Car fires are probably one of the scariest incidents drivers can encounter, but they seem to happen quite a bit and that’s surprising to me. We just covered a Tesla fire where the driver was fortunate enough to escape the car, but ICE drivers have been dealing with these for a minute, too — ask me how I know.
I had the misfortune of being in a burning car about 12 years ago, when a 1995 BMW 318i that I bought on Copart caught fire at a Jack in the Box. It was not that dramatic and no one got hurt, but it’s the wildest thing that’s happened to me behind the wheel.
I was driving the rebuilt 318i, and a couple of my friends were in the car with me. We were arguing which burger was best (Sourdough Jack, duh) when we noticed the driver of the SUV in front of us dart out, leaving his door ajar. He ran up to my hood and started waving frantically! He had noticed the flames licking my car’s left headlight in his door’s mirror.
I probably owe that hungry stranger my gratitude, because I couldn’t see the fire at all, but by the time I knew it the fire had spread to the middle of the front end, along the wire harness. I couldn’t even open the hood because the fire crept had reached the hood latch (people have told me it was for the best, because opening the hood would have worsened the situation, but I’m unsure.)
A Jack in the Box employee saw the commotion and lent me a fire extinguisher. I pointed the hose and pulled the lever only to see a liquid dribble out. Well, shit. The extinguisher had expired! The employee ran and fetched another canister that actually worked, but we couldn’t get the hood open, remember?
I had to watch the fire burn itself out. And, luckily, it did without taking the whole car with it. It burned up most of the front end, though. Both of my headlights and the grille section. The roundel didn’t make it. My friends and I pushed the BMW out of the line so the other drivers could get their food and we ate our burgers while we waited for our tow.
I bought another BMW years later because I’m stubborn, but this one hasn’t burned up...yet. Knock on wood! Now I want to know how common fires are, and I want to hear your pyro-mobile stories. When was the last time your car caught on fire?