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Common Causes of Car Fires

May 20, 2021 by The Parrish Law Firm

Have you ever been cruising down I-66 and noticed a car engulfed in smoke or even on fire? We often look at these occurrences and think, “This would never happen to me”, right? We never imagine ourselves in such situations because most of us take at least decent care of our vehicles. We get our oil changed on time and take our cars in for maintenance regularly, etc.; however, sometimes that may not be enough to prevent such a fate. Nearly 1 in 8 fires that emergency services respond to are vehicle fires. That’s too high of a percentage for us to ignore or pretend that it may never happen. In the 1980s car manufacturers made major design changes to prevent cars from catching fire by keeping heat, fuel and oxygen more separated than in previous car models as a combination of these ingredients are a recipe for combustion. That said, even with this effort on the part of car manufacturers, according to the U. S. Fire Administration, there were over 180,000 car fires in 2018 alone.

If your car was to catch fire while you’re driving or after an accident, are you prepared to handle it? In this article, we will discuss the most common causes of car fires, and what you should do if you ever find yourself in such a predicament. 

Here are the most common causes of car fires:

Car Accidents

While only 5% of all car fires occur due to car accidents, 6 in 10 fatal car fire accidents occur due to a collision. The most common reason for car fires after an accident involve leaking fuel lines and tanks. Fuel tanks are typically located in front of the rear axle. While they typically have anti-puncture shields protecting them, even the tiniest leak combined with a single spark can cause a fire to erupt. Many people are not aware of the fact that aside from gasoline, many components of a vehicle contain flammable materials. While manufacturers try to keep the components that pose the most risk in the most secure or well protected areas of the vehicle, car accidents are fairly unpredictable in how they will affect the vehicles involved. 

Electrical System Failures

Failures within a vehicle’s electrical system is common, and, you guessed it, can be the culprit for car fires as well. A car’s electrical system controls everything from power windows and sunroofs to door locks and providing power to the various lightbulbs around the vehicle. Sometimes faulty, loose or deteriorating wiring or a bad battery is all it takes to seal your vehicle’s fate. As our vehicles become more advanced, we rely more heavily on the electrical systems. The technology seems to be getting safer, but the more wires running through your vehicle, the higher the likelihood that something could go wrong. Batteries and starter cables carry a sufficient amount of electrical current to result in combustion if there are any faults along the wiring or system. This is not to say that many protections are not in place in present day vehicles. There are dozens of fuses, circuit breakers, etc. spread across present day vehicles to prevent fires, but given how many delicate pieces are embedded into these transportation machines, it is unsurprising that issues occur occasionally. 

Overheated Engine

If vehicles are neglected for too long, your car’s engine can overheat. A malfunctioning cooling fan or a worn out water pump can cause your engine temperature to skyrocket. Combine this with leaky, flammable liquids and your vehicle stands little chance. If your cooling system malfunctions, your engine can reach up to 500 degrees Celsius or 932 degrees Fahrenheit. A majority of the time you can avoid an overheated engine by simply taking your vehicle in for repairs on the schedule your manufacturer recommends and keeping an eye out for any and all vehicle recalls.  

What To Do If Your Vehicle Catches Fire

If you find yourself in a position where your car begins to release smoke or catches aflame, follow these steps:

  1. Signal and shift to the safest place you can find to stop. 
  2. Turn off the vehicle immediately. 
  3. Exit the vehicle and instruct everyone in the vehicle to do the same. Do not retrieve any goods. It is not worth the risk in case of an explosion. 
  4. Move as far away from the vehicle as you can. Ideally, you should move at least 75 feet away to avoid inhaling toxic fumes and chemicals. 
  5. Call emergency services. 

Remember that you should not try to put out the fire yourself or open the hood. Any added air flow or oxygen can result in the vehicle burning at a quicker pace. If anyone outside of your party tries to approach the vehicle, warn them to stay back. Once emergency services arrive, follow their instruction. 

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident or a vehicle fire, we can help. Parrish Law Firm helps victims recover compensation for their vehicle-related injuries. To schedule a no-cost consultation and claim review, call 571-386-2570 or contact us here.

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