What to Do if a Car Catches Fire?

Team CARS24
Team CARS24

Updated on: 26th January, 2024 IST

What to Do if a Car Catches Fire?

We’ve all seen it in movies and TV shows – a car crashes into something and it immediately bursts into flames or explodes. Even though the likelihood of a car catching on fire just from a collision is extremely low, a fiery car is a lot more common than you might think. All you have to do is pop the hood of your car and take a look at all the moving parts, electrical wiring, and flammable oils to know just how dangerous your vehicle can be. Some of the most common reasons behind a car catching fire include fuel leaks, electrical failure, a collision, or even a simple burst tyre. Being a car, a fire in a vehicle can occur while it is on the move or while it is parked – and they each come with challenges of their own. So, before we can get to what needs to be done when a car is on fire, let’s learn how to spot the signs.

Warning Signs You Should Not Ignore

Before your car is engulfed in flames, there are a number of signs that you might otherwise overlook if you don’t know what you’re looking for. A car is a machine and when something is wrong, that machine has a way of letting you know. Unfortunately, most people choose to ignore those signs and push their vehicles to their limit. Here are some of those signs you should definitely take a closer look at.

Warning Signs You Should Not Ignore

Car Fuses Get Blown Out: The fuses on a car are quite sensitive and are blown out when the vehicle is either overheated or there are electrical issues in the car. If you notice that the fuses in your car are getting blown out constantly, you might want to consider taking the vehicle to a mechanic. Blown fuses could also mean that there is already a fire under the vehicle or in the engine bay – which you need to put out immediately.

Loud Sounds From The Exhaust: As mentioned earlier, when a car is overheated, it tends to malfunction and the exhaust acts like a mouthpiece for a car to let us know that something isn’t right. If you hear loud sounds or bangs coming from the exhaust, there could be a fire in the rear or underneath the vehicle.

Increased Engine Temperature

Increased Engine Temperature: Every car comes with a temperature gauge that lets you know whether the engine in your car is at a stable temperature or whether it is overheating. If you see the gauge rise suddenly and rapidly, the chances of there being a fire in the engine bay or under the bonnet are high.

Decreasing Fluid Levels

Decreasing Fluid Levels: The levels of oil and other fluids are most likely going to drop quite fast if there is a fire in the car. You should keep a close eye on the oil and fuel gauges to see that they are not fluctuating continuously.

Bursting Tyres

Bursting Tyres: Fire and rubber do not mix well and that is exactly what you should consider when you find your tyres bursting for no apparent reason. If there is a fire under the car or anywhere near the tyres, it could cause them to burst or explode – something you do not want when the car is on the move.

If you find any of these above-mentioned signs in your car, you have to prepare yourself as your vehicle might be about to catch fire. In the case of a fire in the car, there are some things you have to do without fail. However, there are various circumstances wherein you might find your car on fire.

Car on Fire While Driving

Here is what you need to do when your car is on fire while driving:

  • Before anything else, you have to pull the vehicle over on the side of the road and turn off the ignition.
  • Once the car is at a complete stop and the engine is turned off, you have to quickly get out of the vehicle. If there are other passengers in the car, help them get out as well. Before you turn off the ignition, you should unlock the doors and windows to make it easier to get out of the vehicle.
  • Once everyone is out of the car, move a safe distance away from it. Since there are flammable liquids in a car, a fire could eventually escalate to an explosion. If possible, you should also alert traffic nearby about the burning car so that they can take action and avoid any accident.
  • If you have a fire extinguisher in the car, you should try and use it to put out the fire before it grows and becomes even more dangerous. This should only be attempted if you know how to use a fire extinguisher properly and the fire is small enough to attempt putting it out safely.
  • Opening the boot or bonnet of the car while it is on fire is probably the worst thing to do. Fire from underneath the vehicle or inside the engine bay can flare up if the boot or bonnet is opened and this could result in severe burns to your hands or face.
  • If the fire is out of control, you should immediately contact the fire department and the traffic police for help. The fire department will have the expertise and proper equipment to put out the fire whereas the traffic police can alert traffic in the area and create a safe area around the burning vehicle.
  • Make sure that you are not standing in the middle of the road while waiting for the authorities to arrive. It is best to wait either behind the car or in front of it but at a safe distance.

Car on Fire When Parked/Stopped

Here is what you need to do when your car is on fire when it is either parked or stopped:

  • If you are waiting at a stop sign and notice that the car is on fire, turn off the ignition immediately and get out of the vehicle. You should also unlock the doors and windows so that it makes getting out easier. If the car is simply parked and it catches fire, get out as fast as you can and make sure that the ignition is turned off.
  • Move away from the burning car so that you are safe in case of an explosion. A car consists of electrical equipment and flammable oils and liquids which could cause the car to explode when they come in contact with the flames.
  • Once you are a safe distance away from the car, try and alert other vehicles and pedestrians so that they can protect themselves as well. A burning car can easily cause damage to other cars, people, and property around it so you should notify anyone within a close radius of the car.
  • If the car continues to burn, you need to contact the fire department immediately. They are equipped to fight all types of fires and put them out successfully and quickly.
  • Only if the fire is a small one and is contained in a limited area, you should try and use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. You also need to have a proper understanding of how to use a fire extinguisher before attempting to put out the fire.
  • No matter what, you should never try and retrieve any personal belongings from inside a burning car. Once it is on fire, there is an excess buildup of toxic gases inside the car which could cause severe harm to you. Plus there is an added risk of the car exploding so you should avoid trying to get anything out.

Car on Fire Due to Collision/Accident

Car on Fire Due to Collision

Here is what you need to do when your car is on fire due to an accident or collision:

  • If the car catches fire after an accident, you should try to get out of the car immediately. If there are other passengers in the car, you have to get them out safely as well. If you or anyone else is injured inside the vehicle, you should still try to leave the burning vehicle because it could become fatal within a few minutes.
  • Once you are out and if you are not severely injured, you should immediately contact emergency services and the fire department to tend to the victims and the vehicle respectively.
  • Get away from the burning car while waiting for the emergency services or fire department to arrive. A burning car could easily explode, especially if there is a leak in the fuel tank, and that could cause even further harm.

If you ever find yourself in a burning car or have an encounter with one, this article should educate you on everything you need to know to help put it out or assist the driver of the vehicle. Have you ever experienced a burning car and what did you do in that situation?

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