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People do understand that they need fire extinguisher in their car at some point and make a well research purchase, at least 70 out of 100 cars do have some type of fire extinguishers these days. What many people don't realize the importance of how to use it right. There are few basic limitation of using car fire extinguisher and many people don't even know them. I remember doing the same mistake when I first saw the fire and ran to the extinguisher and emptied the whole can without even reducing the size of fire, let alone extinguishing it. I have been regularly trained and certified Fire Warden with more than 10 years of annual training from Gulf Technical & Safety Training Centre, in Abu Dhabi. I also have a history of saving 4:1 cars, means I saved 4 cars and lost one to the fire (sadly). In any event of fire, time is of an essence, so sooner and smarter you respond the better the outcome may come. You also need to remember that not all car fires are controllable and it's better to walk away in case fire spreads too quickly, rather than making an attempt to fight it. If fire is not spreading fast then you might have a good window of opportunity ONLY if you know how to correctly use the car fire extinguisher. Wrong use of car fire extinguisher will help spread the fire every second and also running out of your fire extinguisher. COMMON MISTAKE OR IGNORANCE Every car fire extinguisher is timed for 5-10-20 seconds of use ONLY. Shooting fire extinguisher from far away is absolutely useless. Find and aim the source of the fire and not the flames. Test / Top up your car fire extinguisher every year. Place your car fire extinguisher within your reach. RIGHT WAY TO USE CAR FIRE EXTINGUISHER Always try to aim and cut off 1 of 3 these things "SAFELY" if you can: Heat, Oxygen and Fuel. If the fire is inside the engine bay, switch off the car immediately as that will cut off the fuel if its fuel related fire. Do not open the hood and wait to see if smoke or fire subsided. If you are in offroad, let few people constantly throw sand on top of close hood (bonnet), that will help lowering down the temperature (removing HEAT) and in case sand seeps through hood louver it can also help in suffocating fire to cut off the oxygen or at least will let you buy few more seconds to fight it. Find the source of the fire is a key to extinguish with limited timed fire extinguisher in hand. Even if you see smoke or flames from the hood, but fire source is always down and may be accessible through wheel arc, front grill or even under the car from the sides. Once you spot the correct source, go as close and safe as possible to shoot the fire extinguisher on the base of the fire and sweep (if you can) for at least 5-6 seconds. Base of the fire is always lighter and brighter in color so don't shoot red color flames, instead look for bluish, yellowish, purplish source of the fire. After the first shot, if fire has been put off then wait for 30 minutes to open the hood, if its still on and accessible, shoot again from as close as you can and sweep it from left to right for 5-6 seconds. Once fire is successfully put off, wait for at least 30 mins to open the hood, as cooling off extinguish fire is equally important. Extinguishing car fire works best with a teamwork, instead everyone coming and emptying the fire extinguisher from various sides. So if you are in offroad and your car catches the fire and you see smoke or flames from the hood, as a first rule of thumb, switch off the car and get your shovel and extinguisher out. If someone is leading then you can support whatever he ask. If you are leading then be ready to get close to the base/source of the fire as soon as possible and advise everyone to keep throwing sand on top of hood and aim to hit the fire base or flame if they can with sand shower. Use every fire extinguisher wisely as its the only thing that can extinguish the fire base very quickly and efficiently. Do not panic, as that will worsen the situation for you to burn your hands or face. Do not get carried away and you should know when to stop fighting and run away with your critical belonging if fire spreads out quickly. Disclaimer: All the above knowledge I intend to share with everyone to let them know how to use fire extinguisher safely rather than just wasting it. I do not intend them to become a hero and get burnt. Cars are replaceable but lives and limbs are not. Example: He could have used 1/2 of the extinguisher if he would have reduced the distance from 6 feet to 3 feet. MUST READ: 7 Uncontrollable Car Fire Causes and Prevention Types of extinguishers that are out there to stop a fire in your car
Having a fire extinguisher in your car is good, but sometimes it's of no use if car catches an instant and uncontrollable fire. In that scenario, best is to learn - how to exit the burning car with all your "critical belongings" under 10 seconds. Here are the stats that show the percentage of each type of cause that is responsible for an uncontrollable fire. 49% - Mechanical failure or malfunction 23% - Electrical cause 11% - Leaks or breaks 09% - Unknown causes 05% - Catch fire from another burning source 03% - Accidents or rollover So in short, 83% causes of an uncontrollable car fire is because of an owner negligence and only 17% is beyond anyone control. So NEVER delay car maintenance, use cheap parts, ignore leaks / rattling / grinding noise again. Here are the 7 main reasons that can cause an instant and uncontrollable car fire and how to prevent it: Engine Oil: As much as buying the best engine oil for your car is very important, you should also pay equal attention to any engine oil leaks. Most of the car engines leak oil when they get older, as the rubber gasket inside the engine tend to stop work and ideally they should be replaced before the leak starts. It's always a good practice to inspect the engine oil leak under the engine and sump area to notice any spotting or dry leak stains at least once a month. If you see any stains in your car park, it's already too late and you should check for its severity and/or replace gaskets/hoses asap. Changing engine gasket is not cheap so if you are press for expenses, get it checked for its severity and let a mechanic or car experts advise you if it's safe to drive for a while. You should also check your engine oil regularly if you have done any engine tuning recently. You can also do the car engine compression test to find out the overall health of your car engine. If engine oil is dripping on the exhaust or on any other heated surface, then don't take any chances as it may ignite on your next drive and get it fixed asap or stop driving that car immediately. If you get the check engine light or see smoke from the engine hood, switch off the car immediately. Even a small engine oil leak can catch fire and that small fire can burn down the nearby high-pressure hoses that can result in an uncontrollable car fire. Coolant: As the name suggests, it cools down the engine internally that has varied temperature from 60 degrees to 1500 degrees at various stages. Engine coolant constantly circulates between the engine jacket and radiator. Thermostat work as a gatekeeper to let the coolant cool down in radiator to exchange with hot coolant that was running in the engine jacket. Even the smallest of a coolant leak is very dangerous, because first, it will spoil your engine within a few seconds and then burn the whole car down in minutes. If coolant quantity reduces or becomes totally empty then the engine won't be able to cool down and will blow the engine head gasket first, warp the engine head and then catch fire. Make sure to check your coolant level always at least once a week, and for off roading just before every drive. And you should know how to test car engine coolant. If there is a coolant leak, please DO NOT DRIVE to save from huge expense that comes from rebuilding an engine or risking your life. Always keep an eye on the heat gauge in the dashboard while driving and pull over the car if it rises above the ideal range. If the heat gauge moves up "little" in the slow-moving traffic and AC stop cooling and come back to normal on the highway, that means something is wrong in the cooling system and get it checked asap but still, you can drive with caution. Gear Oil: Any unusual behavior from the gear shifting with jerk or delay in picking gear or confused with downshift or upshift is a tell-tale sign of failing gear or gear oil. You should also read 5 signs to change your transmission for more details. As the first rule of thumb, get the gear oil and filter change to OEM specs and inspect the sump magnet for any metal shavings. Very fine shavings like a paste are acceptable but if shavings are like spikes then the gear is failing and it needs to be rebuild or change asap. And never believe on the myth about lifetime transmission fills. Continue driving with failing gear is extremely hazardous as it will heat up the gear oil more than its normal temperature. If the car is equipped with A/T light, you can still stop until it cools down, but if the car has no A/T warning light in instrument cluster then it will overheat and explode the weakest pipe or joints and catch an instant and uncontrollable fire under the dashboard. I have recently witnessed this scenario and we were unable to fire-fight instead of several extinguishers used and the car was fully burnt within few minutes. Fuel: One of the most inflammable item in your car and you should never ignore the fuel smell coming from any part of your car. The fuel system is completed sealed and pressurize so ideally not even a vapor can escape. In several occasion leaking fuel pump due to the bad gasket or leaking injectors can cause an instant and uncontrollable fire. If you spot any such fuel smell immediately switch off the car and let competent mechanic have a thorough look rather than taking a chance to drive back home or work. If the smell is coming from fuel cap, then switch off the car and wait for 10 minutes and open the fuel cap to release any excess fuel pressure (if any), occasionally this helps to some extent and then start the car and let it idle for 5 minutes to test. If you still smell the fuel, take no chance and put the car on recovery bed. Electrical: One of the easiest thing to fail and cause a fire is electrical wiring, fuses, relays, etc. Although most of the time the electrical fire is controllable by a car fire extinguisher, but if it happens near hot and pressurized hose then it will become uncontrollable very fast. A major cause of electrical failure is bad workmanship and running the cables from non-designated areas. Using educated electrician is very important to install new electrical components safely, be it off-road lights, winch, music system, amplifier, etc. If any additional cable has been pulled from the car battery then it has to have a certain rating to draw the required amperage load. Wrong or cheap cables will melt and may cause a fire. Such fire or short circuit is also traceable with the plastic burning smell and thin smoke. If you spot the plastic burning smell or smoke or both, immediately switch off the car and reach to your fire extinguisher. First and foremost check the switches, wire and electrical component that you have recently installed. Most of the bad workmanship fail within a few months or under extensive load, so you can doubt accordingly and go close to that switch, cable or component and smell the source. Switch on the car ignition and see if it again smell or produce smoke, then switch off the car and disconnect that component either from switch level or fuse or directly from the battery. Accident: Rare but possible, that after an accident you might damage some flammable fluid hose that can cause a fire. For safety reason, in case of an accident especially small ones, on which we always focus on the accident damage rather than the whole integrity of the car. You should inspect the car from all sides and look for any leaks or burning smell from the engine bay and under the car. If you spot any leak other than AC water dripping, don't drive the car until you figure out what has been leaking and is it safe for a short drive to mechanic or not. Ignoring any small leak, smell, smoke can cause an instant and uncontrollable fire as something under the hood must have been impacted and might leak or explode under the pressure if you drive again. Must read: The top 10 things to check after a car accident. Accessories: One of the first things to fail in your car is an aftermarket accessory, as many car owners buy the cheapest quality of car accessory for the sake of price only. If you are really lucky, it will simply stop working, but if not it can cause the other car component to fail to cause the fire or shutting off the car completely for smallest of internal short circuit. Always stay away from rock-bottom cheapest accessory as it might cost you the whole car. Go with a trusted brand, model and spec that has been proven in the market. Do your research before installing them, for what all additional changes/upgrades you should be doing to support that accessory. For example, if you plan to install 3000 watts music system with amp and woofer, battery upgrade is a must or at least test your battery. Same for additional lights or other electrical stuff that you plan to install. It's always best to discuss your build plan with car experts to seek the best advice like here: Help needed in car audio system selection. It's a prime example of how to research, discuss and then build any aftermarket car accessory that brings you great value and peace of mind for years. MUST READ: How to correctly use the Car Fire Extinguisher Types of extinguishers that are out there to stop a fire in your car