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Most car fires aren’t caused by accidents, but by bad car maintenance. According to the National Fire Protection Association, collisions or turnovers caused only three percent of vehicle fires. Leaks, breaks in parts, electrical or mechanical failure and even worn-out parts are the more common causes of car fires.
Here are some maintenance tips you can practice to reduce the potential risk of a car fire.
- Have your car(s) inspected at least once a year by a trusted mechanic or technician.
WHN TIP: Loose Wire
Car fires can happen AFTER regular maintenance or repairs due to a missed connection or loose wire. Check your engine before you leave the mechanic, drive for a mile or so, stop and check your engine again. Be safe and be smart when checking a warm engine.
- Routinely check the condition of your engine, fan belts and hoses, and the oil and coolant levels.
- Always pay attention to signals from your car. Watch out for:
- fluid leaks under vehicles
- cracked or blistered hoses
- loose or cracked wiring, wiring with exposed metal
- smoke from tailpipe or any other part of car
- louder than usual exhaust sound
- sudden changes in engine temperature, coolant levels, rapid fuel or oil loss
- If you have any of these problems, have your car inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
- Avoid smoking. Ask others to refrain from smoking in your car. If you must smoke, use your vehicle ashtray.
- Drive according to posted speed limits and other traffic rules.
- Remain alert to changing road conditions at all times.
- When you are refueling or at a gas station, here are some safety tips to practice.
- Turn off the vehicle before refueling.
- Stay near your car when refueling but don't get back in your vehicle during refueling. This could cause a static charge.
- Discharge static by touching metal before touching the pump or nozzle. Make this a habit. Static can create tiny sparks of electricity which could ignite gasoline vapors and cause a flash fire.
- Don’t use the auto-latch feature of a nozzle. Keep your hand on the nozzle. Don't put something in the nozzle to prop it open.
- Don’t allow children to refuel a vehicle, or play with or near gas pumps.
- Never smoke near a gasoline station or especially during refueling.
- Don't overfill your gas tank.
- Take care when filling a portable gas container. Fill it slowly and don't fill it all the way; you'll need to leave a little room for the gas to expand. Make sure the cap is secure.
Here's a list of suggested items to have in your car in case of a roadside emergency. For a car fire, a fire extinguisher is most important, but the other items listed can also be helpful.
- Fire extinguisher (ABC type)
- Disposable camera (to take photos of the vehicle and damage)
- Can of motor oil
- Cones, warning triangles or emergency flares: keep these in the trunk.
- Empty gas can
- Fire extinguisher (ABC type)
- Flashlight with spare batteries
- Jack for tires
- Jumper cables
- Sealant for small leaks in tires
- Spare tire (be sure to have it checked for leaks and tire pressure each time you have your tires rotated)
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tool box with screwdrivers, wrenches and a small hammer (keep this in the glove compartment for easy access)
- Window scraper for ice
- WhatHappensNow.com Car Fire Page – this page walks you through what to do in the event of a car fire
WHN TIP: Batteries
Don't use high-end batteries (lithium, ultra, etc.) for flashlights. Too much power will burn out the flashlight's bulb.
- Bottled water
- Card with:
- information about family medical allergies or conditions
- emergency phone numbers of family and friends
- Cellular phone
- Car documentation
- Car owner's manual
- Car registration
- Duct tape
- First aid kit
- Insurance information: insurance card, phone number of agent, 1-800 number of company
- List of contact numbers for law enforcement agencies
- Pen or pencil
- Portable radio with spare batteries
- Pre-moistened towelettes
- Reflective vest
- Road atlas, map
- Snack food
Place a bright sticker on the child's car seat with:
- Name child responds to
- Parents'/guardians' names
- Best phone number of parent or guardian
- Two names/best phone numbers of local friends/relatives in case neither parent is able to care for the child
- Any allergies the child may have, especially to medication
- Any medical conditions the child may have or have had in the past (such as diabetes, asthma etc.)
- Insurance information if applicable
- For a young baby, type of formula (if formula fed)
- Name and phone number of child's pediatrician
- Anything else you would like medical personnel to know about your child (fears she may have, favorite song that may help calm her, anything you can think of that would be helpful)
In the event of an emergency, emergency personnel use your cell phone to look for "ICE": who to contact In Case of an Emergency. This can save time in retrieving lifesaving information. (allergies, medication info, condition information, etc).
In your cell phone contact list, simply type the word ‘ICE’ followed by the name (ICE – Jerry) and phone number of the person to call in case of an emergency. You can enter multiple entries if you want, (ICE 1, 2, 3). Be sure to tell the person you ICE that you have ICE'd them. Tell family and friends about the importance of ICE.
WHN TIP: After a Crash
Always have your car properly inspected after accidents, crashes or other damage that may affect the engine or other parts.
Insurance Consumer Advocate
Formed in 1994, the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-CAN) has smart, additional questions to ask insurance agents about post-accident issues. Good questions under the FAQ section. Take a look, add to your list of questions.
Visit this site to learn more about auto insurance, filing a claim, and safety tips. The site gets its support from insurance agencies, its mission is to improve public understanding of insurance — what it does and how it works.
Thank you ...
A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.
Last Updated: 9/2008