Secure Your Car With The Super Car Insurance Plan!

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Secure Your Car With The Super Car Insurance Plan!

Believe it or Not! Save upto* 75% on TATA AIG Car Insurance

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Car Fire Safety

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 29/11/2023

Imagine you are driving on a busy road, enjoying the music and the scenery, when suddenly you notice smoke coming out of your car’s hood. You panic and wonder what to do.

Should you stop the car and open the hood? Should you try to put out the fire with water or sand? Or should you call for help or wait for someone to rescue you?

You are not alone if you have ever faced such a situation or fear that you might. Car fires are more common than you think.

Car fires are one of the most dangerous and devastating hazards that can happen to any driver. As per the reports published by the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 1,317 cases of car fires reported in India in 2020, resulting in 1,024 deaths and 1,057 injuries.

These numbers are alarming, especially considering that many car fires are preventable and manageable if the drivers are aware and prepared.

Car fires can also result in property loss, environmental damage, or legal liability. Therefore, knowing how to prevent, avoid, and deal with car fires is paramount for your car fire safety.

Why Car Catches Fire?

The following factors can contribute to car fire accidents.

Poor Quality Accessories

Many car owners install aftermarket accessories such as stereos, lights, or chargers, which may not be compatible with the car's electrical system or may have faulty wiring. This can lead to sparks, short circuits, or overheating and eventually cause a fire.

Fuel System Leaks

Leaks in the fuel lines, tank, or injectors can cause fuel to spill onto hot engine parts or ignite due to a spark. This can result in a rapid and explosive fire.

Overheating Engines

Engines can overheat for various reasons, such as low coolant level, faulty thermostat, clogged radiator, or damaged hoses. An overheating engine can make the oil and other fluids boil and spill or damage the electrical components, creating a fire hazard.

Design Flaws

Some cars may have inherent design flaws that make them prone to catching fire, such as improper placement of switches, wires, or batteries or defective fuel pumps, injectors, or filters. You may not detect such flaws until they cause a fire and may require a recall by the manufacturer.

Collisions

Car accidents can cause damage to the fuel system, electrical system, or engine and create sparks, leaks, or ruptures that can ignite a fire. Collisions can also trap the occupants inside the burning car, making it difficult to escape.

Arson

Some car fires are intentionally set by criminals, vandals, or insurance fraudsters. Arson is a serious crime that can endanger lives and property.

**Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Batteries

While hybrid and electric vehicles are generally safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional cars, they also have some unique fire hazards. Their batteries contain high-voltage electricity and flammable chemicals that can overheat, short-circuit, or explode in certain situations.

Overheating Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converters are devices that reduce harmful emissions from the exhaust system. However, they can also get very hot and ignite nearby materials, such as grass, leaves, or plastic.

Car Fire Detection: How to Recognise and Identify Car Fires?

Here are some of the most common and indicative signs and symptoms of car fires:

Smoke

It is one of the most noticeable and alarming signs of a car fire. Smoke can come from different parts of your car, such as the engine, the exhaust, the dashboard, the vents, or the windows. Depending on the burning material, they can have different colours, such as black, white, blue, or grey.

Here is what various colour means:

Black smoke: It suggests oil or fuel-burning

White smoke: It indicates coolant or water vapour

Blue smoke: It means transmission fluid or power steering fluid

Grey smoke: It means brake fluid or electrical components.

Smoke can also have distinct smells, such as burning rubber, plastic, metal, or oil, which can help you identify the source of the fire.

For example, a burning rubber smell usually signals a tire or belt fire, a melting plastic smell shows a dashboard or interior fire, and a rotten egg smell usually means a battery or catalytic converter fire. These smells can also be harmful and cause irritation, nausea, or suffocation.

Flames

They are another clear and frightening sign of a car fire. Flames can appear from different parts of your car, such as the engine, the fuel tank, the tires, or the interior. They can also have different sizes, shapes, and colours, depending on the intensity and nature of the fire.

For example, small, flickering, yellow flames usually mean a minor or localised fire, while steady, orange or red flames typically suggest a widespread fire.

Flames can also spread quickly and unpredictably, especially if they reach the fuel or other flammable substances, which can cause explosions or flashovers.

Sparks

They are small, bright, and brief flashes of light that can suggest a car fire. Sparks can be caused by various factors, such as electrical faults, short circuits, loose or damaged wires, or metal friction. They may also ignite a fire if they come in contact with fuel or other flammable materials.

Sparks can be hard to see or notice, especially during the day or in bright light, but they can be accompanied by other signs, such as noises, smells, or smoke, which can alert you to their presence.

Unusual Noises

Unusual noises such as popping, cracking, hissing, or banging can also signal a car fire. These noises can be caused by pressure buildup, leakage, combustion, or explosion.

Popping or cracking sounds hint at a small or moderate fire, while hissing or banging sounds usually mean a large or severe fire. These noises can also warn you of an impending explosion or flashover, which can be highly hazardous.

Unusual Leaks

Leaks refer to dripping, spilling, or spraying fluids. The common reasons for unusual leakages are corrosion, damage, or rupture. These leaks can also fuel, or worse, a fire, if they involve flammable liquids such as fuel, oil, coolant, or brake fluid.

Car Fire Handling: How to React and Respond to Car Fires

If you detect a car fire, you should not panic or ignore it but take immediate action to handle it. How you handle a car fire depends on the situation, such as whether you are driving, parked, stopped in traffic or involved in an accident or collision. Here are some general steps to follow.

Stop the Car

When you notice a sign or symptom of a car fire, stop the car as quickly as possible, preferably in an open and isolated area, away from other vehicles, buildings, or flammable objects. You must also turn off the engine and pull off the key from the ignition. Next, apply the parking brake to cut off the fuel and electrical supply and prevent the car from moving or rolling.

Get Out of the Car

After stopping the car, exit quickly and instruct other occupants to do the same. Close the doors and windows behind you to reduce the oxygen supply to the fire and prevent it from spreading.

Keep a safe distance from the car, at least 50 meters. Avoid standing behind or in front of the vehicle, as the fire may cause the tires, windows, or fuel tank to explode and shoot debris in all directions.

Call for Help

Once you are out of the car, call for help using your mobile phone or ask a bystander or a nearby shop or house for help. Dial the emergency number 112 or the fire brigade number 101, and try to provide them with the following details for better rescue:

Your name

Location of the incident

Make, model, colour, and registration number of your car

The type and extent of the fire

The number and condition of the occupants.

You should also follow the instructions and advice of the emergency operator and wait for the firefighters or other rescue personnel.

Use a fire extinguisher

If you have a fire extinguisher in your car, and the fire is small and contained, you may use it to put out the fire, but only if it is safe and feasible.

Always use the right type of car fire extinguisher, such as ABC dry powder for electrical or fuel fires, CO2 for electrical fires, or foam for fuel fires.

Use the fire extinguisher correctly, following the PASS technique:

Pull the pin

Aim the nozzle

Squeeze the handle

Sweep the spray.

You must also keep a safe distance from the fire and avoid inhaling the smoke or the extinguishing agent. We will also discuss the installation of a car safety kit with a fire extinguisher and how to decide on which one is perfect for your vehicle.

Assist Others

You should also try to assist other occupants, bystanders, or firefighters who may need help or support. Check if anyone is injured, trapped, or unconscious, and provide them with first aid, CPR, or rescue if you are trained to do so.

Also, warn other drivers or pedestrians approaching the car fire scene and direct them to a safe area. Cooperate and communicate with the firefighters or other rescue personnel and provide them with any information or help they may require.

Car Fire Prevention: How to Avoid Car Fires?

The best way to stay safe from car fires is to prevent them from happening. Car fires often result from negligence, ignorance, or carelessness, which can be avoided by following simple and practical tips and practices.

Regular maintenance

This is the most basic and essential step to prevent car fires. Check your car's engine, battery, wiring, hoses, belts, fluids, and fuel system regularly, and look for any signs of wear, tear, corrosion, leakage, or damage.

Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations and guidelines for servicing and repairing your car, and use only authorised and qualified mechanics and technicians. You must also keep your car tidy and clear away any dust, debris, or dirt that may accumulate in the engine compartment or under the vehicle.

Avoid Flammable Materials

These are some of the most common and avoidable causes of car fires. For example, smoking in a car can ignite the upholstery, carpet, or other combustible materials inside your vehicle or cause sparks that can reach the fuel tank or the engine.

Carrying flammable materials, such as gasoline, kerosene, alcohol, or aerosols, can increase the fire risk, especially if stored inappropriately or exposed to sunlight or heat.

Firing crackers near your car can also cause fire, generating sparks, flames, or explosions that can damage your vehicle or ignite the fuel or other flammable substances.

Right Fuel Type

Cars require different fuel types, such as petrol, diesel, CNG, or electric. Always use the type and quality of fuel compatible with your car's specifications and requirements, and only mix or switch fuels with proper guidance or consultation.

You should also avoid overfilling or underfilling your fuel tank, as this can cause pressure buildup, leakage, or evaporation, which can lead to fire. You must also be careful when refuelling your car and follow the safety instructions and precautions at the fuel station.

Follow the Traffic Rules

As previously discussed, collision or road mishap is one of the many causes of car fire accidents. Considering this, driving safely can also help you prevent car fires and other accidents and mishaps. Always obey the traffic rules and regulations, such as speed limits, lane discipline, signal lights, and road signs.

You must also wear your seat belt, avoid distractions like mobile phones, music, or eating, and maintain a suitable distance from other vehicles. You should also be alert and attentive to the road conditions, weather, and traffic and adjust your driving accordingly.

You should also avoid driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or fatigue, as this can impair your judgment, reaction, and coordination.

How to Install a Car Fire Extinguisher?

A car fire extinguisher installation is simple if you follow the following steps.

Choose a Suitable Location

Choose an easily accessible and visible location. You may place the extinguisher under the driver's seat, behind the passenger's seat, or in the trunk. Avoid placing it near the fuel tank, engine, or battery, as these are potential sources of fire.

Also, avoid placing the fire extinguisher in direct sunlight, as it may affect its performance or cause it to explode.

Use a Suitable Mount

Use a mount that securely holds the fire extinguisher in place and prevents it from rolling or sliding. Try using a metal bracket, a strap, or a clamp that is compatible with the size and shape of the fire extinguisher. Also, use screws, bolts, or nuts that are durable. Avoid using tape, glue, or Velcro, as they may not be reliable.

Follow the Instructions

Always follow the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and the mount, and use the right equipment. Avoid altering the fire extinguisher or the mount, as it may affect their functionality or warranty.

How to Choose the Best Fire Extinguisher for a Car?

When choosing a car fire extinguisher, you need to consider the following factors:

Fire Extinguisher Type

Choose a fire extinguisher that matches the fire type you will face in your car. An ABC dry powder fire extinguisher is the best option for most cars. However, depending on your vehicle's fuel source or design, you may need a different type.

Fire Extinguisher Weight

Choose a fire extinguisher suitable for your car's size and weight. A fire extinguisher weighing up to 2 kg is recommended for compact cars, as it is easy to handle and store.

You may need extinguishers weighing 4 kg or 6 kg for larger cars to cover a larger area and last longer. It is worth mentioning that too bulky extinguishers may hinder your movement or visibility in an emergency.

Fire Extinguisher Quality

Choose a fire extinguisher of good quality and certified by a reputable authority, such as the Bureau of Indian Standards, the International Organisation for Standardisation, or the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

A certified fire extinguisher will ensure that it meets the safety and performance standards and has been tested by a third-party agency. Also, check the expiry date and the warranty period of the fire extinguisher, and avoid buying an old or damaged one.

Electric Cars vs Conventional Cars: Which is Safer in Terms of Fire Safety?

Experts suggest electric cars are safer than petrol/diesel cars regarding fire safety. They are less likely to catch fire than petrol/diesel cars, which are 20 to 80 times more likely to ignite.

However, electric car fires pose various challenges, such as thermal runaway, battery reignition, and stranded energy, which require special precautions and procedures. As an electric car owner, you must know the best practices to prevent, detect, and handle electric car fires.

Role of Car Insurance in Car Fire Safety

4-wheeler insurance is a legal necessity in India. To drive legally, you must have active third-party liability insurance. However, it is recommended that you buy comprehensive car insurance. The rationale for this is that it provides better coverage. The insurer compensates you if you cause damage to another person's property and pays for repairing and replacing your insured vehicle's damages.

Now, let's understand how insurance shields against fire-related loss.

When a fire damages your vehicle, a surveying officer visits the scene to assess the extent of the damage, prepares a report, and allows you to either have the car repaired at a network garage without incurring any out-of-pocket expenses or pay the expenses upfront and file a reimbursement claim.

However, there is a catch: if the engine has a flaw contributing to a car fire, the standard car policy online may not be adequate.

In such cases, it is vital to have an engine protection rider. Not only that, but you may become stranded on the highway owing to an electrical short circuit. With Tata AIG, you can buy a roadside assistance cover rider with your four-wheeler insurance in order to deal with such a circumstance.

Conclusion

Car fires are a major source of concern. When this happens, it causes property damage, severe environmental damage, and, in the worst-case scenario, death. There is, however, a way to cope with it.

But first, you need to be aware of the variables that contribute to it, such as overheating, gasoline leaks, poor aftermarket accessories, and a few others. To avoid car fires, avoid storing combustible objects in your vehicle, refrain from smoking, and keep a car fire extinguisher nearby.

Various types of car fire extinguishers are available on the market; hence, it is your responsibility to choose the one that is best for your car.

Sometimes, car fires are unavoidable, and the only option is to spend money on repairs and maintenance. That is where you will feel the urge to purchase a 4-wheeler insurance policy online.

FAQS

Why do vehicles catch fire after an accident?

Vehicles can catch fire after an accident due to fuel leaks, electrical issues, or damaged components. A collision may cause fuel lines to rupture or electrical systems to malfunction, creating a potential fire hazard.

What is the reason behind the car fire?

Car fires can happen for various reasons besides collisions. Electrical issues, like faulty wiring or a short circuit, can spark fires. Another risk is leaking fuel from a damaged fuel line or a loose gas cap. Overheating engines or exhaust systems and even arson are potential causes.

How do you fireproof a car?

Making a car fire-resistant involves simple steps. Choose fire-resistant materials for seat covers and interiors. Install a fire extinguisher in the car. Regularly check and upkeep the vehicle's electrical system to prevent short circuits. Keep the car's engine and exhaust system in good condition.

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