Car fires - Vin Diesel’s favourite theatrical trick may not occur as often in the UK as it does in Hollywood, but vehicles can go up in flames here. According to the official Fire Service, approximately 300 cars burn every day in the UK.
It’s true, the electrical and mechanical build of modern cars is of such quality that vehicle fires - at least those without nefarious or duplicitous intention - are fairly few and far between. However, whether it be due to fuel system leaks, overheating engines, battery melt downs or an unfortunate crash, fires can still break out with catastrophic results.
Chances are, if your four-wheeled pride is ablaze before your very eyes, concern over how it started will be secondary to putting the fire out. It is always recommended to wait for the professionals to contend with a fire, rather than attempting to deal with the situation yourself, but if you feel it is safe to do so then you’ll want a fire extinguisher to hand.
In-car fire extinguishers are a cheap, portable, and effective means to containing and limiting the damage of a vehicle fire. If used correctly, they can have the flames out before the fire crew have even set off, but in keeping with advice from the Fire Service there are a few things to have in mind before attempting to control a fire.
• Only use dry powder or foam extinguishers
• Don't open the bonnet to put out an engine fire - try and apple the extinguisher through a ventilator or radiator grille
• Never use water on an engine fire as it may short the electrical circuit, exacerbating the problem
• Don't try to fight fires. If it gets to be too much, wait for the professionals
• Some cars, particularly within the faster range, can be specified to include fire extinguishers, but if you’re looking to add one to your vehicle, here are CAR’s picks of the best car fire extinguishers:
The StaySafe 5-in-1 is a lightweight aerosol fire extinguisher similar in size and shape to a Lucozade Sport (try not to get the two confused when reaching into the back seat) filled with non-toxic, environmentally friendly fluid to extinguish the flames. Most fire extinguishers are unsightly, cumbersome objects, so we particularly like the portability of this example.
The size and weight of the Staysafe mean it can fit snuggly and securely into any glove box or backseat pocket, keeping it out of sight but always to hand when needed. According to Staysafe, this extinguisher can fight five different types of fire (hence the namesake), including electrical, cooking oil, textile, petrol and diesel fires and paper.
Although small compared to other extinguishers, the Super Help SH2400 is larger in size than the StaySafe, with a 400ml capacity of nontoxic fluid to overcome your fire. The SH2400 does come with a wall bracket as standard, making it a great choice if you wish to affix your extinguisher to the walls of a caravan or motor home, but should not be used on electrical installations.
The UKB4C is a powder-based extinguisher ready for in-car application. Unlike the SH2400, since this extinguisher uses powder to contain fires, it is eligible to be used on electrical equipment, making this a great choice in the event of a battery or cabling malfunction. UKB4C offers this product in two sizes: 600g or one kilogram of powder deployed. We would recommend the former option for optimal portability and safe in car storage.
The AA also offers an extinguisher for the car, available in three sizes: 600g, 950g and 1 kg. This range grants the choice to purchase your extinguisher based on the needs, hazards, and size of your vehicle. This extinguisher is fitted with a yellow safety clip to prevent accidental misuse, but after easy removal of the clip, the AA AA1547 is ready to go. For all sizes, the discharge length is two to three meters, allowing for six seconds of discharge for the 600g edition and nine seconds for the other two sizes.
The FireChief FAE750 is another highly portable fire extinguisher for in car storage and application. The FAE750 features a colour-coded, two button spray design for simplicity and ease of use - simply press the red button to prime the extinguisher and then green to spray. We like the discharge distance of this extinguisher: at three to four metres, it exceeds that of the AA example, increasing safety by having the operator further away from the fire but maintaining efficacy. The FireChief can be used to extinguish all common fires, including electrical, cooking oil and petrol.