Car fires are relatively uncommon, so when several cases are reported in the news, there is cause for concern.
What’s even more worrying is that some of the cars that caught fire were relatively new. One does not expect new cars to suddenly burst into flames – even if it has been in an accident.
Here are several issues that car owners should be mindful of.
ZAP THOSE ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS
Car fires are commonly caused by electrical faults.
Sometimes, these faults are caused by fuses with higher-than-specified ratings. Shoddy workshops will install such fuses to minimise electrical trips. But when there is a fault, heat may build up, causing a fire.
Therefore, the installation of aftermarket accessories, such as audio components, must be done by reputable and experienced mechanics.
The wires used must be sized for the intended accessory, while the fuse must be rated no more than the electrical-current specification of the equipment being installed.
WATCH FOR FLUID LEAKS
The second most common cause of car fires is a fuel, engine oil or even transmission fluid leak. If the leaking fluid flows to hot zones such as the cylinder head or exhaust manifold, it could ignite.
Check under your vehicle before getting into it. There shouldn’t be any oil or coloured fluid under it (unless it was there before you parked in the space). Upon starting your car, ensure that no warning lights are illuminated before driving off.
Petrol leaks are the most dangerous. Hence, any smell of petrol must immediately be attended to.
MIND THAT WORN INSULATION
In older cars, worn wire insulation is a common cause for fires. When bare wire contacts the car’s steel body, short-circuit fires can occur. Loose connections pose another risk, too.
Bear in mind that household wires are not suitable for a car’s direct current system. Also, avoid quick-release battery terminals that are sold online.
INSTALL A FIRE EXTINGUISHER
If you’re concerned about a car fire, consider installing a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. It’s not something most motorists will have in their car, but in an emergency, it may prevent a fire from doing more damage.
If you decide to keep one in your vehicle, make sure it is properly installed.
Fire extinguishers – even smaller ones – weigh several kilogrammes. You do not want them rolling (or flying) around in your car, even if they’re in the boot.