Why Do Cars Suddenly Catch Fire? Experts Offer Possible Reasons


While enjoying a drive down the highway, the last thing anyone wants is to suddenly see smoke rising up from their car engine. This might be a scary thought, but vehicle fires happen more frequently than a lot of people realize—and definitely one of the deadliest emergencies that can happen on the road.

In the US, vehicle fires account for about 20 percent of all reported fires, according to their National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). There has yet to be a published study on automobile fires in the Philippines but the general idea is that it can happen anytime, anywhere.

Aside from serious or fatal injuries, a burning car is also a significant loss of investment so it’s essential everyone becomes aware of the top common causes of vehicle fires. The more you understand how these fires occur, the more likely you will be able to stay safe on the road.

Design Flaws

We often hear news of certain car models that seem to be involved in accidents and in some cases, catch fire, more than usual. Auto manufacturers who become aware of this design or mechanical flaw typically issue a recall so owners can be notified of the possible danger and have their units fixed for free.

If by any chance you receive news of a possible recall, it’s best that you act immediately and contact your dealer for assistance.

Poor Maintenance

Using your car with broken parts, leaky seals, or faulty wiring without repairs can put you in danger. It’s a simple principle: the less maintained your car is, the higher the risk of igniting flames.

Car Crashes

Collision can lead cars to spark fire. The high heat caused by the hard impact level when combined with the vehicle’s fluid leaks will react violently with each other. So in the event of a car crash, the driver and passengers are advised to get away as soon as possible to keep away from danger damaged cars might bring.

Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Batteries

Battery-related problems have plagued hybrid cars and electric vehicles for years. This usually occurs due to the leaking coolant interacted with the damaged batteries.

While car manufacturers continue to redesign their battery packs, risks still remain that may cause cars to set ablaze.

Overheating Engines

Mechanical attention is imperative for overheating engines, because if left neglected, it could make the car’s internal fluids like oil and coolant to rise to dangerous temperatures and begin to spill out from their designated area of circulation. If this happens, these fluids would drip, drizzle, and spurt all throughout the engine bay and onto the exhaust system, landing on other hot parts where they can easily ignite and spread.

Spilled Fluids

Vehicles use gasoline/diesel fuel, engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and even engine coolant to make it run. Unfortunately, these fluids are flammable, meaning they could catch fire easily when they start to spew or spill out of nowhere particularly if their lines, hoses or reservoirs are hit.

Better keep your car’s fuel system in check regularly so you’d be aware of dangerous leaks and repair them right away.

Electrical System Failures

Electrical wiring runs in every part of a car, so it is advisable to look after your car’s overall wiring system before they get frayed and cause sparks. Also, a typical vehicle’s standard battery’s charging cycle can cause explosive hydrogen gas to build up in the engine bay, and the electrical current the battery provides can produce sparks that can quickly ignite a fluid drip or leaked vapor.

Most car accidents, including vehicle fires, can be avoided when we are responsible owner. Never skip your routine maintenance because even the smallest detail is enough reason to your car and life at risk.

However, if the unthinkable has already occurred, it is important to act quickly while remaining calm. Stop the car, turn off the ignition, get every person out of the car, stay away and move to the closest safe place to avoid flames and toxic fumes, and immediately call for help.

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