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%).

https://www.scdf.gov.sg/docs/default-source/scdf-library/amb-fire-inspection-statistics/scdf-annual-statistics-2021.pdf

This means that on average, a Singapore motor car catches fire every 5 days which actually seems pretty often just that we do not see it on the news. After all, kitchens fires occur at least once daily but are not reported everyday on the news.

So it definitely makes sense to buy a fire extinguisher for your vehicle. But is it safe to store a fire extinguisher in a car?



What is the maximum temperature for storing fire extinguisher

At least 60 degress celcius

It is important to know that not every fire extinguisher is made the same. To ensure that it can be placed in the environment, it is important 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.

All fire extinguishers require a maximum temperature of at least 60 degrees celcius and it can be higher depending on the tests that were done. This will suffice for storage in a car in sunny Singapore.



How fire extinguishers are tested for the maximum operating temperature

In Singapore Standards EN3 clause 7.4, all fire extinguishers have to be tested to be able to work effectively at 60 degrees celcius.

During the Singapore standard tests, four 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 is still works.



How do fire extinguishers “explode” ?

First of all, fire extinguishers do not “explode” like a Michael Bay Hollywood movie explosion. Dry nitrogen is commonly used as a propellant so it will not cause a ball of fire even when ignited. 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.

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. The cylinder body is intentionally pressurized incrementally to test its pressure limits.

The second 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. This means to say that fire extinguishers actually make very poor weapons.



How to safely store fire extinguishers in a car?

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.
Ultraviolent 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 driving half way, and the light turns amber. You do an emergency brake which causes the fire extinguisher’s lever to hit the wall and discharge. This creates a thick cloud of powder. 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
As vehicles will definitely cause movement and vibration. Even if the fire extinguisher is held firmly in place, there will always be some vibration. 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, which is the drawer in front of the front passenger seat makes a good choice. If a fire occurs, the driver can easily pull out the fire extinguisher and open the hood in one swift motion. When placing the fire extinguisher in the car, there are two things to take note of.

Following which, under or behind the driver seat is also good if space permits. 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. It makes the weekly inspection difficult to remember unless you use the boot frequently. The boot is also usually stored with 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 industrial vehicles as car owners do not wish for holes to be drilled into the cars.

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