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Prevent Vehicle Fires

Motor vehicle fires can be dangerous!

Fire-related vehicle fatalities account for numerous deaths and serious injuries every year. In 2004, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), highway vehicle fires were responsible for more deaths than apartment fires. NFPA research shows that public fire departments responded to an estimated 266,500 highway-type vehicle fires during 2004. These fires claimed 520 lives, caused 1,300 injuries and nearly a billion dollars in property damage.

Tips for preventing a motor vehicle fire

Consistent vehicle maintenance is the key to preventing a car fire. While many drivers believe most vehicle fires occur from collisions, this is not true. More vehicles fires are the result of a failed vehicle component including damaged wiring, loose electrical connections, worn or blistered fluid lines, leaking connections, severely worn brake components and damaged heat shields.

By properly maintaining your vehicle, you greatly reduce your risk of experiencing a vehicle fire. Vehicle owners are urged to follow manufacturers' maintenance schedules and arrange for a comprehensive maintenance inspection at least once a year after the vehicle's warranty expires.

What you should do if a motor vehicle fire occurs:

  • Stop - If possible, pull to the side of the road and turn off the vehicle's ignition. Pulling to the side of the road makes it possible for everyone to get out of the vehicle safely. Turning off the ignition shuts off the electric current and stops the flow of gasoline. Put the vehicle in park or set the emergency brake so that it will not move after you leave it. Do not open the hood because more oxygen may make the fire larger and exposes you to a sudden flare up.
  • Get Out - Make sure everyone exits the vehicle but do not waste time and increase your risk by removing personal belongings. Move at least 100 feet away from the vehicle. Be mindful of the traffic and keep everyone together.
  • Call for Help - Call 911 or the emergency number for your local fire department. Never return to the vehicle to attempt to extinguish the fire yourself.

What you can do to reduce the risk of a motor vehicle fire:

  • Have your vehicles inspected annually by a trained, professional technician. As a public service, AAA inspects and approves thousands of repair facilities in the United States and Canada as part of the AAA Approved Auto Repair program. Use Shop Locator to find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  • Watch for fluid leaks under your vehicle, cracked or blistered hoses, wiring that is loose, exposed metal, and cracked insulation.
  • Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe, or a backfiring exhaust may indicate problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on your vehicle.
  • If possible, avoid smoking in your vehicle; if you must smoke, be sure to use the vehicle's ashtray.
  • For your safety and the safety of others, follow the posted speed limits and obey traffic rules.

Before hitting the road, members look to AAA for assistance and information that can help them drive more safely, use fuel more efficiently, ensure their vehicles are in good working order, and secure their passengers properly. And, when it comes to maintaining a vehicle, AAA offers a wide range of services from providing helpful car-care tips to free annual inspections at one of its more than 7,800 Approved Auto Repair facilities.