Experiencing a car far is something nobody wants to go through. Your vehicle at any given time carries a tank of several gallons of highly combustible fuel, plus other fluids and materials that can be consumed by a fire rather quickly. Getting out of a car that has caught fire without receiving any bodily harm is harder than it might sound, so the best thing to do is take steps to avoid the possibility that your car will catch fire in the first place.
Properly maintaining your car is one of the best ways to prevent a fire. It doesn't take much time at all to look around under your car's hood on a regular basis. Watch for potential fire hazards like leaking fluids, frayed wires, and hoses that are cracking and wearing out. Taking your car regularly to a trusted mechanic is another good way to catch problems when they are small.
Having a car overheat is a tremendous fire risk. Just overheating alone is usually not enough for an engine to burst into flames. The extra hot temperatures can cause the different fluids like oil and coolant to overflow from their designated areas. If they come into contact with the exhaust system, which will also be at above-normal temperatures, those fluids can ignite and trigger a fast-moving fire. Several situations might cause an engine to overheat, like low coolant levels, a failing radiator, or even a software problem with the car's engine control unit (ECU).
When you are performing maintenance on your car, you need to be careful not to spill fluids. Use a funnel when filling the coolant reservoir or adding some power steering fluid. If you do spill any fluids, immediately soak them up and clean the affected area with plenty of soap and water.
One car part that is an especially common cause of car fires is the catalytic converter. Most people don't even think about the catalytic converter since it is out of sight. The part sits underneath the vehicle's occupants, where it can pose a hidden danger. Since it is part of the exhaust system, it is one of the hottest parts of a car when it is running. A catalytic converter can overheat when it is old and plugged up, or when the engine isn't running well and so does not burn the fuel all the way before it reaches the exhaust system. Either problem can send the catalytic converter's temperature from a normal 1,200 to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 2,000 degrees. In some cases, an overheating catalytic converter has suddenly caused the carpeting in vehicles to combust, putting occupants in immediate danger of being burned.
Smelling fuel around your car when you're not at the local gas station is a bad sign. It is possibly an indication that there is a leak in a fuel line or elsewhere in the fuel system. Rather than trying to figure out the problem yourself, take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. Every moment you drive with a fuel leak is incredibly risky.
Always pay attention to recalls for your vehicle. You should be signed up for updates such as recalls from your car's manufacturer. If you don't know whether or not you have done this, your local dealership's service department can help. Car manufacturers as well as government agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are constantly on the lookout for flaws in car designs that can create safety problems like fires. As soon as you know your vehicle has been recalled, schedule an appoint with your dealer to have the problem fixed.