Fire and Fire Extinguisher

Submitted: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 12:41
ThreadID: 57594 Views:3643 Replies:8 FollowUps:3
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Hi All,

Well we had a fun trip on monday.

Just a short jaunt up the road for lunch and back, about 200kms all up.
Mostly bitumn on the way there but follow the back roads back should be a
nice day out. That was the plan anyway.

About 5 minutes from home partner says " trucks a little fumey today". So
I say "what do you mean fumey". " I can smell fumes". "What
petrol/exhaust/oil?". " Just petrol". I still can't smell anything but
I've got my window down and the floor vent closed. Normal operation for
this vehicle is that there are no vehicle smells in the cabin that could
originate from engine/drivetrain etc.

So immendiate stop to have a look. As I get out of the driver's door
theres smoke coming from the sides of the bonnet and the paint on the
bonnet is starting to blister. So get partner to pull the bonnet release
(it's on left side of vehicle) as I'm grabbing the extinguisher. Look
under front of bonnet can see flames arround air cleaner. Suirt
extinguisher through gap and then open bonnet further to still see flames
arround carby. Try more extinguisher.

Extinguisher runs out, fortunately someone else has stopped in a 4x4 by
this time (thanks Greg) and comes up with another extinguisher. Flames
were almost out by then any way but use it just to make sure.

So to the point of my post.

How big is your fire extinguisher? We used a 1.5kg and a 1kg
extinguisher to put out this small fuel/air cleaner/carby fire.

Yes I do know how to use an extinguisher have to keep current on them for
work requirements.

Have now decided that minimum should be 2.5kg with hose. As with the
bonnet only partly open without a hose you can not really get close enough
to the center area of the engine (V8 F100 Traytop) and if you do use the
only one you have and the fire should restart do you have anything else to
put it out with.

Lessons from this trip:

1. Get 2.5kg extinguisher and mount it on cargo barrier of tray as well as
the 1.5kg in the cabin. Grab both if you need to put out a fire.
2. Passengers when you smell/hear/see anything unusual about the vehicle
say so in a precise way to the driver. They may have not noticed or the
smell etc may not be apparent to them.
3. After you check the oil etc before your days driving start the engine
with the bonnet open and check everything again.

Cost of this trip:

1. Bonnet and repaint
2. Carburettor
3. Distributor
4. Windscreen wiper motor (it's directly above the engine)
5. 1 ac hose
6. 1 radiator hose
7. 4 spark plug leads
8. 1 coil lead
9. coil
10. approx 600mm of wiring loom containing 6 wires.
11. Fuel line from pump to carby
12. Heater hoses
13. Tow truck home
14. Aircleaner
15. 1 fuel filter
16. Clutch hydraulic line
..... lots of labour.

What caused it?

Don't know. Obviously there was some type of fuel leak. The only place
there was fuel on the engine was in the hollows of the inlet manifold on
the left hand side. The only place fuel could have leaked to there from
is the fuel line between the fuel filter and carby (about 50mm long) or
the carby itself.

Most annoying thing about this:

Carby, aircleaner, spark plug leads, coil lead and wiring loom are all
less than 2 months old and have done about 1000km.

The insurance company has said they will cover it but we still have to pay
the excess.

Hope to have it back on the road in a couple of weeks just depends on
parts suppliers. Bonnet is already on it's way.

It was still a nice day out though as after getting back home got the
normal car out and went for lunch anyway. Just could not follow the back
roads home. (it's only 110mm off the ground).

Anyway something for all of you to think about next time you are buying or
servicing your extinguisher(s).

Ross & Belinda.
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Reply By: Member - Troll 81 (QLD) - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 12:51

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 12:51
Sorry to hear about your dramas I know how you feel

Something very similar happened to me about 3 years ago up a mountain in the middle of no where in my old hilux but it was a electrical fire in the engine bay caused by a broken battery terminal…..(long story) but the power steering fluid caught on fire. 2 days before we went for the drive I went to the shop to buy a fire extinguisher for the Hilux just incase…..

If I didn’t have the extinguisher the car would have gone up completely in flames no doubt about that!

In the Patrol I have one in the back on the barrier and one in the cabin and I am thinking about a third just to have it there as cheap insurance.

That exercise only cost me my access of $350 but the damage bill was around the $3000 and I was without my car for 3 weeks
AnswerID: 303732

Reply By: tukka - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 14:02

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 14:02
Yep same here, had my car up in flames before too, not a nice feeling or a nice site. Have seen a couple of cars go up and be burnt to the ground and it doesnt take long at all. Mine was my pride and joy SS Commodore which while i was out driving burst a power steering hose and started to leak onto the extractors. Anway got home didnt notice anything at all, went inside as usual without smelling anything burning. Spent around 20 seconds inside then smelt something coming through the air cooler which my car was parked under. Without thinking run outside and could see smoke coming from under bonnet, without even thinking opened up the bonnet, narrowly missing burning fingers .Not having a fire extinguisher st the time i didnt know what to do, didint really want to spread it using water but knowing it was my only choice i sprayed it with the hose and to my relief it went out. The site wasnt pretty, most of the hoses. leads and wiring was burnt, underbonnet matting was melted to engine cover and a little bit of blackened paint around edges of bonnet. Repair bill was almost $1500 because i did alot myself. Was off the road for a month though which really hurt. From that day on every vehicle i own will always have a fire extinguisher. When i travel anywhere with other people i take one just incase. And 4wds in particular should all have them if travelling off road. Your car is your shelter if anything goes wrong, cant shelter in a melted pile of metal. I carry two in my Trayback, giving me around 2.0kg which is borderline i reckon but space is a problem. Before buying any accesories buy yourself an Extinguisher and a first aid kit. Two things you will never regret having that for sure.
AnswerID: 303743

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 15:18

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 15:18
Thanks for the good advice.

Fires can happen easily.
My wife was driving the 60series about 10 years ago, and smoke came from under bonnet - she parked it next to a workshop, and someone gave her a hand - lifted the bonnet and 2nd battery was distorted, and earth lead insulation was on fire. The pos terminal had been touching the bonnet, and eventually went though the paint, shorting out the battery.
AnswerID: 303755

Reply By: Member - Olcoolone (S.A) - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 17:47

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 17:47
First thing is you never open the bonnet, always use the extinguisher from under the vehicle until the fire has stooped.

We carry a 1.5kg in the cab and a 1kg in the back and sometimes a 5Lt. Hills pump up spray bottle.

If we have the camper trailer on we have 2x1kgs as well.

Regards Richard

AnswerID: 303780

Follow Up By: Member - Ross S (QLD) - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 19:09

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 19:09
Firstly have you ever tried to put out a fire on top of a V8 from under neath the vehicle where you can not even see the flames and the top of the engine is 1.2m above ground level. I know the theory that the powder will fill the engine bay and thus starve the fire of oxygen but it ain't necessarily so.

This is also meant for vehicles where the engine bay is extremely crowded where the sudden in rush of oxygen will cause a flareup.

Have a look under the bonnet of a 1980 series F100 next time you see one it makes little or no difference as the amount of empty space under there is greater than that taken up by the engine etc. Theres 100mm between the engine and fire wall, more than 600mm to the top of the guards from the side of the engine and at least 250mm between the top of the carby and the underside of the bonnet.

That's why I only popped the bonnet so that I could put the extinguisher between the bonnet and grill. Then once mostly out open the bonnet further (about 200mm) so i could direct the extinguisher more accurately to ensure the fire was completely out.

I comes back to knowing your vehicle, if it was my car then I would have used the extinguisher from under neath. As the engine bay is extremely crowded there.

The main point of my post was that the small 1.5 kg extinguishers are not really enough to put out what was in effect a relatively small fire. The amount of fuel still sitting in the top of the inlet manifold would have been less then 100ml , once the fire was out, and I'd be supprised if the total amount that leaked was more than 250ml. As it would have then been flowing down onto the exhaust and gearbox. There was no sign of that.

If I had the one of the 2.5kg units I have in the shed with a hose on it I could have put the hose under the front of the bonnet above the grill (without popping the bonnet) and directed it at the base of the flames to extinguish them more effectively.

Not having a go at you but generalisations like don't open the bonnet don't always apply.

FollowupID: 569917

Reply By: Member - Ross S (QLD) - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 19:11

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 19:11
A picture of the engine bay afterwards.

Aircleaner has been removed for clarity.

Image Could Not Be Found
AnswerID: 303793

Follow Up By: tukka - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 19:35

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 19:35
Yeah in my case my commodore was less then a Coke can off the ground so there was no way you could get a fire extinguisher under there and direct it up, especially with the plastic guards and stuff blocking the way. And with my Cruiser now the steel protection plates fitted prohibit me from doing that also, unless i crawl right under which will probably result in me being burnt. Its a good thing you brought that up though, cause unless you have some sort of procedure in place to follow should your car catch fire, you could end up being burnt or even wasting valuable time and wasting the contents of your extinguisher. Now i will be looking for alternative places to try and spray through to the engine from different angles. You dont wanna learn the hard way thats for sure.
FollowupID: 569925

Reply By: Member - John - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 23:02

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 23:02
those old yellow extinguishers worked a treat...................paint them red and they still do.......
John and Jan

Lifetime Member
My Profile  Send Message

AnswerID: 303853

Follow Up By: Member - Andrew (QLD) - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 23:27

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 23:27
same shlt, different bucket with the Halotron least they were red to start with. LOL

FollowupID: 569962

Reply By: Kev C - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 23:29

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 23:29
Dry chemical extinguishers work by interrupting the flame chain reaction. The ones that are generally supplied for vehicles are 1 to 1.5kg. There is insufficient volume of extinguishing agent to handle any but the smallest fires.
Dry Chemical is used because it is a very versatile extinguishing agent. One of the problems with it is that it has only minimal smothering ability & no cooling ability. Hence you need to be aware of reignitions.
The larger extinguishers with a hose applicator are definatley preferable, however they are expensive & bulky. The cost of recharging all but the largest dry chem extinguishers is so expensive that they can be considered throw aways. It is cheaper to have 2 or more cheap extinguishers in strategic locations.
They are supposed to be serviced annually, but often aren't. It would be worth going out to your car now & checking that your extinguisher has the correct charge at the gauge & turn them upside down & hit them with a rubber mallet to loosen the powder. They do contain an anti caking agent but it is not made to work for years.
The best approach to an under bonnet fire is to just open the bonnet enough to allow the stream of powder to reach the fire. If you open the bonnet fully you will supply more air to the fire & risk a flare up. Do not open the bonnet after applying the powder unless you have a backup extinguisher or hose. Fighting the fire from underneath the car will usually be ineffective unless your engine bay is clear enough for the powder to reach the fire. If you are out of extinguishers your next option is a few shovel loads of sand. It is not pretty but can be effective on a small fire.
Please take care, it is easy to get burns from the fire or hot metal in any vehicle fire.

AnswerID: 303859

Reply By: Andrew - Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 14:32

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 14:32
Fighting Fires or saving people?

If you have only got a 1kg fire extinguisher it is best to think about it as something to keep things under control until you get the people out.

Unless the fire is very small and you can smother it straight away you are unlikely to save the vehicle.

Once a fire gets hold you need lots of stuff to put it out especially if its something like spinifex that has got caught up on the exhaust. Just look at how many vehicles have burnt to the ground after the extinguishers ran out.

This is where bigger is better and lots of friends around who have also got extinguishers in their vehicle.

Inspected a rally car that burnt out on Rally Melbourne where they emptied five 1 kg extinguishers into it but the burning fuel and oil defeated them.

The hose type help lots so you don't waste the contents in the wrong place.

These comments won't solve the problem but might get people thinking.


AnswerID: 303924

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