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What To Do: Help, My Car Is On Fire!

While there are many things that are unique to action films alone, the sight of a car catching fire certainly isn’t one of them unfortunately.

Instead, it is a very real possibility, as emphasised last year by heated situation involving a Perodua Kancil – both of which were not caused by Malaysia’s unforgiving heat, despite how inclined we may be towards believing otherwise.

But why do cars catch fire? More importantly, what can you do if any part of your beloved vehicle ignites while you’re driving it, and how do you protect yourself, your car and your finances in such a situation?

These are some of the questions that we aim to answer. Fasten your seatbelts – and set this reading trail ablaze!

Why do cars catch fire?

There are numerous reasons why a car may suddenly catch fire.

Here are some of the more popular causes:

  • Irregular or poor maintenance. As cars are made up of complex mechanisms, they must be properly maintained on a regular basis. Failure to do so can lead to the deterioration of a car’s internal systems, such as short circuits in the car’s wiring, causing it to catch fire.

  • Overheated engines. If you find smoke coming out from under your car’s bonnet, it is a sign that your engine’s overheating. When an engine overheats for a prolonged period of time, it could ignite and easily set fire to your car. Keep the coolant level in check!
  • Fuel leakage. If your car’s fuel stores are being sapped away by a leak, your monthly petrol allowance isn’t the only thing in danger. Petrol is a highly flammable liquid, and any contact with the hot parts of a car that has been running for a while can cause it to quickly ignite.
  • The aftermath of a crash. There have been instances in which cars caught fire after crashing and caused the death of their passengers, which is why it is vital for you to send your car to a workshop as soon as you are able to after a crash. Be sure that your health hasn’t been jeopardised by the crash first, though!

Regardless of which reason a car fire stems from, it should be clear by now that such an ignition can literally come from anywhere and without a warning sign. This is why it is important for car owners to always be prepared for such a situation.

| See also: 5 Most Stolen Cars In Malaysia |

What do I do when my car is on fire?

As prescribed in all other emergencies, tackling the situation of your car catching fire requires you to keep panic and anxiety at bay. Stay calm, then do the following:

  1. Pull over. If you’re the driver, pull over as quickly and smoothly as possible by the side of the road or in a place that is sufficiently far from heavy traffic.
  1. Turn off your engine. If an overheated engine or a fuel leak is the cause of the fire, keeping the engine on and the car warm will only worsen things.
  1. Evacuate the vicinity. Ensure that you and everyone else in your car moves away from the burning vehicle. It is recommended that you keep between 150 to 200 feet between yourselves and the car.
  1. Call for help. Reach out to the fire department or BOMBA (call 999) for immediate assistance. Relay your location to them with as much detail as possible so they can find you easily.
  1. Alert others. Once you’ve done the steps above, inform traffic around you regarding the situation – either by manually flagging away or by broadcasting a message through traffic alerts on the radio or online – so that they stay out of harm’s way.

Always remember that your health and safety comes first, along with those around you and in your immediate company. Regardless of how small the fire, it is still a fire nonetheless, and fires can be very unpredictable.

How do I protect my car?

At this point, it is easy to think that once a car catches fire, there is no hope for it whatsoever – and that it is best to just leave it to burn away, along with everything that you’ve ever invested in it.

However, could not be further than the truth. There are two very crucial measures that you can use to protect your car:

  • Keep a small fire extinguisher in your car. These are especially handy if the fire appears to be small and is located under the bonnet. In such a situation, lift the bonnet up slightly and use the fire extinguisher to put it out. Take care not to lift the bonnet entirely, though, as exposure to too much air can encourage fires to grow rapidly. Remember not to attempt to extinguish fires that seem to be coming from your boot either. These could be far more complicated and dangerous as the source of the fire may not be readily visible.
  • Insure your car against fire. Although insurance providers usually do not sell plans that cover the mechanical failures of a car, fire is a prominent exception to this practice. Allianz Malaysia and AIG Malaysia, for instance, both have car insurance plans which can help you recover some of the damages caused by a car fire. Such plans are normally referred to as Comprehensive Car Insurance and Third Party, Fire and Theft plans, and you can find out more about them by reading this detailed guide of ours.

Now that your knowledge about car fires has been sparked, be sure to stay safe during your next drive with your new set of tips and know-hows.

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