Before we attempt to answer this question, let us discuss the causes of vehicular fires and the measures you can take to prevent such a disaster from occurring in the first place.
Fire is a chemical reaction involving three components namely, heat, fuel, and oxygen. When these react in the right proportions the heat energy and flames are produced. So in simple terms, fuel plus oxygen plus heat equals fire.
Air and fuel are very essential in the operation of a vehicle. The heat is the ignition source of all fires.
Sources of Ignition
What are the sources of ignition in vehicles that can cause fire outbreak? They are:
- Electrical Heating
- Chemical Heating
- Mechanical Heating
What is electrical heating? This occurs when the amount of current passing through a wire exceeds what the wire can carry. An increase in resistance occurs resulting in the wire being over heated. If this phenomenon persists, ignition of the wire occurs. And when the ignition occurs in a favorable condition, that is, in the presence of fuel and oxygen, then fire can result. One common practice that leads to this phenomenon is when thick wires and fuses of high electrical amperage are used to replace blown fuses.
Chemicals used on vehicles are all fire hazards. This means they have the potential to cause fire. As they are petroleum-based products they can easily be ignited.
These chemicals are the various lubricants. They are the brake-fluids, greases, petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The fire risks associated with these products are when leakages occur. For instance, when petrol drips on to the exhaust manifold or the heated engine components, it is a fine recipe for fire. Also leakages from the carburetor and the fuel tubes can cause fire. How do these leakages occur?
Normally, leakages occur:
When seals and gaskets are broken.
Through development of cracks and pinholes along fuel lines and hoses especially fuel injectors.
When fuel tanks develop holes.
Mechanical heating occurs when there is friction. We know that where there is friction, heat is produced. And if the situation is favorable, that is, where there is fuel and oxygen, fire can result. What conditions result in frictional heating in a vehicle?
Frictional heating can occur when running parts are out of alignment.
Dragging clutches and brakes over and under inflated tires.
Exceeding the axle weight of a vehicle.
Wrong choices of tires, fan belts and springs.
Also not to be forgotten is the bad practice of sitting on the bonnet of a vehicle.
When your vehicle is on fire
So in the event of driving your car and fire occurs, what should you do? How would you tackle the fire?
In the first place, do not panic. Pull gently by the road side out of the way of other motorists. Evacuate the passengers if there are any with you, and let them go in the opposite direction of the blowing wind.
Do not try to salvage any items from the car.
If it is safe, pull the bonnet lever. However, do not fully open it since the wind can increase the fire. Wedge open the bonnet slightly with a wooden plank or a metal bar. Then grab your dry powder fire extinguisher and observe the wind direction and fight the fire from upwind.
Operate the fire extinguisher by the “PASS” word. What is PASS? This is fire fighting acronym meaning Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Spray (sweep).
P—Pull the safety pin on the extinguisher
A—Aim the nozzle through the gap under the bonnet or base of the fire.
S—Squeeze the trigger.
S—Spray the contents into the base of the fire.
Accidents can occur but giving your car proper and regular maintenance by experienced mechanic will protect you and your car from vehicular fires.
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