The only place you ever want to see flames coming from your car is the tail pipe. Anywhere else is bad news. Car fires, while relatively rare, are incredibly dangerous. Between 2003 and 2007, there were an average of 287,000 car fires per year, which resulted in 480 civilian deaths, and 1,525 civilian injuries on average. While this may not be a massive statistic (accounting for less than 2% of all car accident mortalities), it’s nothing to shrug off. Here’s what you need to know to prevent a car fire, and what you should do in the event of one.
How do car fires happen?
In order to guard yourself from car fires, you need to understand how they occur. The National Fire Protection Association reports that more than 75% of vehicle fires start because of mechanical or electrical failure. Therefore, car fires typically involve faulty fuses, fluid leaks (oil, gasoline, etc.), frayed or exposed wiring, or broken hoses.
The malfunctions listed above can come from general wear and tear, so you need to make sure you’re regularly checking in on your car. Look for any spots under the vehicle to see if fluids are leaking, check your hoses for cracks or splits, and be wary of any small electrical malfunctions. These are all signs that something is awry, and deserves your attention. If you are experiencing any symptoms, we hope you’ll consider bringing your car to Chris Leith Dodge for a checkup.
What to do if there’s a car fire
For every step that follows, it’s imperative that you remain calm, but act quickly. Fire spreads, so the longer you take to follow the steps below, the more time you give it to grow.
1. Quickly pull the vehicle over in the safest place you can. The side of the road or a median is usually a good spot. Just don’t pull it under any shelter (gas station awning) or trees – flames rise and will easily spread.
2. Stop the car and cut the ignition. Don’t leave the engine running – that’s probably what started the fire in the first place.
3. Get everyone out of the car. This is not the first thing you can do, but it’s the most important thing to do. Get everyone out of the car, and leave behind any remaining belongings. Nothing is more important than your life. Once everyone is out, move at least 100ft. away from the vehicle.
4. Call 911. This is priority number two.
Now, there are some people out there who keep fire extinguishers in their vehicle for this situation, and we can’t stop you from trying to put the fire out yourself. It’s an unnecessary risk, but it’s yours to take. We just strongly recommend you wait for the professionals.
The most important thing to remember in this situation is to keep the people safe. Your personal effects are nothing without you. Be sure to service your vehicle regularly, and share this information with anyone you feel could benefit from knowing it. We at Chris Leith Dodge want to keep everyone safe on the road, and we know you do too.