Contrary to popular belief, vehicle fires occur frequently and there are many reports that prove so. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), every hour in America, there are at least 33 car fires reported to the authorities. Among them, around 18 percent of all reported fires either occur because of a vehicle or occur on a highway or on a road. And, if you believe that your car won´t ever catch fire, you should know that it is always better to be safe than sorry.
The worrying statistics, however, shouldn´t keep you from sleeping soundly at night as the chances of your vehicle spontaneously combusting while you drive around are less. Cars usually don´t blow up like they do frequently in the movies. That doesn´t mean that you should sit around and wait for it to happen because it can happen! Cars can catch fire when there is a problem in either the fuel system or the electrical system of the car. A mechanical failure such as a stuck strap or brake pad could also lead to a fire outbreak simply because of the overheating caused by friction. Therefore, you should be an advocate of safe driving and you need to ensure that you have a comprehensive insurance policy. But, most importantly, you should ensure that your vehicle receives regular maintenance work.
There are other things you can do to help prevent the outbreak of fire in your vehicle and some of them are:
- Most car fires occur because of problems in either the vehicle´s fuel system or in the vehicle´s electrical system. Fires in a car generally occur either because of malfunction in the fuel line or because of the split of the fuel pipe. A mechanical failure such as a stuck strap or brake pad could also lead to a fire outbreak simply because of the overheating caused by friction. Therefore, you should get these systems checked regularly. While checking, you should be on the lookout for fuses that have a tendency of blowing frequently, oil that is spilled under the hood, leaks of fluid and oil under the vehicle, loose wiring and hoses, loud noise produced by the exhaust system, drastic changes in fuel level, oil level, or engine temperature etc., and get them fixed pronto.
- When you smell burning rubber or plastic, you should stop driving immediately and park your vehicle in a secure location. Then you should proceed to assess the situation. The production of smoke may not necessarily be the result of a fire, it could be due to overheating of the engine. Nonetheless, you will still need to pull over and provide the engine with a cooling period. Driving further will give air to the fire, fanning the flames.
So, what should you do if your car catches fire?
Early planning and preparation are essential to staying safe. If you never thought about your car catching fire, now is a good time. Therefore, we would strongly advise you to keep a fire extinguisher in your car. You never know when it may serve its purpose. Although experts believe that it is not safe to extinguish a car fire oneself, you can attempt to use a fire extinguisher if you only see smoke and no flames coming from under your hood. However, you shouldn´t open the hood completely all the way up as fire can thrive on increased levels of oxygen. If you don’t know how to use the fire extinguisher and don´t have proper knowledge of auto mechanics, you shouldn´t attempt to use the extinguisher; there isn´t enough time for you to read the instructions on the fire extinguisher. And, if the fire breaks out near the gas tank of the vehicle, you should abort the vehicle quickly, get away as far as possible, and let the experts handle it.
If your car is ablaze, you must first try to remain calm and attempt to do the following steps:
- You should head towards the right lane after first signaling your indicator. It is better to head towards an area without people and buildings.
- You should then shut the engine off and abort the vehicle with the rest of the passengers. Shutting off the engine would stop the flow of fuel.
- You should then get away as far as possible from the vehicle. It is advisable for you to be at least 150 feet away from the burning vehicle. After all, car fires burn as hot as 1,500 degrees and the flames that originate from the vehicle can reach 10 feet or more. Some parts of the vehicle may also shoot off as flying shrapnel. And, most importantly, you can bet your bottom dollar that the fumes and gas produced by the burning of plastics and oil will be toxic in nature. You should ensure that the place you move to is secure too.
- After that, you should dial 911 and ask for help. The operator can alert the fire department.
- You should then proceed to alert the oncoming traffic. You wouldn´t want to be a hazard to other drivers.
- You should also alert your insurance company of the fire as quickly as possible. It usually takes the insurance companies a lengthy period to assess fires because of the numerous processes.