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Handling Car Fires

3 min read
While you may think your car is hot stuff, you never want it to be so hot as to catch fire! Here are steps to take if black smoke and/or flames are coming out of your car’s bonnet.

In January this year, a car caught fire while it was left in a multistorey car park in Chua Chu Kang; in March, the same thing happened to another car along the East Coast Parkway during the morning peak hour.

While scary, cases of vehicular fires are — thankfully — fairly uncommon. In fact, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) reported an 11.8% drop in vehicular fires in

2019 compared to the previous year: 195 to 221. While reasons for the fall are unclear, it is worth noting that public education programmes were launched after fire-related incidences spiked in 2018.

Car fires can be terrifying, especially when you are not prepared for them. Common causes of vehicular fires are related to engine overheating or electrical faults within the engine compartment.

When A Fire Breaks Out 

If you smell something burning, or see black smoke or flames emerging from your car hood, here is what you should do:

  1. Slow down, signal and pull over to the left side of the road.
  2. Turn off the engine. This step is crucial as it stops the flow of fuel to the engine. If your engine is not switched off, a full-blown fire could occur!
  3. Get yourself and your passengers out of the car and move to a safe location immediately. Distance yourself from the vehicle to prevent potential injuries in case of an explosion.
  4. Once you are in a secure place, call the SCDF at 995 for help.
  5. If the fire is small and manageable, and there is a fire extinguisher at your disposal, you can try to put it out on your own. However, if fire is coming out of the rear of your vehicle, do not attempt to put it out. You must leave the car and distance yourself from it without delay.
  6. While waiting for help, caution other road users of the burning vehicle and keep them away from the vehicle/fire.

Ways to Prevent Fires 

  • Maintain and service your car regularly at authorised vehicle workshops
  • Make sure the car’s electrical, engine and fuel systems are examined for any defects during servicing
  • Look out for signs of fluid leaks in between servicing
  • Never leave flammable material (eg gasoline, explosives, lighter fluid, aerosol cans, nail polish, alcohol, etc) in your car
  • Never park a car where flammable materials, such as dry grass, are touching the catalytic converter
  • Never install sub-standard bells and whistles (eg extra LED lights, customised horns, etc) in/on your car, and never by mechanics with suspicious qualifications and/or ties. Unqualified people fiddling with you car’s electronics could cause a short-circuit.

While servicing your car regularly may put you out of pocket by a few hundred dollars, keep in mind that getting repairs checked out and done can keep you safe and save you more money in the long run should your car go up in flames. Another reason for regular servicing is related to car insurance matters: the No Claim Discount on your car insurance policy may be affected if negligence is found to be the cause of the fire — and irregular servicing would fall into that category. So do make the effort to service your car regularly.