Up in flames: Four fire hazards to watch out for

Nthabiseng Moloi, Miway insurance
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 FIRE PREVENTION: By following these easy steps you can minimise/eliminate the risk of your car catching fire. Image: Supplied / Miway ~ Supplied

Cape Town - It might seem like something that only happens in movies, but those scenes depicting cars licked by towering flames aren’t altogether removed from reality.

Yes, the combination of a powerful combustion engine and a fuel tank is a fairly flammable one, and can turn into a ticking time bomb if your vehicle isn’t properly maintained.

But before you panic at the prospect of driving around in a mobile fire hazard, remember that cars are built with safety in mind, and as such your car is unlikely to spontaneously burst into flames without ample warning.

What’s important is that you look out for the tell-tale warning signs that precede any vehicular inferno and ensure that your car is properly maintained and regularly checked for faults.

Here are a few hazardous situations to be on the look-out for in order to keep your car from catching alight:

Mechanical failure

Extreme overheating can come about as a result of mechanical faults in your car’s engine, with friction being generated by mechanical pieces becoming jammed. This is a tough one to spot for the average driver, but make sure to keep an eye on that temperature gauge and pull over in the event of any notable spikes in heat.

Regular maintenance should eliminate this risk almost entirely, so ensure you give your car a thorough check-up every so often to ensure it’s in good health.

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Electrical malfunction or short-circuiting

Many modern cars come complete with highly sophisticated electrical systems, responsible for powering windows, navigation and a range of other high-tech add-ons. But what happens when this system fails?

Electrical sparks have been cited as the second largest contributor to car fires across the globe, so if you notice that things aren’t working as they should, make sure to get your car checked out by a reputable mechanic. And be sure to mention if anything does not seem to work properly when taking it for its annual service. 

Image: iStock

Oil or fuel leakage

Oil and fuel tanks are deliberately designed to avoid contact with flammable areas of your car, but when a leak occurs, this system is thrown into disarray. Leaks can cause highly combustible situations that can quickly escalate into a full-blown fire, so don’t ignore that greasy spot on your garage floor.

Image: iStock

Overheating catalytic converters (exhaust system)

The exhaust system is one of the hottest parts of any car, and runs the entire length of the vehicle, yet it is consistently overlooked as a fire risk. While your car is designed to withstand conventional exhaust system heat, even the sturdiest vehicle will eventually succumb to the pressure caused by a faulty, overheated system.

Again, this is a tricky malfunction for the layman to identify, but you should be able to avoid catastrophe through regular maintenance and upkeep of your car. 

Image: iStock