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Vehicle Fire Extinguishers 101

We hear the same questions everyday, but there’s one that’s begun to stand out: “Should I put a fire extinguisher in my vehicle(s)?” The simple answer is, “Yes!”

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that vehicle fires account for about 20 percent of all reported fires. Short circuits, leaking fluids and faulty fuel delivery systems are just a few common causes of vehicle fires.

A properly secured and visible fire extinguisher in your vehicle provides the perfect opportunity for you to eliminate the fire before it spreads. Just remember, to only use a hand portable fire extinguisher if you are confident and will not be putting yourself or others into harm’s way.

Vehicle fire extinguishers can be purchased at hardware stores, major retail outlets, and from you local fire equipment dealer. While the shopping experience may bring you to the brink of sensory overload, here are the fundamentals:

  • Look for a lightweight unit, typically around 1lb – 2.5lbs.
  • The most common type of hand portable fire extinguisher for your vehicle is an All-Purpose ABC Dry Chemical Unit.
  • Make sure you purchase the correct mounting hardware that allows you to position the extinguisher in a secure, convenient location within the vehicle.

Your car fire extinguisher must be serviced in the same manner as the extinguishers in your home or business. You will be required to recharge or replace that unit each time it is used, even if it is only partially discharged. You will perform a monthly inspection to ensure the unit is properly charged and properly located in the vehicle for ease of use. Each extinguisher should undergo an annual maintenance performed by your local fire safety company.

If your car is on fire:

  • Pull over as quickly as it is safe to do so, be sure to use your signal as you make your way to a safe location off the road such as the breakdown lane or rest stop.
  • Once you have stopped, TURN OFF the engine.
  • GET everyone out of the car. Never return to a burning car for anything.
  • MOVE everyone at least 100 feet from the burning car and well away from traffic.
  • CALL 9-1-1.

To prevent a car fire in your own vehicle(s):

  • Have your car serviced regularly by a professionally trained mechanic.
  • If you spot leaks, your car is not running properly, get it checked. A well maintained car is less likely to have a fire.
  • If you must transport gasoline, transport only a small amount in a certified gas can that is sealed. Keep a window open for ventilation. Gas cans and propane cylinders should never be transported in the passenger compartment.
  • Never park a car where flammables, such as grass, are touching the catalytic converter.
  • Drive safely to avoid an accident.

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