Car Fire Extinguishers – A short guide

If you are a Singaporean car owner, it may come as a shock to you to know that on average, car fires occur as frequently as once every 5 days in Singapore!

What’s more, compared to most normal fires, car fires are considered some of the most challenging fires to tackle – even for seasoned firefighters. In the most recent case of the Maris Stella Car Fire, you can see that the SCDF firefighters took plenty of effort and time to put out the raging fire. So, what can you do as a vehicle owner in the case of a car fire?

That’s when having a fire extinguisher in your vehicle comes in handy. But before you rush out to equip your car with one, make sure you read on to understand the dangers of car fires and learn what you should do in the situation to tackle the fire safely.

Why are car fires so difficult to put out?

Car fires can happen at any point of time even when the cars are parked and turned off. A car fire is usually made of two fire classes – Class A and Class B

The most apparent one is due to the large presence of combustibles under the hood of the car – this includes rubbers, plastics, and of course a whole suite of flammable liquids like engine oil, and your fuel.

As a result, when the car is in operation, and there is a lot of heat being generated, the potential to spark off these combustibles makes it a huge class A fire hazard.

On top of that, just consider the large amount of fuel that each vehicle contains which makes that a class B fire hazard. Even some of the smallest models of cars in the market like the Suzuki Swift and Mini Cooper have fuel tanks of 37 and 44 litres respectively. Not to mention larger continental cars that can have up to 55 litres worth of petrol.

To make things even more complicated, all these rubbers, plastics, and the fuel line are packed in a complicated and difficult-to-access array within the engine compartment under the hood.

This makes it very difficult to identify the base of the fire amidst the thick smoke and may serve as an obstruction for the dry powder of the fire extinguisher to reach the fire.

All these factors put together mean only one thing – that once a car fire ignites, one has a very small window of opportunity to put out the fire quickly before it escalates rapidly into an uncontainable blaze.

The Hercules 2KG Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher has a fire rating of 55B which means it can successfully put out a liquid fire of around 36 litres. This seems a lot until you compare it to the fuel tank size of your car. The good news is that the entire fuel tank is not burning at the same time and it is unlikely the entire fuel tank is filled up.

However, if the fuel line was the cause of the fire, effectively, you may be fighting a fire that is the size of your fuel tank. The fuel size and the car hood impeding fire fighting means that car fires are very tough to put out. Even professional fire fighters will fail at putting out a car fire with a 9KG Dry Powder fire extinguisher by the time they arrive.

What To Do If Your Car Is on Fire?

1. Do not accelerate your car

When a car fire is about to occur, the first sign is the burning smell. If you notice a strange burning smell, that is your cue to immediately slow down your car and park by the side of the road to investigate.

At this point of time, smoke cannot be seen easily as the hood is hiding the smoke. By the time the smoke is visibly emitting out of your vehicle, you will not have much time left to try to put out the fire.

Hence the most important thing to do is to must slow down or stop your car as soon as possible. The more you accelerate, the more heat is generated and the faster the fire grows.

2. Open up the car hood slowly

Once you have safely stopped the vehicle by the side of the road, turn off the engine. This is an important step to ensure that the fuel supply to the engine is cut off, so it doesn’t contribute more fuel to the fire.

Before you leave your car, don’t forget to grab the fire extinguisher.

The next step is to check the situation. As the hood contains the fire underneath, and it also hides the severity of the situation. Without opening the hood, it will not be possible to know if there is a fire, and it would be impossible to attempt to put out the fire.

However, opening the hood quickly will draw in a fresh intake of oxygen which can cause the fire to grow very quickly. Hence the way to approach this is to slowly lift the hood to investigate.

3. Call 995 and discharge the contents of the fire extinguisher

If upon lifting the hood you notice a small fire, go ahead, and pull the safety pin at the top of the extinguisher, aim for the source of the fire, and squeeze the handle to discharge the contents of the fire extinguisher until the fire is no longer visible.

The key to putting out a car fire is to be quick.

However, if the fire is already visible without you lifting the hood, then DO NOT ATTEMPT to combat the fire with your fire extinguisher as it means the fire has likely spread to the fuel tank.

Instead, call 995 and wait for the SCDF firefighters to handle the situation. Stay far away from the scene for your safety.

What to do after a car fire

First of all, congratulations! You are one of the few individuals that have successfully put out a car fire. Here’s what you should do next!

Do not attempt to turn on your car again after putting out the fire. While it’s tempting to think that the whole incident is over, doing so may cause the fire to reignite all over again.

Instead, immediately make a phone call to have the car towed to the workshop for investigations. Let the tow truck driver know that a fire has just been put out so that he can take the proper precautions. Again, we cannot emphasize more, do not attempt to drive your car to the workshop. A fire may reignite within a few minutes of driving.

After the workshop has repaired the car, have a reputable car wash do a wash down and clean-up of the entire area under the hood. Even if it looks clean, do wash it down because the dry powder component from the fire extinguisher is very small and hard to see with the naked eye.

You want to make sure it’s washed off from your car components because the dry powder has a corrosive effect which could damage your car’s inner components if left unattended.

Car maintenance is just as important

The easiest way to stop a car fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Regular maintenance will ensure that car technicians can give you a heads up on signs that could cause car fires – from exposed wirings, and leaking fluids, to blown fuses and more.

Outside of regular maintenance, if the car dashboard shows any kind of red symbol, do not hesitate to investigate immediately.

Get Equipped with A Handy Car Fire Extinguisher Today!

Want some extra assurance to combat small car fires? We have the perfect choice for you!

The Hercules Dry Powder fire extinguisher comes in a compact size allowing you to store it conveniently in glove compartments for easy access when a car fire occurs. Not only that, even with its portable size, it comes packed with enough dry powder to combat up to 36 litres of liquid fires – more than enough for small car fires.

Get yours today now to have peace of mind when you’re on the road!

Read up on other fire extinguisher topics.

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