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6 Common Causes of Car Fires

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If you have ever seen a car fire, you know it’s a scary site. Thick black smoke billows, orange flames spew, and fire trucks and police surround the site. Odds are you won’t ever have to deal with a fire involving your own vehicle, especially if you take it in for regular check-ups and fix anything that needs repairing. However, it can be helpful to know the common causes for car fires for you and your passenger’s safety. Below are some of the top causes of car fires.

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1) Car Crashes: one of the most obvious causes of car fires are car crashes. Although most cars crumple zones are designed so the sheet metal absorbs the impact around dangerous areas such as the engine, fuel tank and battery, a hard enough hit can still possibly cause fluid leaks and spillage, as well as heat and smoke creating ideal conditions for a fire. 

2)  Flaws in the Design:  Sometimes undetected design problems with the car can contribute to car fires. Notice I say contribute as a design flaw in a vehicle usually isn’t going to cause a car fire on its own. They can, however, create conditions that are perfect for a fire, and sometimes even create conditions in which an eventual fire is inevitable.

3)  Poor Maintenance: While lack of maintenance is not going to directly cause your car to catch fire, in general, your car can be a lot more dangerous and can indirectly lead to a vicious fire. For example: frayed wiring can lead to a spark which can ignite flammable fluids such as oil or gasoline. Keeping up with repairs and performing regular maintenance can all help you avoid conditions that can lead to a vehicular fire. Make sure you take your car in to a certified mechanic like those at Patterson Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, RAM, on a regular basis.

4)  Electrical System Failure: another very common source of car fires, a car’s electrical wiring runs throughout the entire car; a stray, unnoticed frayed wire could wreak havoc. In addition, standard car batteries are also capable of causing plenty of trouble. A battery’s charging cycle can cause hydrogen gas to build up in the engine bay, and the electrical current the battery provides (along with faulty or loose wiring) can then produce sparks which can quickly ignite leaked vapors or a fluid drip. Again, routine maintenance plays a big role in this.

5) Overheating: Many people wonder is a car’s engine overheating can cause the car to catch fire. While the engine overheating alone is unlikely to cause your car to burst into flame, what can happen is the engine overheating and making internal fluids rise to dangerous temperatures and begin to spill out of their designated areas. When this happens, the fluids drizzle and spurt onto the exhaust system and other super hot parts, where they can ignite and spread.

6) Fuel Leaks: One of the most common causes of car fires are caused by a fuel leak. Any number of factors can cause a fuel leak, but at the same time, they can also arise on their own. Whatever causes it, a fuel system leak is really dangerous.  Gasoline at a temperature of just 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius) or above can quickly catch fire from a simple spark, and gasoline that reaches 495 degrees Fahrenheit (257.2 degrees Celsius) will ignite by itself. This makes it easy to imagine how fuel dripping onto hot metal and plastic parts can cause a fire. If you ever smell gas in or around your car, find and fix the leak immediately! Of course, as we have mentioned before, proper maintenance can go a long way in preventing a fuel system fire.

Many of these car fire causes can be prevented with the right maintenance. Just one more reason why regular maintenance is so important. Regardless of what caused the fire though, the most important thing to remember is that once a vehicle is on fire is to get out fast and get as far away from the car as possible.

Image courtesy Tony Webster via Flickr

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