Part VI of the Auto Saving Series. If you missed a segment, start at the beginning.
If your engine is on fire, it is going to be expensive. Burnt engines ruin much more than your day.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2007, 365 deaths, 1,500 injuries and more than $1 billion in property damage directly resulted from vehicle fires in the United States. The majority of vehicle fires are attributed to routine maintenance which was neglected.
A driver’s nightmare
Driving down the highway, smoke starts rising out of the hood of the car. You pull over to the side of the road and get out. Smoke billows from the rear of the car. The paint blackens on the car. Then, you see the flames. Before the fire department can arrive, the car burns to a black cinder on the side of the road. The upside? You got out.
What causes car fires?
The NFPA says most fires are a result of electrical or mechanical malfunctions or failures. Once the fire starts, leaking flammable fluids and gases make the blaze burn out of control. The heat melts hoses and line joints for brake and transmission fluids, gasoline and power steering fluid.
Does my driving affect my chances of a car fire?
- Follow posted speed limits. They are set to account for road conditions and typical safety features of cars on the road.
- Follow traffic rules to prevent collisions. Collisions can start a fire.
- Do not smoke in the vehicle. If you must smoke, use the ashtray.
- Be aware of changing road conditions. Icy, oily or wet roads can be dangerous. Erratic driving can damage safety and electrical systems in your car which can start fires. Avoid driving under these conditions.
How do I prevent a vehicle fire?
Maintenance. Well, that sounds simple, but you have to ask for the right kind of maintenance. Make or print a list to bring to your mechanic when you have routine maintenance done, like oil, filters and fuse changes.
- Check all engine hoses for leaks, wear, damage or weakening.
- Check fuel lines and joints.
- Check electrical conduits for wear or cracking.
- Check electrical wiring for fraying.
- Check belts for wear or damage.
What else can I do?
Be aware. Know, look at and listen to your vehicle. Get your vehicle to a mechanic if you notice any of the following:
- Blistered or cracked hoses.
- Loose wiring.
- Wiring with cracked insulation or frayed metal.
- Fluid leaking under the vehicle.
- Change in the sound of the engine running and idling.
- Change in the tone or volume of the exhaust.
- Visible exhaust or smoke coming from the tailpipe.
Preventative maintenance is the best deterrent to vehicle fires. Many mechanics will perform these checks for free. Save money by preventing the kind of damage which starts a vehicle fire. Take care of your car, so it can take care of you.
Have you ever seen a car burn? Where were you, and was it yours?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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