Motor Vehicle Fires

There is rarely a single cause of a car fire, even if an investigator may trace all the way back to an incident that sparks it. It is more likely that there was a combination of causes: human causes, mechanical causes, and chemical causes, and they can all work together.

Human error probably is not going to be the direct cause of a fire in your vehicle. But if you are sloppy about maintenance, your car is going to be a lot more dangerous, in general. A car fire is just part of the greater risks you are taking. That is because if you let broken parts, leaky seals, or faulty wiring go without repairs, it will make your car a lot more hospitable to the conditions that cause a fire.

An engine with a bad gasket is more likely to drip hazardous fluids. Frayed wiring is more likely to spark and make contact with flammable materials. It is better to know if your car is a potential death trap. Just pop the hood every now and then and take a look around.

Overheating catalytic converters are a fire risk that is often overlooked. It is one of the consistently hottest parts of your car that runs the entire length of the vehicle exhaust system. Catalytic converters usually overheat because they are working too hard to burn off more exhaust pollutants than they are designed to process. If the catalytic converter gets hot enough, it could ignite the cabin insulation and carpeting right through the heat shields and metal floor pan.

A design flaw in a vehicle usually is not going to cause a car fire on its own, because there is no onoff switch for lighting a vehicle ablaze. Design flaws, however, can make conditions really cause a fire outbreak.

Usually, the manufacturers catch on to these situations before incidents become widespread. They issue recalls to get the dangerous cars off the street and fix the problems, because no carmaker wants to be known for combusting its customers. Like all automobile fires, a design flaw is only the first step leading to a blaze.

An engine that overheats and causes a car to catch on fire is an especially good example of how one problem can lead to another. A car’s engine probably will not overheat enough to simply burst into flames all on its own. But what can happen is an engine can overheat and make the internal fluids, like oil and coolant, rise to dangerous temperatures and begin to spill out of their designated areas of circulation. When that happens, they drip, drizzle and spurt throughout the engine bay and onto the exhaust system, landing on other hot parts, where they can easily ignite and spread.

Electrical system failures take the second spot because they are the second most common cause of car fires. Electrical wiring runs throughout the entire car through channels, into doors, under the carpet and through powered and heated seats, unnoticed frayed wire could cause havoc.

Leaks in the fuel system are the most common cause of vehicle fires. Any number of complicating factors can cause a fuel leak, but they are tricky because fuel leaks can also arise on their own and with very little warning. A fuel system leak is really dangerous. A lot of a car’s fluids have corrosive, poisonous and flammable properties, but petrol is among the worst. The best way to reduce chances of a fuel system fire is to make sure the car is properly maintained. And if you ever smell gas in or around your car, find and fix the leak immediately.

A lot of the facts about car fires seem like common sense. For example, most car fires start in the engine compartment, which should not be any surprise to anyone who has ever popped into the hood to have a look at what goes on in there. And if your car catches on fire, you should always try to get as far away as possible.

Source : The Independent

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