What to do if your car catches fire

Collisions and mechanical failures are usually the reasons behind car fires. They don’t happen frequently, but when they do, they’re a potentially deadly emergency. In this blog, we explain more about vehicle fires, and what to do if your car catches fire.

 What to do if your catches fire

If you smell smoke or see fire coming from your car while driving, knowing what to do could save lives. Vehicle fires can happen in the engine compartment, near the dashboard, or even inside the car.

 Five action steps to take if your car is on fire:

  1. Stay calm and move your car to safety (if possible)

First and foremost, don't panic. Easier said than done, we know, but keeping a clear head is crucial in emergencies. If the car catches fire while you’re driving, turn on emergency indicators, and move to the emergency lane or the side of the road. 

  1. Turn off the engine

Once you have safely stopped, unlock all windows and doors before turning off the ignition. When you turn off the engine, you’ll cut off the fuel supply, which might prevent the fire from growing.  

  1. Evacuate the vehicle and move away

Get everyone out of the car immediately. If any passengers are stuck, help them get out. Take the keys with you. 

Since the car contains fuel and other flammable liquids, it's natural that the fire will become intense. So, to safeguard yourself, move far away from the vehicle, at least 30 metres.

  1. Call for help

Call 10111 or 112. Even if the fire seems small, it's best to let the professionals handle it. 

  1. Don't attempt to extinguish the fire yourself

Unless the fire is small and you have a fire extinguisher handy, don’t attempt to put out the fire yourself. Car fires can escalate quickly and can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of flammable liquids.

Also, don’t ever go near a burning car to collect personal belongings. Nothing is worth risking your life.

 After the fire has been put out

Once the fire is out and everyone is safe, the admin begins.

  • Contact your insurance company

If you have a comprehensive insurance plan, it will likely cover the car fire damages. Contact your insurance company to report the incident. They will guide you through the process of filing a claim.

  • Arrange for a tow

Even if it was a small fire, don’t risk driving your car once the fire is out. There are chances it may have damaged some unknown components that may cause trouble during the drive. Arrange for the vehicle to be towed to the nearest repair shop. 

  • Get a fire report 

Obtain a copy of the fire report from the fire department. This document will be necessary for your insurance claim.

 Why do car fires happen?

Car fires may be less common compared to other car issues, but they can be a serious hazard when they do occur. These fires are sparked due to multiple reasons:

#1 Mechanical or electrical issues 

These are among the most common causes of car fires. Faulty wiring, malfunctioning electrical systems, or defective components can all lead to a fire.  For instance, a short circuit in the wiring can generate a spark that can ignite flammable materials in the car. Similarly, a faulty battery can overheat and cause a fire. 

#2 Overheating engines

When the engine overheats, it can cause the coolant and oil to heat up as well. If these fluids leak, they can ignite if they come into contact with hot engine parts. 

Overheating is a symptom of multiple underlying issues, including a malfunctioning radiator, a broken water pump, or a leak in the cooling system. 

#3 Fuel system leaks

If there's a leak in the fuel system, gasoline or diesel can escape and come into contact with hot surfaces or electrical sparks, leading to a fire.  This can be particularly dangerous because fuel fires can be very difficult to extinguish. 

#4 Car accidents:

Collision during car accidents can also lead to fires, especially when the fuel system is damaged in the crash. The impact can cause fuel to leak out, and if it causes a spark, it can ignite. In addition, the heat from the crash can cause the battery to short circuit, leading to a fire. 

 How to prevent car fires?

Regular maintenance is the key to preventing most of these issues. Ensure your car is serviced regularly by a professional who can spot and fix potential problems before they lead to a fire. 

An Extended Warranty through MotorHappy covers your car against mechanical failures and other operational-related problems. This type of car warranty helps you avoid those nasty “failure” surprises that often translate into unexpected expenses you didn’t budget for. A car warranty is a contract between you and an extended car warranty provider, and you are entitled to financial assistance in case of a major breakdown or failure of any of the systems in your car.  With these costs covered, you can keep your car engine and electrics in good working order and continue to lower your risk of a car fire. 

Pay attention to your car. If you notice any leaks, strange smells, or rapid changes in fuel or fluid levels, get your car checked immediately. 

We hope you found this information helpful and that you'll never have to use it. But if you do, remember to stay calm, act quickly, and prioritise safety above all else.

Your safety is paramount. Material possessions can be replaced, but lives cannot. Stay safe on the road!

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