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Seeing the viral video of a Jaguar going up in flames in a carpark, together with the many other recent cases, are there simply more cars catching fire? Why is that so, and how can we prevent it?

Category: Miscellaneous Advice

The only appropriate occasion for a raging flame is probably when you are starting a barbecue party or a bonfire. Huge flames are usually a sign of trouble, and the last thing that car owners wish to experience is watching their vehicles being swallowed by vicious flames.

The internal combustion engines found in vehicles are complex machineries that run on highly flammable fluids. Couple that with the intricate electronic system in a car, it's simple to understand why cars have the tendency to burst into flames, more so, than say, your bicycle.

Recent cases of cars catching fire

There has been a consistent number of car fires in the recent years, with around 200 car fires a year. On average, there's a car on fire every two days here!
Every now and then, you will see news of cars on fire - some after a collision, while others seemingly combusted spontaneously. On 5 June 2018, there were two cases of vehicular fire. A private-hire car had caught fire at Bugis and the fire was put out by members of the public with a fire extinguisher before SCDF arrived. Shortly after, an Alfa Romeo also caught fire on the same day, when a family of three was driving towards Hougang Avenue 4.

Just a month after, on 11 July 2018, a car caught fire while travelling on AYE. Fast forward to 18 January 2019, two cars had caught fire in Yishun and Bukit Batok. More recently, on 28 January 2019, a Jaguar caught fire at Block 229 Pending Road. A video of this incident went viral on social media. Just two days later, another Jaguar caught fire while travelling along TPE towards PIE, before the Upper Changi Road North exit.

Car fires can be caused by many different reasons such as a mechanical fault, even without a collision
Why cars catch fire

Car fires are often the result of multiple causes, it can be the culmination of years of negligence which results in a disastrous mechanical fault. It can also be caused by a simple mistake made by the occupants of the car (i.e. from cigarettes).

After all, there are a lot of flammable fluids in a car, such as its fuel, brake fluid and transmission fluid. Internal combustion engines operate at an extremely high temperature with the exhaust system reaching more than 300 degrees Celsius. Put the complex electrical system weaved throughout a car into consideration, and anyone can see why they have the tendency to go up in flames.

Aftermarket LED looks amazing, but a flawed installation can cause a fire as well
Why does there seem to be more car fires lately?

As technology advances, cars are now filled with much more complicated electric systems. These days, most cars are also installed with a variety of electronic gadgets such as dash cameras, phone chargers and other devices which have a propensity to malfunction.

To make matters worse, many of us love to shop for such gadgets online. These unbranded products that we purchase at a steal are seldom tested for safety, and can potentially be a fire hazard. Many cars are also modified with custom LED lighting, daylight-running lights, and other fancy accessories, in line with the current trends, where a flawed installation or product can potentially start a car fire.

Car fires are usually caused by parts failure, getting your car serviced and checked regularly can prevent issues from going out of hand
How to prevent car fires

Many car fires are related to parts failure, such as a fluid leak, an electrical fault that leads to sparks, melting wires that caused a short circuit, a severely over heated part in the engine bay, or a mix of all these.

With all these potentially dangerous components all held in close proximity, it is clear that one issue will lead to another and easily snowball into an all-out disaster. To avoid it all, you should ensure proper and regular maintenance of your vehicle and get a competent workshop to conduct a proper check as soon as possible if you are experiencing issues with your car.

What should you do if your car catches fire?

A fire extinguisher will come in handy during times of emergency
If you have a fire extinguisher (you really should carry one in your vehicle for emergencies), and the fire is small, you can attempt to put out the fire. However if the flames get too big and uncontrollable, or if you notice flames coming from the rear of the car (where the fuel tank is usually located), you should get away from your car as quickly as possible and contact emergency services (SCDF).

Safety always comes first in such a situation. Do not risk your life by attempting to fight a fire that cannot be contained and will easily overwhelm you. Most insurance policies (except third party-only) cover car fires, so you should contact your insurance provider to guide you through the claims process.

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