Common Causes of Car Fires

Photo of author

By Richard

Driving down the highway with the wind in your hair, the sun shining, and your favorite tunes playing, the last thing on your mind is likely a car fire. However, car fires are more common than you might think and can be incredibly dangerous. Understanding the common causes of car fires can help you stay safe on the road.

The Hidden Danger on the Road

When we think of car accidents, we often picture collisions or breakdowns on the side of the road. But there’s another, often overlooked danger that can strike suddenly and with little warning: car fires. According to the NFPA, car fires are a common occurrence on our roads with over 200,000 fires and 560 deaths in 2018. These incidents can be terrifying and potentially deadly, but with a little knowledge and awareness, you can reduce your risk and stay safe on the road.

What Causes Car Fires?

Car fires can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from mechanical issues to human error. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Electrical Malfunctions: Faulty wiring or electrical components can spark a fire if they come into contact with flammable materials.
  • Fuel Leaks: A leak in the fuel system can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation if the fuel comes into contact with a hot surface or a spark.
  • Overheating Engines: An engine that overheats due to a lack of coolant or a malfunctioning cooling system can ignite surrounding materials.
  • Exhaust System Issues: A damaged or improperly installed exhaust system can cause hot gases to escape, potentially igniting nearby materials.
  • Catalytic Converter Theft: The theft of catalytic converters, which contain precious metals, has become increasingly common. Thieves often use torches to remove them, which can ignite nearby materials.

What to Do If Your Car Catches Fire

If you find yourself in the frightening situation of a car fire, it’s crucial to stay calm and take quick, decisive action. Here’s what you should do:

    • Pull Over Safely: If you notice smoke or flames coming from your vehicle, pull over to a safe location as quickly as possible. Avoid stopping on bridges or in tunnels if you can help it.
    • Turn Off the Engine: Cut off the ignition to prevent fuel from feeding the fire. You should also turn off the vehicle’s electrical systems to reduce the risk of sparks.
    • Evacuate Immediately: Once the vehicle is safely stopped, evacuate all occupants as quickly as possible. Leave your belongings behind; your safety is the top priority.
    • Call for Help: Dial emergency services immediately to report the fire. Provide your location and any relevant details about the situation.
    • Use a Fire Extinguisher (If Safe to Do So): If you have a fire extinguisher and feel confident using it, you can attempt to extinguish the fire. However, never put yourself at risk or delay evacuation to do so.
    • Stay Away: Once you and your passengers are safely away from the vehicle, stay at least 100 feet away. Car fires can cause explosions or spread rapidly, so it’s essential to maintain a safe distance.
  • Document the Scene: If possible, take photos and document the car fire. According to Los Angeles accident lawyer at RKM, this can be crucial evidence in holding a negligent manufacturer or driver accountable. 

Preventing Car Fires

While some car fires are unavoidable accidents, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Regular Maintenance: Keep up with routine maintenance, including oil changes, fluid checks, and inspections of the electrical and fuel systems.
  • Watch for Warning Signs: Pay attention to any unusual smells, sounds, or dashboard warning lights. These could indicate potential problems that need to be addressed.
  • Avoid Overloading: Overloading your vehicle with heavy cargo can put extra strain on the engine and other components, increasing the risk of overheating.
  • Be Cautious with Modifications: If you make modifications to your vehicle, such as installing aftermarket exhaust systems or stereo equipment, ensure they are done correctly and safely.
  • Park Wisely: When parking your vehicle, avoid tall grass or other flammable materials that could ignite if your car were to catch fire.

Stay Vigilant, Stay Safe

While car fires can be frightening and dangerous, being aware of the common causes and knowing how to respond can help keep you and your passengers safe on the road. By staying vigilant, practicing good vehicle maintenance, and knowing what to do in an emergency, you can reduce your risk and enjoy peace of mind behind the wheel. Stay safe out there!

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos