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The Dangers of Car Fires

The Dangers of Car FiresJorgen and Carolyn Vindum are grateful to be alive after a terrible scare a few months ago. The couple received a shock of a lifetime when they were awakened by their alarms at a quarter to six in the morning and noticed flames coming from the garage.

Once Jorgen and his wife were safely outside of the house, they were able to safely identify the cause of the fire: their two Teslas parked inside of their garage. As Jorgen took his phone out and began recording the fire on his phone, he could hear actual explosions from the car. Jorgen even reported hearing the actual horn going off in the second car.

Fire crews were able to arrive to the couple’s house within eight minutes, and between 20 to 30 minutes the fire was extinguished. The damage was significant; both Teslas were burned beyond repair, and if anyone had been sleeping directly above the garage, that person would have been dead.

A fire inspection report stated that problems in the thermal management system and a fault in the electrical system of the car getting charged were the possible sources of the fire. As scary as this type of incident is, this is beginning to happen more often than not with the distribution of these electric vehicles, particularly electrical vehicles with lithium-ion batteries.

The Chicago defective auto parts attorney at Gainsberg Law explores car fires in today’s blog.

What is the likelihood of a car catching on fire?

Car fires were, and still are, a rare phenomenon for motor vehicle drivers to worry about. However, with the automobile industry’s mission of transforming at least half of the United States motor vehicles to electric vehicles by the year 2050, many automobile manufacturers have been in the process of manufacturing and distributing electric vehicles. Unfortunately, many automobile manufacturers have experienced incidents similar to Tesla with the new models of their electric vehicles.

One recent example is Hyundai, who had to recall at least 100,000 Sonata and Tucsons due to potential disastrous engine defects. General Motors is in the same boat; the company recently had to issue its second recall for about 69,000 of its Chevrolet Bolts after two cars were reported to have caught on fire.

What are the main causes of car fires?

Although car fires are one of those accidents that happen less frequently than any other type of fire, they are still deadly accidents. These are the types of accidents that result in serious fatalities. Most of these fires are caused from problems with the engine, drivetrain or wheel areas. Defective parts can also cause car fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, car fires claim the lives of seven people every week. More than a third of car fires are caused as a result of some unintentional action, like accidents or careless behavior; nearly a quarter are caused by equipment failure or a heat source in the car.

What are some of the sources that help ignite car fires?

The heat from powered equipment, the engine, or drivetrain, and sparks from the friction or electrical arcs are responsible for two out of every three car fires. Smoking or being exposed to some other type of open flame accounts for seven percent of car fires. There is only five percent of car fires that resulted from collision; however, these types of car fires account for six in ten of all fatal car fires. The best way that a car driver can prevent a car fire is to keep and maintain their car in good shape and avoid open flames.

What other recalls have there been due to potential car fire risks?

Hyundai and General Motors are not the only car manufacturing companies that have had issues with electrical vehicles setting on fire. Tesla, Porsche, Ford Motor, BMW, and Volvo have had to issue recalls due to defective issues in their electric vehicle models. A majority of these defective issues involve faulty parts in the electric battery or faulty issues with charging the vehicle overnight. As stated earlier, defective parts are responsible for a fraction of car fires. However, hundreds of people are killed and millions of drivers are at risk of electric vehicles that could be set on fire from faulty design.

Which type of car is more likely to catch on fire – electric or gas?

Despite the recent occurrence of electric vehicle fires happening in the past two years, it is still too soon to accurately determine whether how electric vehicles and gas-powered vehicles compare to each other in terms of car fire risks. According to Tesla, gas-powered vehicles are 11 times more likely to catch fire. However, another cause that can set electric vehicles on fire consists of water damage due to situations such as flooding.

During Hurricane Sandy, for example, electric vehicles were submerged in water of about five to eight feet for over several hours. This led to the development of corrosion which ignited a fire in an electrical component in one of the cars, and the hurricane winds helped to spread it to other surrounding vehicles.

What can you do when your car catches on fire?

One of the best ways to prevent a car fire is to maintain routine maintenance on the car. Drivers are also advised to pay attention to specific warning signs like a loose or missing oil cap, broken or loose hoses, cracked wiring, loud sounds from the exhaust, spilled or leaking oil from the car, and rapid changes in fuel levels or engine temperature.

In case a person’s car sets on fire, the driver wants to turn off the ignition, make sure the driver and their passengers are at least 100 feet away from the car, remain aware of any traffic depending on where the driver is located, and call 911 only after the driver is at a safe distance. Under no circumstances are the driver or passengers allowed to return to the car.

At the client-centered law practice of Gainsberg Law, we consistently provide clients like you with high-quality personal injury representation. If you believe that a defective car part caused your accident, turn to our Chicago defective auto parts attorneys. Call our office today at 312-600-9585 or submit a contact form.