How to Deal with a Car Fire

The majority of car fire causes relate to a lack of maintenance, from leaking fuel to ill-fitting batteries.Regular maintenance is something you have control over–the  important thing  is knowing how to deal with such  should it happen to you, a responsibility of every driver to protect yourself and the lives of your passengers traveling with you.

Spotting Signs Your Car is on Fire

  1. Realize that you may not notice immediately that your car is on fire. The fire may start in a location that isn’t visible to you. As such, be aware of signs that might indicate the car is on fire, noting that there could be one or more of the following signs:

    • The fuel or oil levels show a rapid change
    • The engine temperature increases rapidly
    • The exhaust system produces very loud sounds or bangs
    • Fuses are blowing repeatedly
    • You observe fuel or oil leakage (if outside of the car)
    • The car feels rapidly hotter
    • You smell smoke, burning rubber or burning plastic
    • You see smoke
    • You see flames.
  2. Do not hesitate to stop if you smell smoke or see flames or experience any of the other signs from the previous step.It is better for it to be a false alarm than to ignore a potentially dangerous situation.


Responding to the Fire

  1. Remain calm.This is a frightening experience but panicking will make it harder to respond quickly and with care.

    • If children and other passengers panic, take charge and verbally reassure them. Talk calmly and firmly to ensure they know what to do to get out of the car quickly.
  2. Find a place to pull over to immediately. Do so safely; check that no cars are obstructing your passage and be sure to indicate your intention to pull over and stop.

    • Find anywhere safe; this may not always be the side of the road. It may be a median strip, a roundabout, a bus lane, a sidewalk (check for pedestrians first).

    Turn the ignition off. If the cause of the fire is a malfunctioning fuel line or a split fuel pipe, then turning off the engine stops the fuel flow, which in turn may even stop the fire from spreading.

    • Place the car in park and put the handbrake on; a rolling car on fire isn’t safe for anyone.
  3. Leave the car immediately. As the driver, it is your responsibility to get all passengers (and any animals being transported) out of the car. As you leave the car, tell passengers not to retrieve personal belongings but to just get out of the car and get clear of it. If you can, shut the car doors, as this can help to contain the fire for longer.

    • Help disabled persons, older adults and the very young to get out as quickly as possible. If you need to physically carry someone, clearly direct all other passengers by voice and tend to the person needing your physical assistance.
    • If it is safe to do so, remove any animal being transported or the cage holding the animal as you leave the vehicle. A dog that is able to get free on its own may leave without assistance, provided it has free passage; use voice commands to encourage it to leave quickly.