Vehicle Fires: What to Do if This Happens to You

One in eight fires in the U.S. are vehicle-related. This rather terrifying scenario is why many drivers wonder, “What should I do if my car catches on fire?” Most cars catch fire after a collision, but damaged wiring, broken hoses and fluid leaks can all lead to a fire and the dangers that can occur if you do not respond correctly. Here are four tips on handling a vehicle fire:

  • Stop the car: It is important to stay calm, use your turn signal and move to the safest area, even if it is a highway median or shoulder. A parking lot is the safest spot if you have access to one. Do not drive too long, even if traffic makes stopping difficult. Turn on your hazards so other drivers know they need to get out of your way. Once stopped, turn off the ignition.
  • Evacuate: Immediately leave the car and ensure all passengers go with you. When on fire, cars emit toxic fumes, and the flames cannot be extinguished through normal means. People should be at least 100 feet away from the car, including curious bystanders. Once out, do not let passengers retrieve personal items from the vehicle.
  • Do not play the hero: Car fires require special handling. Plastics, fiberglass and batteries have particular burning properties that make them dangerous and difficult to extinguish. This is especially true if you drive an electric or hybrid car. Your onboard fire extinguisher will likely not do the job, so do not return to the car to try it. With some fires, using water can make it worse. Instead, when you have evacuated the car and everyone is a safe distance away from it, call 911. If you experience the fire in a crowded area, there is a good chance someone likely already called it in, but make the call to ensure emergency services arrive.
  • Keep doors closed: Keep the hood, trunk and doors shut. When you open them, it circulates air and allows the fire to grow. The only exception is if you have a child in a car seat or a mobility-impaired passenger to assist out of the car. Life threatening situations are another reason. Once you handle these situations, close the door, if possible, and keep your distance from the car.

Car fires can start in the engine area, but they also start under vehicles, in the dashboard, the wheels and brakes and even inside the car. If you smell something burning, pull over and check. You could prevent a fire before it starts and merely have to schedule repairs for your vehicle.

If you find yourself needing the answer to the question, “What should I do if my car catches on fire?” you likely also need bodywork for your car. It is possible to restore your car even if it catches fire. To see if your car is salvageable, contact Autobahn Collision in Oak Park, MI to schedule a free assessment and estimate. We look forward to assisting you soon.

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