Is it safe to put a fire extinguisher in a car

The short answer is yes. Fire extinguishers in Singapore are tested to Singapore EN3 standards. This allows the fire extinguisher to operate to temperatures of up to 60 degrees celcius.

In the annual SCDF fire statistics, vehicle fires are classified as “fires in non-building places”. For the year of 2021, there were 155 vehicle fires of which, 82 were motor cars.

Fires in Non-Building Places
23. There were 155 vehicle fires in 2021, an increase of 2 cases (1.3%) from 2020. Of these cases, motor car fires accounted for more than half, at 82 cases (52.9%).
Vehicle Fire Statistics in Singapore for the year 2021

Doesn’t sound like a lot? Let’s put it another way. On average, a Singapore motor vehicle catches fire every 5 days. Now doesn’t it sound a lot more frequent and worrisome?

Given the probable nature of vehicle fires in Singapore, it makes sense to buy a fire extinguisher for your vehicle. But the question that many car owners have is whether it is safe to store a fire extinguisher in a car.

To help shed light on this topic, our fire safety experts at Fire Armour are here to answer some of the burning questions (pun intended!) car owners may have on equipping their vehicles with appropriate fire safety equipment.

What is the maximum temperature for storing fire extinguisher

Thankfully all fire extinguishers used in Singapore require a maximum temperature of at least 60 degrees celcius and it can be higher depending on the tests that were done. Even in sunny Singapore, this will more than suffice for storage in a car parked in the open-air car park.

Do however note that not every fire extinguisher is made the same. If you want to be 100% certain that your model of fire extinguisher is suitable to be used in your car environment, make sure to check the operating temperature. All fire extinguishers have an operating temperature range indicated on the instruction label so you can have a quick look to see the operating temperatures the fire extinguishers have been tested for.

How fire extinguishers are tested for the maximum operating temperature

Under the Singapore Standards EN3 (Clause 7.4), all fire extinguishers must be tested to be able to work effectively at 60 degrees celcius before being put out on the market for use.

To be certified for use, fire extinguishers are placed in a temperature conditioning chamber to simulate both the minimum and maximum operating temperatures for a period of at least 24hrs. After which, within a minute of removing the fire extinguishers from the chamber, the fire extinguisher is discharged to see if it still works.

Only fire extinguishers that pass this test can be certified for commercial use. So rest assured that if it passes this test, it will survive being stored in your vehicle.

How do fire extinguishers “explode” ?

Fire extinguishers exploding is pretty much a myth. In real life, fire extinguishers hardly “explode” like a Michael Bay Hollywood movie explosion.

Because dry nitrogen is commonly used as a propellant in fire extinguishers, it will not cause a ball of fire even when ignited. Furthermore, it also takes quite a bit of effort to “explode” but this does not mean you should attempt it as proper testing is always done in a safe environment and within a sturdy hydrostatic test cage. For safety reasons, we will not be expanding on how the pressure testing is done.

To put your mind at rest, know that extensive testing is done on fire extinguishers before they are certified.

For instance, under the Singapore Standards EN3-8 for construction, resistance, and pressure test of fire extinguishers, one of the criteria is that a fire extinguisher cylinder should not rupture under 55 bars. In tests to certify the safe use of the fire extinguisher, the cylinder body is intentionally pressurized incrementally to test its pressure limits – usually much beyond what will be experienced in daily life.

Another part of the test is to see if the rupture will cause the cylinder to break off into small parts. The cylinder is intentionally “exploded” by further increasing the pressure. At the end of a successful test, there will be no fire, no shrapnel, and little sharp parts flying around.

So long story short; no, your fire extinguisher stored in the car should not explode even under high temperatures within its operating limit.

How to safely store fire extinguishers in a car?

Want to get a fire extinguisher for the car in case of emergency? Make sure to store it safely with the following tips:

1. Fire extinguishers should be held firmly in place
This is so that the fire extinguishers does not move when the car moves. Constant vibrations can cause leakage through the seals. It is also why fire extinguisher inspections are to be done at least weekly for vehicles.

2. Fire extinguishers should be out of direct sunlight.
Ultraviolet sunlight degrades all seals and parts rapidly. Fire extinguishers are no exception. On average, fire extinguishers exposed to sunlight tend to deteriorate faster than those out of direct sunlight.

3. Fire extinguisher safety pin and seal must be intact.
This is actually the most common problem for placing fire extinguishers in a car. Imagine a situation where you need to slam on the brakes, the resultant forces may cause the fire extinguisher’s lever to hit the wall and discharge its powder contents. The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to always ensure the metal pin and safety seal are in place before storage.

4. Fire extinguishers pressure gauge should be inspected at least weekly.
Moving vehicles will result in movement and vibration. Even if the fire extinguisher is held firmly in place, vibrations cannot be eliminated. To ensure a leak has not occurred, fire extinguishers should be inspected at least weekly and daily if possible.

Where to store fire extinguishers in a car?

If space permits, the best option is the glove compartment. If a fire occurs, the driver can easily pull out the fire extinguisher and open the hood in one swift motion.

Following which, under or behind the driver’s seat are also good alternatives if space permits. However, the issue with these two options is that the driver must reach under or behind the car seat to grab the fire extinguisher. This may not be easy for everyone.

The most undesirable place would be the boot. Not only does the location make the weekly inspection difficult to remember the boot also usually stores many other objects like a stroller or bicycle. This might make it harder to locate or grab the fire extinguisher in an emergency. More importantly, during a fire, it would mean additional steps to make. You would have to open the boot, run to the back of the car to grab the fire extinguisher, and run back to open the car hood.

Alternatively, installing a bracket is the best option as it greatly reduces vibration. But this option is usually more for commercial vehicles as private car owners do not wish for holes to be drilled into their cars.

For industrial vehicles, our recommendation is to install a bracket. Not only does it help significantly reduce vibrations and extend the lifespan of the fire extinguisher, but it also provides a clear designated spot to find the fire extinguisher in an emergency.

Protect Your Car from Accidental Vehicle Fires Today!

Looking for a lightweight and portable fire extinguisher? We have the perfect choice for you! The Hercules Dry Powder fire extinguisher is small enough to be stored in most glove compartments and at 3.4kg, lightweight enough for any adult to operate with ease.

Read up on other fire extinguisher topics.

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