10 Common Causes of Vehicle Fires



Any vehicle fire may not be due to a single reason. We want to find out the failure cause. A series of predispositions can lead to this tragedy, including human, mechanical and chemical factors. All of these things work together to arise the incredibly dangerous situation.


1. Design defects

2. Poor maintenance

3. Car accidents

4. Arson

5. Electric vehicles' batteries

6. Too-hot catalytic converter

7. Overheated engine

8. Overflowing fluid

9. Electrical system failures

10. Leakage in fuel system


Once the vehicle fire occurs, the most important thing is that it doesn't matter what caused the tragedy. Now, your priority is to get out and get as far away from the burning car as possible.


Small fires don't last long. The initial combination of possible factors will turn a small fire into a big one. Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that automobile fires account for about 20 percent of all reported fires.


Let's find out the causes of vehicle fires.


1. Design defects


Design defects in automobiles do not usually cause auto fires on their own because there is no on/off switch on the car that causes an open flame. However, a design defect can be a condition for an automobile fire. It can even create conditions for trouble.


Typically, automakers begin to deal with these design defects before the problems they cause become popular. The common practice is for the manufacturer to issue a recall. No automaker wants customers to be the victims of a car fire.


Like all car fires, the presence of a design flaw is only the first step in causing a car fire. Not all design flaws cause fires, but any problems can increase the likelihood of a car catching fire.




2. Poor maintenance


Human error may not be the direct cause of a car fire. However, if you don't take care of your car, many problems, such as broken parts, leaking seals, or faulty wiring, can increase the conditions that start a fire.


Damaged engine gaskets are more likely to allow flammable fluids to leak. Broken wires are more likely to cause sparks and come into contact with combustible materials.


3. Car accidents


Car accidents can also cause car fires. The body of most cars absorbs the impact and protects vulnerable internal parts, such as the engine, battery, and gasoline tank. However, the fact is that impacts of excessive intensity can cause fluid leaks and spills, sparks and smoke.


And, as we know, high heat and spilled gasoline meet, which will definitely cause a fire. When a car accident happens, it is actually difficult for the passengers inside the car to see how damaged the outside of the car is. 


Getting out of the car in a crash immediately and keeping a certain distance are the best ways to defend yourself.


4. Arson


Man-made arson is a crime that may be committed to cover up theft or evidence of another crime. Or it may be an old-fashioned act of vandalism. Insurance fraud is also a situation.


It is worth noting that setting a car on fire is quite easy. We are not saying that there is anything reasonable about a car catching fire in this way. We are just saying that a car being set on fire is another reason for the vehicle fire.




5. Electric vehicles' batteries


While concerns about hybrids and electric vehicles are long-standing, we must also acknowledge that with each new design comes new potential risks. It may take some time for these high-profile safety incidents to fade from the public consciousness.


6. Too-hot catalytic converter


The fire hazard posed by too-hot catalytic converters is often overlooked. But imagine that the components of the car that always stays the hottest throughout the car is the exhaust system.


Catalytic converters are usually prone to overheating because they work in a poor environment and are designed to handle exhaust pollutants. 


In other words, if a car's engine is not running efficiently (due to worn spark plugs or any other reason) when the fuel is not burning properly, a lot of harmful emissions can enter the exhaust system. The catalytic converter then has to work much harder to do its job, which makes it even hotter than usual.


This can cause long-term damage not only to the catalytic converter but also to its surrounding accessories. Catalytic converters are designed to operate briefly at temperatures above their normal operating temperature but not at high temperatures for extended periods of time.


If the catalytic converter overheats, it can ignite the insulation and carpeting in the car through the heat shield and metal chassis on the right side.


7. Overheated engine


Even if it overheats, the engine will not cause the vehicle to combust spontaneously. However, it will cause the fluids inside the engine, such as oil and coolant, to rise rapidly in temperature and begin to spill and flow outside.


When this happens, there is the potential for the fluid to spill over onto the entire engine housing as well as the exhaust system, and other hot parts that may be hot enough to ignite and spread the fluid.




In some cases, engine overheating is a design flaw, as in Ford's recall of 90000 vehicles equipped with the special EcoBoost system in late 2012.


Sometimes, updating the software and modifying the on-board computer help keep the engine temperature in the safe zone (lower temperature). This can solve the problem.


Generally speaking, most engine overheating is caused by mechanical problems, such as leaked seals or gaskets, radiators that don't work properly, or any other issues. If your car engine is overheating, you'd better fix it right away.


8. Overflowing fluid


Cars or trucks that have many flammable, highly dangerous fluids under their hoods: gasoline, diesel fuel, engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and even engine coolant. All of these fluids are circulating when the vehicle is running.


If the lines, hoses or tanks for these fluids are leaking or damaged, these fluids can easily be ignited. Therefore, even if those fluids were not leaking, the vehicle could still catch fire for some other reasons. In fact, all those fluids are flammable.


If some accidents pull the trigger, such as a car accident or component failure, the result can be a fire. While such a fire is most likely to start in the engine, all of these dangerous fluids can catch fire so that the ignition point can develop from any part of the car.


9. Electrical system failures


Electrical system failure is another major cause of vehicle fire. All vehicle batteries can be the problem. A typical car with a standard battery can cause enough trouble.


Cyclic charging of the battery can produce hydrogen gas that collects under the hood. Terminals on the battery (faulty connections or loose wiring) can produce a spark that can quickly ignite liquid or hydrogen gas.


The hidden trouble of the electrical system is not limited to something under the hood. Electrical wiring runs throughout the vehicle, through various passages, into the cab, under the carpet, and under the heated seats may have problems.


10. Leakage in fuel system


Leakage in the fuel system is the most common cause of automotive fires. As we have already known, the possible causes of fuel leaks are complex.


This is a tricky issue because there may be no warning of the fuel leak. It can be very dangerous. We have discussed that many fluids in automobiles are corrosive, toxic, and flammable. Gasoline is the most typical one of these.




Gasoline is burned in the engine all the time while the car is running. When the temperature reaches 45 ℉ (7.2 ℃) or more, a tiny spark can set the gasoline on fire.


The ignition point of gasoline is only 495 ℉ (257.2 ℃). When the temperature goes above the ignition point, gasoline burns on its own.


The best way to reduce the chances of a fuel system catching fire is to make sure that your car is properly maintained. If you smell gasoline or diesel fuel on the outside of your car, look for and fix the leak immediately.

Updated Products

Delcoribo Motor Products Co., Ltd.

Economic Development Zone, Jinhua, Zhejiang, China

Tel: +86-579-8275-8180

[email protected]

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