a well-maintained car to catch on fire. So having your car checked by a competent auto-mechanic on a regular basis is a sure way to almost eliminate the danger. Also, you have to keep an eye for these following fire hazards in your car.
A rapid change in oil and fuel levels
If your oil or fuel level keeps going down, chances are there may be a leak. Check under your car to see signs of leakage. While driving, if your engine temperature starts to increase rapidly, find a safe place to park and turn off the engine. Driving while the engine is hot isn’t only going to damage your engine but will also increase the odds of a fire breaking out.
If the area underneath where you parked your vehicle has oil stains or other fluids, then you should have it checked as soon as you can. As you likely know, some of these fluids are flammable, so don’t take chances by hoping that the leak stops by itself.
Do you know that spilled oil in the engine area can easily catch on fire? So if you notice any oil spill, clean it thoroughly. To prevent spills, use a funnel when pouring oil into the engine of your vehicle. And don’t forget to put the oil cap back on when you are done.
Parking near tall grasses and flammable materials
Don’t park in areas with tall grasses because your hot exhaust pipe can easily set them ablaze. And if your vehicle is leaking fuel or oil, the flame is going to intensify and spread within minutes. So, be mindful of your surroundings and only park in areas that are safe and free of combustibles that can easily catch on fire.
If the fuses in your car keep getting blown, chances are too much current is flowing through certain parts of the system. Old wiring with cracked or worn-out insulation occasionally shorts out when it comes in contact with metal may also start a car fire.
Listen for loud sounds
If you hear a cracking or clunking sound, stop your vehicle and try to see what is wrong. Carefully inspect your exhaust system to see if there is a damage or blockage.
Now that you know some signs of a car that may soon catch fire, we are next going to be looking at some car fire safety tips as well as seven steps you can take to prevent a car fire.
Preventing a car fire
Vehicle fires can cause serious damage to lives and properties. Fortunately, they are preventable. Below are some easy things you can do to prevent your car from catching fire.
Regularly inspect the fuel lines and tank
Make time to carefully inspect your car. Look for fuel leaks, bad fuel injectors, and cracked fuel lines. Bad fuel lines can easily lead to a flare-up that can cause a vehicle fire. If your fuel tank is compromised, then it is likely going to start leaking fuel, thus increasing the risk of a fire. According to the NFPA, 15% of car fires-related deaths are due to faulty fuel tanks or lines.
Even if your car is working perfectly, it is important that you take it to a maintenance shop annually. An automobile mechanic can give you a better idea of the safety condition of your vehicle and inform you of any repairs or faults that need to be done. If you are on a budget, you might be tempted to skip checking your car annually just to save a few bucks. But if you come to think about it, you will spend a whole lot more or even replace your car if a serious fault develops as a result of your neglect or even worse, burst into flames.
Ensure that all added parts are installed correctly
Aftermarket parts like stereo speakers, lights among others can be a fun and useful addition to your car, they can start a fire if they aren’t installed properly. Unless you have a solid technical background and you are sure that you know what you are doing, get all accessories installed by a professional. Keep in mind that a single mistake on your part when installing an accessory can overload your battery and likely start a fire. Always consult a professional before fixing a fault or installing anything on your car. Even if you have a solid technical background, it is critical that you follow the instructions on any product you want to install in your car to the letter.
Maintain your electrical system
Most car fires are caused by electrical system malfunction, fault or failure. So keeping the electrical system of your car in a perfect working condition is a sure way to reduce the odds of a car fire occurring. Ensure that your car battery is properly hooked and are working. Also, check that none of your wirings are damaged.
Don’t procrastinate repairing any issue or fault, especially if it is linked to the electrical system of your car. If you are on a tight budget and you cannot pay for repairs, then find an alternative means to move around until you have the money to repair your car.
Never store flammable materials in your car
Of course, there may be instances where you may need to transport highly flammable materials like propane gas, lighter fluids, gas tanks, and so on. But don’t leave these items in your vehicle as they can easily start a fire or intensify an existing one. To ensure safety, it is best you avoid carrying flammable materials totally. If you must carry them, it shouldn’t be for a very long distance. Quickly remove them from your vehicle the moment you arrive at your destination.
Tips for carrying flammable liquid and gas
- Never place propane or gas in the passenger area of your car.
- Transport flammable liquids like gasoline in small amounts
Clean oil spills
While changing the oil, you may spill little on certain parts of your car. If this happens, quickly clean or wash away the oil before driving. A few drops of oil in the engine area can easily start a fire.
As stated above, vehicle fires can happen as a result of an accident. So drive carefully and avoid aggressive and reckless driving. Driving slowly and choosing to give up the right-of-way can help reduce the risk of fire. 60% of car deaths were as a result of a car crash, as reported by the NFPA.
Keep your car clean
Your car isn’t a dump so avoid storing trash in your car. Allowing these combustible items to sit around in your car can create a fire hazard. A crumpled paper, for example, can ask a fuel if there is a spark. If you have a demanding job and you don’t have time to clean your car daily, then, do that on the weekends.
If it is in your habit or custom to leave trash in your car, chances are you are going to leave a flammable liquid or a lighter that can potentially start a fire.
Be on the lookout for downed power lines
Be very careful when driving especially after a storm as you may come across dangers like downed power lines. If the downed lines are live or still contains electric charge, it may ignite the combustible materials in your car.
Don’t smoke in your car
Smoking in the car is dangerous and can potentially start a car fire. For example, if the hot ash from your cigarette falls into a combustible material like upholstery or a piece of paper, it may start a fire. If you must smoke, do it outside the car and dispose of the butt of your cigarette properly.
Always carry a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher
With a fire blanket or extinguisher, you can be able to put out a small fire before it spreads and does serious damage to your car. Purchase fire extinguishers that are designed for automobiles. Visit your local auto shop parts to find fire extinguisher for your car.
Maintain your car battery
Regardless of the car you drive, it is important that you take care of your battery. Just like the engine, the battery needs to be maintained constantly. The endless charging cycles of the battery release hydrogen which when clubbed with the various liquids in your engine can easily start a fire. The good news is that maintaining a battery isn’t as difficult as maintaining an engine.
Car fire safety tips
Stay calm- in the event of a car fire, you are only going to have a couple of seconds to make a series of decisions that can potentially save or cost you your life. Panicking is the worst thing you can do, as it will make you waste precious time and increase the odds of you making poor choices.
- Pull over quickly if you see smoke coming out from some part of your car or if you notice a small fire
- Ensure that you set your emergency brake before leaving your car
- Turn off your engine to shut off the flow of gasoline and electric current
- Do not return to a smoking or burning vehicle to retrieve anything
- Stay at least 45 to 50 meters away from a burning car.
- Keep onlookers away.
- Call the emergency services when you are in a safe distance away from your car
- Warn oncoming traffic if it is safe to do so
- Don’t attempt to open the trunk of your vehicle if you suspect a fire under it.
- Be extremely careful when putting out the fire yourself.
- Don’t inhale the fumes from a toxic car as it can damage your health
- Always carry a working fire extinguisher in your vehicle.
- Dispose of cigarette butt properly
- Ensure that your vehicle is away clean
- Use a funnel when adding oil to reduce oil spills
- Drive safely
- Observe your gauge regularly-check if the temperature is increasing.
- Have a professional technician inspect your vehicle annually.
Steps to take if you are stuck in a burning car
Count yourself lucky if you can get out of your car after a crash or you notice that part of your vehicle is on fire. However, if you aren’t able to get out immediately or you are stuck, do the following.
Step 1- unlock the doors
Do whatever it takes to unlock the doors of your vehicle. Even if you aren’t able to open the door on your own, unlocking the doors will give rescuers a shot at rescuing you from the burning vehicle.
Step 2- get off your seat belt
Try to do this as quickly as you can so that the heat from the flame doesn’t melt your seat belt buckle to its anchor. Use a piece of cloth to cover your hand when releasing the buckle if the metal is too hot. If for some reason, the buckle doesn’t release, then you should push the strap over your head and lift your legs out from under the waist strap that is holding you in place.
Step 3- Get out through the window
If the door is stuck or you cannot open it, the next best thing to do is kick out a window. Use both of your feet to shatter the window out of the frame.
In any life or death situation, your chance of survival is determined by your ability to conduct self-rescue. Getting out of the car especially after serious collision or accident is usually difficult because the vehicle doors and the buckle may be jammed, thus preventing you from escaping. Also, if the car is upside down your body weight could prevent your seat belt buckle from releasing.
To reduce fatalities and reduce injuries, road authorities recommend that car owners should have an auto escape tool in their vehicle at all times. These simple but effective tools cannot only save lives but can also protect in the event of an emergency.
Unlike what you have probably seen in the movies, breaking a car window is extremely difficult. But there is a special tool that is designed solely for that purpose. Below are some auto-tools that can help you escape from a burning vehicle.
This is a special key chain that can cut through a seat belt with relative ease. With this tool, you won’t have to worry if your seat belt is jammed as you can easily cut it. One good thing about this tool is its small size. Since it is small, you can easily attach it to your key chain.
This is an effective and versatile tool that you can easily use to shatter glass with one strike. Its razor sharp blade can cut through your tough seat belt as a red hot knife cut through butter. Just like the ResQme, the life hammer is lightweight, portable and easy to install.
Next, we are going to be looking at some basic things you need to know about car fire extinguishers.
Car Fire Extinguishers
Regardless of the type of car you drive, it is essential that you have a working fire extinguisher at all times. While your car is assembled with safety in mind, some of its components can easily start a fire. With a fire extinguisher, you will be able to put out a small fire before it spreads and does serious damage to your vehicle.
Choosing a fire extinguisher
With so many types and size of fire extinguishers out there, choosing the one that will suit your car is likely going to be a challenge. If you own a small car, then you should get a 1kg or 2lb extinguisher. For commercial vehicles, on the other hand, it is recommended that they carry a fire extinguisher that weighs 5lb or 2.3 kg. (According to NFPA regulations, commercial vehicles must carry a working fire extinguisher)
Which type of fire extinguisher will be suitable for your car?
Your car presents different fire hazards- upholstery, oil, electrical wires, and gas. The fire extinguisher you should go for should be able to handle every possible mishap.
The best extinguisher for cars and automobiles are Dry powder extinguisher. With it, you will be able to put out Class A, B, C or E fire. This means that a dry powder extinguisher can put out organic combustibles like wood products, cloth, and paper as well as fuel and electrical related fires.
Features to look out for when buying a fire extinguisher
As previously mentioned, shopping for a fire extinguisher can be overwhelming. With so many options, it is likely going to be difficult for you to narrow down the best one for your car. Below are some essential features you should give careful attention to.
Readily for use– The extinguisher you should purchase should be available for immediate use
Lightweight – it shouldn’t weigh more than 2lbs
Potable shape– opt for models with cylindrical or elongated shapes.
Easily serviced– can be serviced and filled up easily.
Mount or storage clip – it should come with a convenient under sit or trunk mount
Durable body– opt for models that have an aluminium body as they are lightweight and corrosion free
Certified to local standards– only buy fire extinguishers that have a local certification label.
Just like your home extinguisher, service your car fire extinguisher from time to time. Besides having a fire extinguisher, it also a good idea to have a fire blanket, cool weather body protection, and maintenance tools.
Automobile fires occur more often than you may be aware of and can do serious damage to lives and properties. So, if you own a car, it is your responsibility to keep every part of it in a perfect working condition. While doing this might be difficult and expensive, it will prevent your car from catching on fire. Also, applying the tips discussed in this guide will go a long way in helping you prevent and put out a car fire.
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