Why a car catches fire: what are the reasons and what to do

The latest news reports more and more often of cases in which a car caught fire autonomously , that is without necessarily having suffered a collision: what are these problems due to? Are there cars more susceptible to fires?

Let’s find out together.

Types of car fire

Which cars burn the most, electric or piston ones? After the latest news events with Tesla protagonists catching fire, the world has been led to think that this is a common problem especially for electric cars, but the reality is another.

The cars powered by petrol or diesel catch fire much more often than what many imagine, and this uproar stems mainly from the fact that electric vehicles are a novelty, therefore easily attract attention.

The real question then is: why can they catch fire even if they don’t have a flammable fuel tank?

The main cause is found in their large batteries , which like any accumulator can be subject to short circuit: this generates heat and consequently the chemicals in the battery could ignite.

However, cars (electric or not) can catch fire for 3 reasons:

  • car accident
  • vandalism
  • spontaneously (internal defect)

Looking at the statistics on the Fire Brigade website there are about 50 vehicles (of all types) set on fire per day.

Fires: electric cars vs piston cars

It is true that electric car batteries are protected by an extremely strong shell and are centrally located to ensure maximum safety, but a violent collision is still dangerous. In addition, this type of fire has a slow start: good for the occupants, but could be dangerous in retrospect when the danger seems to have ceased, because it can flare up on returning home.

Speaking of piston cars, the most common, we can say that they are the victims of many fires, and that they develop much more rapidly: why does the fuel catch fire even if it is well protected in the tank? It can happen for a spark , or a flame , and in this case the car has its destiny sealed, and even the occupants have very little time to get away.

A curiosity? In Italy there were 22,680 vehicle fires in total in 2015 (source National Fire Brigade).

How to put out burning cars

The procedure for effectively extinguishing a fire in a car is different from that followed for other types of similar events: specifically, for example, extinguishing the fire of an electric vehicle (and therefore of a battery) is quite demanding.

It takes longer, more extinguishing substances and attention, because it is possible that it will re-ignite after a while due to the residual heat: a burning electric car must therefore be left in a very safe place for days, until its complete cooling.

In any case, whatever kind of fire it is, the first thing to do is call for help !

To prevent, however, you can periodically check the wiring and the electrical system . A useful idea is to take out an optional theft and fire policy during the auto insurance renewal phase (before the event, of course). It does not prevent fire, but it can save your “wallet”.


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