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Car Fire Safety: What to Do If a Car Catches Fire?

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

A car is a complex machine with mechanical and electrical components. With the presence of a lot of frictional components, flammable liquids and complex electric wiring, fire is one of the most common hazards in a car. Fire is the last thing you need if you are driving the car. Fire on a moving car can be fatal, as it can damage the critical components of the vehicle.

A car might catch fire in case of a collision, leakage of fuel, tyre burst or electrical failure. The reason might be any, but the fire in a moving car is dangerous because you have to bring the car to a standstill to get out of danger. Fire in a parked car brings its own set of challenges. This article will look into all scenarios of fire hazard in a car and will provide you with the precautionary measures to avoid a fire in your car. Read on, as this article will throw light on Car Fire Safety, and what you should do and what you should not do if your car catches fire.



Car Fire Safety Guide:

Car fire safety guide is one of the critical aspects of owning a car. In case of a fire in your car, you should be knowledgeable enough to take evasive actions. You should also be able to identify the cause of the fire to extinguish the fire on time. So, understanding the reason for fire and taking necessary measures becomes crucial when your car is on flames. This article will also provide you with tips on how to handle the situation if your car catches fire.

What to Do if Your Car Catches Fire:

A car on fire is a very dangerous situation as it can create panic among the occupants. Car fire accidents might be due to various reasons, and it can be fatal at times as a car contains a fuel tank, which is filled with petrol or diesel, which is a highly-flammable liquid. So, what should you do when your car catches fire? Below are some of the scenarios of car fire hazards and steps you should take if you are involved in any such incidents:

1. While you are Driving the Car:

If your car is on fire while driving on the road, then follow the below points to get out of danger:

  • Stop and switch off the ignition: The first thing you need to do if you notice a fire in your car while driving is to stop on the side of the road and turn off the ignition.

  • Get out of the car: The next thing you need to do is to get out of the car as quickly as possible. You should also assist other occupants to safely get out of the car. You can also unlock all the doors and windows before switching off the ignition.

  • Move away from the burning car: As soon as you get out of the car, move away from the burning vehicle. A car contains flammable liquids, which could result in an explosion. So, maintain a safe distance from the burning car. Also, if possible, alert the oncoming traffic about the danger ahead.

  • Use fire extinguisher: If you have a fire extinguisher, attempt to put out the fire before it gets out of hand. Note that, follow this point only if it is safe to do so. It’s always good to have a fire extinguisher in your car because fire hazards are unpredictable.

  • Do not open the bonnet/boot: When a car is on flames, do not open the bonnet/boot in an attempt to put out the fire. Fire in the engine bay or underneath the car is very dangerous, and if you try to open the boot/bonnet, the flames may flare up and might burn your hands.

  • Contact the fire department and traffic police: If the fire is getting out of hand, you should immediately contact the fire department, and also notify the traffic police about the same. The traffic police will help in alerting the oncoming traffic about the incident.

  • Contact the authorised car service centre: Contact your car’s authorised service centre and notify them about the situation. Explain the magnitude of the damage caused by the fire, and you can also ask for a towing vehicle to transport the damaged car to the nearest service centre.

  • Be aware of the oncoming traffic: Do not stand in the middle of the road. Always stand behind the burning car to avoid being hit by the oncoming traffic.

  • Inform your car insurance provider: As soon as the fire has been put off, inform your car insurance provider about the incident. Wait until an executive from the insurance company reaches the spot to assess the damage.

2. When the Car is Parked/Stopped in Traffic:

Fire in a parked car or while waiting in the traffic can be very tricky to handle. You have to be well-aware about the surroundings before taking any evasive action. Below are some of the points to follow if you ever get caught up in such situations:

  • Turn off the engine and ignition: When you notice smoke or flames in your car, turn off the engine and ignition, and get out of the vehicle. Also, consider unlocking the doors of the car so that the vehicle is easily accessible to extinguish the fire.

  • Move away from the vehicle: As soon as you get out of the car, move away from the burning vehicle. A car is equipped with electrical components and flammable liquids which might cause explosion and debris might hit you. So, always maintain a safe distance from the car of fire.

  • Alert other vehicles and pedestrians: When your burning car is in the middle of the road, it might cause damage to other vehicles too. So, alert other road users to move away from the burning car. Also, warn the pedestrians to stay away from the car.

  • Contact the fire department: Immediately contact the fire department as a burning car in the middle of the road can be dangerous. The fire department will be able to control the situation quickly and put off the fire.

  • Do not attempt to put off the fire on your own: Never try to put off the fire on your own. As the vehicle is in the middle of the road, the risk of getting hit by oncoming traffic is high. Also, it is unsafe to put off the fire without a proper understanding of how to deal with such situations.

  • Do not attempt to retrieve personal belongings from the car: Never go near the burning car to collect personal belongings. A burning car is very dangerous as toxic gases are harmful, and an explosion might injure you if you do not maintain a safe distance from the burning vehicle.

  • Notify the service centre and insurance company: After the fire is put off, you can contact the service centre and your car insurance company. Wait until the executive from your insurance provider visits the spot to assess the damage. Later, you can tow the car to the nearest service centre.

3. Due to an Accident/Collision:

A car can catch fire in the event of an accident or collision. A car on fire after an accident is one of the most dangerous situations as the occupants might be injured. Getting out of the car is critical if a vehicle catches fire after an accident. Follow the points below if the car catches fire after an accident:

  • Get out of the car: If the car is on fire after an accident, your priority should be getting out of the vehicle. Even if you are injured, you should try to get out of the vehicle as soon as possible, because fire might cause an explosion and it can cause fatal injuries.

  • Help other occupants: Once you can get out of the car, you should help other passengers to get out of the burning vehicle. Unlock the doors and assist others to move away from the hazard.

  • Contact emergency services: Immediately contact the fire department, traffic police and ambulance, if required. The fire department will be able to control the fire quickly, and the traffic police will alert the oncoming traffic about the hazard ahead.

  • Contact your car insurance provider and service centre: After the situation comes under control, you can contact your insurance provider and car service centre. Explain the situation and magnitude of the damage so that the service centre can assist you in transporting the damaged vehicle. Also, wait till the executive from the insurance company arrives at the spot. Let them assess the damage for claim purposes.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher?

A fire extinguisher is one of the vital safety equipment in case of a fire. You can consider keeping a fire extinguisher in the car as fire accidents are unpredictable. At the same time, you should also know how to operate a car fire extinguisher in tricky situations. First, you should be well aware of the location of the fire extinguisher in the car. Normally, all powder fire extinguishers work the same. You have to pull the pin/key that seals the fire extinguisher and aim at the fire and press the handles together. But note that you should only use the fire extinguisher if it is safe to do so.

Warning Signs That Your Car is On Fire:

Identifying the warning signs of a potential car fire is critical to take evasive actions. Watch out for the below warning signs while driving the car as they might indicate that the car is on fire:

  • Blown fuses: Fuses blow due to excess heat or some issue with the electrical connections, and if you find blown fuses while driving the car, then there might be a fire in the engine bay or underneath the car.

  • Loud exhaust sound:  Exhaust will start making loud bangs if there is fire underneath the vehicle or in the rear of the car.

  • Engine temperature: There will be a sudden rise in the engine temperature if there is a fire under the bonnet or on the engine bay.

  • Low fluid levels: The fuel, oil and fluid levels might drop rapidly in case of a fire. Watch out for sudden fluctuations in fuel gauge and oil gauge.

  • Tyre failure: Tyres might burst due to fire underneath the car.

  • A burning smell: You can sense the smell of burning rubber or plastic if the car is on fire.

Factors Contributing to Car Fires:

A car is a complex piece of machinery with a ton of mechanical and electrical components. There are several factors which can cause a fire in a car. Below are the factors contributing to a car fire:

  • Mechanical failure: A car is equipped with mechanical components which produce heat due to friction. A failure of any such mechanical components can lead to a fire. 

  • Electrical failure: A car consists of complex electrical wiring and other electrical components such as lights, electronic fuel injection system, battery, etc. Failure or malfunction of electrical components can result in fire.

  • Use of substandard components: Using low-quality materials/components in a car can result in fire. The mechanical components of a car undergo a high level of stress, and if the quality is not up to the mark, it can fail and cause a fire.

  • Faulty/loose wiring: A loose wire or a faulty wiring connection can cause a short circuit which might lead to a fire. Exposed wires are also prone to sparks, and a spark is enough to catch fire.

  • Oil spill: If oil is spilt on the engine bay while changing the engine oil, it might catch fire when the engine temperature increases. So, always make sure that there is no oil spill in the engine bay.

  • Fluid leaks: Leakage of other vital fluids such as coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, etc. can cause a fire in your car. Always, check for any leakages before taking the car out on the road.

  • Loose/missing oil filler cap: A loose or missing oil filler cap can cause the oil to spill all over the engine. Engine oil can catch fire due to the high temperature, and it can be fatal when you are driving the car.

  • Worn out/loose hoses: Hoses are the vital components of a car. Worn out/broken/loose hoses can cause a lot of damage to the engine as they carry fluids to the engine. Faulty fuel hose, radiator hose, etc. can lead to fire due to leakage of fuel or coolant.

How to Prevent (or) Avoid Car Fires:

Prevention is always better than reacting when the car is on fire. Follow the below points to avoid car fires:

  • Service your car at regular intervals or as per the interval suggested by the manufacturer. Maintain all the fluids at optimum levels and make sure that all components are in perfect working order.

  • Get the fuel lines checked regularly for any wear or leakage. Fuel leakage is very dangerous as it is a highly flammable liquid.

  • Get a fire extinguisher for your car and keep it near the driver seat.

  • Do not smoke inside the car. Even a small spark can lead to fire as the interior of the car contains plastic and other material which can easily catch fire.

  • Switch off the engine immediately if you smell rubber or plastic burning underneath the car.

  • Stop the car immediately if you notice any smoke from the bonnet of brakes.

  • Avoid parking the car near flammable gases or fluids. The engine will be hot when you park the car, and it’s better to avoid parking near flammable materials.

  • Switch off the engine while refuelling the car. The vapours of the fuel might come in contact with the heat produced by the engine and catch fire.

  • Do not transport or leave flammable substances inside the car. The temperature inside a closed car can go quite high, and the flammable substances can catch fire.

  • Always park the car in a safe place, and especially in summers, park the car in a shaded area.

  • Avoid using aftermarket accessories which can tamper the original wiring of the car.

Also, Read: Why A Routine Car Servicing Is A Must For Your Vehicle?

Car Insurance On Fire Claims:

Can you apply for a car insurance claim if your car is damaged due to fire? The answer to this question is both No and Yes. No, if you have third-party liability motor insurance for your car, and Yes, if you have purchased a comprehensive car insurance policy. A third-party liability insurance plan does not offer an Own Damage cover, while a comprehensive car insurance policy provides extensive coverage which includes third-party liability and Own Damage cover.

A comprehensive car insurance policy offers coverage against damage to your car, which includes damage due to accident, damage due to fire and explosion and damage due to man-made/natural calamities. So, you can apply for a claim if your car is damaged due to a fire accident. If your car suffers damage due to fire, immediately notify the insurance company about the mishap and start the claim procedure.

Click photographs of the burnt car, and also shoot videos in all possible angles, so that you have concrete proof for the damages. If required, you need to also submit the copy of FIR (First Information Report) along with other documents. Applying for a fire and theft car insurance claim can be challenging, but if you have bought car insurance online, the overall process of registering a claim is simple.

Also Read: What is a Car Radiator

Frequently Asked Questions:

Car fire accidents are unpredictable, and they are also very dangerous at times. Taking preventive measures and knowing what to do in case of a car fire is extremely important. Below are some of the most common questions about car fire safety:

My car is damaged due to a fire accident. Will my car insurance cover the damages?


Yes. If you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, the insurance plan covers damages to your car due to fire. You can apply for a claim for the same.

Will my car insurance cover damages due to wildfires?


A wildfire is a form of natural calamity. A comprehensive car insurance plan covers damages to your due to natural disasters. So, a comprehensive car insurance plan also covers damage to your car due to wildfires.

Will the car insurance provide coverage if my car suffers a total loss in a fire accident?


Yes, a comprehensive insurance policy provides coverage if your car is damaged beyond repair in a fire accident. The insurer will pay you the Insured Declared Value (IDV) of the vehicle if your car suffers a total loss due to fire.

Are engine fires covered by car insurance?


Yes. Engine fires are covered by a car insurance policy, provided you have a comprehensive coverage policy.

Are electrical fires covered by a comprehensive car insurance plan?


Electrical fires are a tricky scenario as a comprehensive car insurance policy does not cover damages to electricals of the car, and the coverage also depends on the terms and conditions of the insurance provider. But the insurer will pay you for fire damages to other components of the car. You have to pay for repairing the electrical wiring and other electrical components.

Which car insurance plan provides coverage against fire damages?


A comprehensive car insurance plan covers damages to your car due to fire or explosion. The fire might be due to a collision, natural disasters or man-made calamities.

Can I carry a fire extinguisher in my car?


Yes. You can keep a fire extinguisher in your car. Make sure that you buy the right fire extinguisher, which is suitable for car fires.

Do I need to purchase a separate add-on for my car insurance to avail coverage against fire damages?


No. There is no car insurance add-on available to cover fire damages. A comprehensive car insurance policy itself covers damages due to fire. So, there is no need to purchase an add-on.

Will my car explode if it catches fire?


The chances of a car exploding due to fire are very slim. But if the car runs on CNG fuel, there will be a CNG cylinder, which might explode due to fire. A petrol/diesel fuel tank is highly unlikely to explode as they are not pressurised chambers.

Can my car battery catch fire?


Yes, the possibility of a car battery catching fire is very high as it powers the electricals of the vehicle. Loose connectors, rusty connecting points, etc. might cause sparks, and the battery might catch fire. But with proper maintenance of the battery, you can avoid car battery fires.

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