up in flames - lori1247
My nissan almera tino 2005 plate went up in flames last week ........total burn out sitting at my door....... firemen said faulty wiring 100% ............ i had this car from new ......... whats got me is i could have had my grandchildren in the car ......... i cant sleep some nights thinking about it..... nissan warranty ran out 2 days before this ............ has anyone heard of this happening to anyone even with a different make of car ........firemen said it was common i have never heard of this .......... it had been 7hrs since i was in the car .......

up in flames - stunorthants26
Ive seen it happen with an Alfa 147, last year, started under bonnet, car was only a year old. I would certainly want to know what caused it.
It may be common for a fireman, but it is something that you can easily go a lifetime and it never happens. I would seriously be asking some questions of Nissan on what could have caused this, no car should go up in flames and they owe you an explanation to atleast help you make sense of it.
up in flames - andyp
Will compehensive insurance cover this seeing as its caused by a vehicle fault, & not caused by an accident or act of vandalism etc ?
up in flames - lori1247
im not sure if insurance will cover it they are looking into it
i hope they do cover it and have the car examined as i need to know exactly what caused it its scary stuff if they do find the cause was faulty wiring i will then need to get intouch with nissan
up in flames - Bagpuss
Peugeot had a problem with 307s doing this. In Scandinavia, at least, Peugeot sent advisory letters to owners reminding them not to leave kids unattended in the car. Obviously they tried to dodge out of admitting there was a possible manufacturing fault with the vehicle and blamed it on the weather there.
up in flames - Armitage Shanks {p}
I have had my 307 for 4 years and in that time there have been 2 recalls for work to be done on the ABS to cure electrical problems that could lead to a fire.
2005 1800 faulty wiring - zookeeper
how do you know it was faulty wiring? could be faulty neighbours , ten to two in the morning ?dont rule it out
2005 1800 faulty wiring - lori1247
I live in a great area with great neighbours
Fireman told me he was 100% certain it was faulty wiring ........... when i told him it hadnt been driven in 7hrs he said he had been to car fires that had been sitting for days. And i was lucky it was in the car park as most of the car fires he has been to are in a garage and the home is up in flames also
2005 1800 faulty wiring - Screwloose
Firemen aren't vehicle wiring experts - most can just about disconnect a battery.

Unlike most aircraft; car cable insulation is self-extinguishing, so wiring fires are very rare - particularly on a car sitting with most of it's circuits depowered.

Electrical faults, like jammed motors, are more likely to eventually result in flames; but most have fuses to protect them.

Where did it start; inside, or under the bonnet?

Edited by Screwloose on 20/07/2008 at 23:50

2005 1800 faulty wiring - 659FBE
The real suspect in cases such as this is the alternator. As Screwloose points out, most circuits are fused but the alternator output circuit seldom is. It's also connected to the battery with a heavy cable so a good burn up here is almost guaranteed. Problems with starter solenoid switches seem to be less common and will generally cause an obvious and audible malfunction.

All aircraft grade cable I have specified in the past has been self extinguishing - from the early days of Unipren and Nyvar, these cables will hold their integrity even when burnt up from an external source. This is certainly not the case with PVC car wiring.

The diode bridge and internal suppresion components are the most likely causes of a heavy alternator short - the effect on the vehicle depends on cable runs and components in near proximity. A prestigious German maker routes this cable next to a petrol pipe for some of its run... The same manufacturer on a different model mounts the alternator so low down in the engine bay that the B+ terminal will hit the cross member in the event of a decent front end impact. The maker concerned has a trade mark resembling one of the two methods of connecting the three phase alternator stator coils.

A diesel vehicle with a high mounted alternator is a good starting point.

2005 1800 faulty wiring - Number_Cruncher
It's really difficult to be certain that wiring or electrical faults started a fire.

The reason is that during a fire, the insulation is damaged, and the wiring shorts out anyway, even if the root cause of the fire is somewhere else. It's only when you can see enough evidence to say with confidence what happened first, the fire, or the short.

659 - I agree with what you say about the low mounted alternator, when I saw how close the back of the alternator of our W124 was to the cross member, I was a bit concerned.

2005 1800 faulty wiring - 659FBE
Fair points, NC although having been involved in commercial vehicle alternator design I've seen a few of these problems.

The W124 is a paragon compared with the Mk1 SLK. Depending on the make of machine fitted to your W124 I would recommend running the exposed piece of alternator lead inside a piece of garden hose, and fitting another piece over the output terminal.

I'm afraid this maker's voluble commitment to safety makes me laugh in the light of details such as these. They must think we are mugs in the UK if they can sell us cars with wipers set up for LHD - including those such as the A-Class with a quasi symmetrical layout. These are just wrong and not optimised for safety.

2005 1800 faulty wiring - Screwloose

Regarding shorting cables in an impact; have you come across BMW's SRS-linked exploding battery terminal?
2005 1800 faulty wiring - 659FBE
I haven't, but some (US?) SLKs had an alternator disconnect unit mounted on the RH inner wing to isolate the machine if the airbags went off - similar idea I suppose. The problem with the unit on the SLK was that it could degrade the regulation performance of the machine by introducing excessive voltage drop.

Engineering desparation I think, caused by starting in the wrong place.

2005 1800 faulty wiring - Screwloose

I think BMW called it a "pyrotechnic battery isolator;" on the e39 it was essentially an explosive bolt idea that blew the cables off the positive battery terminal when certain of the 14 airbags were deployed.

It was probably their boot-mounted battery that triggered concerns for that long, vulnerable, feed cable.
2005 1800 faulty wiring - 659FBE
I can see that device giving someone "under the arches" doing a battery change on a 10 year old BMW a real surprise...

You're probably right about the long battery cable - one of my lasting commercial memories was designing a safe charging system for an early Swedish bendy bus - battery and alternator at opposite ends.

2005 1800 faulty wiring - Screwloose

It was specifically Kapton that I was thinking of; I've seen many bundles of PVC burnt to a crisp and it's all gone out - it's the hairy sound and, particularly, foam insulation that carries the fire away from the wires.

I've a feeling that there's an 80A fuse in the alternator feed cable on these; they do have a very well-protected wiring layout.
2005 1800 faulty wiring - lori1247
thanx screwloose for the reply ............. the fire started under the bonnet on the passenger side .....
2005 1800 faulty wiring - L'escargot
Fireman told me he was 100% certain it was faulty wiring ..........

If (as you said in your original post) it was a "total burn out", how could anyone determine the cause without a detailed examination? I doubt if anyone could, except possibly a forensic scientist.
up in flames - Screwloose

Don't fret too much about the safety risk. Electrical fires are very rare and tend to give off clouds of pungent smoke for many minutes before flames appear - even then it takes a good few minutes before the car is well alight.

They also don't blow up like the ones in the movies....
up in flames - Lud
Quite. Lots of time to get everyone out, and they will all want to get out too with that nasty burning-plastic smoke. None of the usual hanging around and looking for shoes, dolls and so on that nippers go in for.
up in flames - oilrag
Our old 87 Volkswagen Polo once caught fire on the motorway, with the rear parcel shelf area in flames following the rear wiper motor seizing.
Fortunately, someone following had a fire extinguisher and a visit to a breakers provided a new motor, plastic surround (which has been source of the fire) and parcel shelf.

up in flames - DP
There was a Golf VR6 on fire on the M3 this morning. Caused absolute chaos.

By the time I got to it, it was out, but with only the rear quarter panels and tailgate left in body colour.

up in flames - yorkiebar
Slightly off at a tangent but with all the safety features that are compulsory on cars now isnt it time that a fire extinguisher was compulsory on all vehicles?

90% of all fires would probably be extinguished before any major incident happened if so?

Essential item in my book, before central locking, air con, leather etc etc etc.

But then I have been involved in motorsport and seen a few fires.

But a £20 item ? its not the cost thats stopped people having 1.
up in flames - oldnotbold
Yorkie - the problem is that fighting the fire can be very dangerous. You are much safer standing well back and dialling 999, and claiming on your insurance. You won't have any protective clothing, helmet, visor etc., and a £20 fire extinguisher needs checking/replacing every 12/24 months.

Pay for insurance, pay for proper servicing, and leave the rest to the pros.
up in flames - bathtub tom
>>isnt it time that a fire extinguisher was compulsory on all vehicles?

Not necessarily.

I've been involved with two car fires.

The first was an engine bay fire in another car. As we passed in our works van (I was a callow youth), I whipped the brass extinguisher from the bracket near my ankle, only to have it snatched by the driver, who was out of the van in a flash, and pumping the bright red fluid, extinguishing the fire. Grateful thanks from the other driver. We departed quickly before he realised quite how red his engine bay was.
What did they put in those things?

The second was on a motorway. I followed a car trailing smoke onto the hard shoulder. I pulled up behind it, and took my powder extinguisher with me. The driver opened the boot, and flames billowed out. I emptied the extinguisher, and thought it was out, but it re-ignited from what was now the obvious electrical short under the back seat. We could only watch it burn!

Fire brigade turned up, and asked if everyone was out of the car. Obvious, but it hadn't occurred to me, the same as if we'd disconnected the battery first, we might have saved the car.
up in flames - yorkiebar
In all the cases described a fire extingusiher may have been the difference between life and death if somebody had been trapped?

A small extinguisher is only of use on a small fire (ie as soon as it starts). It is not dangerous to put out a small fire!

I still think they are of more use than satnav for example !
up in flames - oldnotbold
Yorkie - I agree that there's a possibility that a person could be trapped in a car that's just caught fire - a small extinguisher could buy time to release them.

I speak as one who has been trained and paid to fight fires at sea, on ships and on oil rigs. Fires involving petrol can change very fast - in split seconds. It really is much safer to stand back than to attempt to save a car worth a few thousand pounds.
up in flames - yorkiebar
ONB I agree, a car is a lump of metal. If people are safe leave it alone. If people are trapped (a child maybe) could you walk away or ignore it? I couldn't, with or without an extinguisher I would have to have a go.

Therefore if every car had to carry an extinguisher......... !

You have to have good mirrors, but nobody makes people use them !
up in flames - oilrag
To be honest, I would rather the motor just burnt to a cinder if it caught fire out on the road.

As long as we were out of it and it posed no danger to others of course.

Edited by oilrag on 22/07/2008 at 10:40

up in flames - rtj70
I always thought one problem with trying to put out a fire in the engine bay is access. If you open the bonnet more air gets in and makes it worse and very dangerous. I could be talking rubbish mind.
up in flames - yorkiebar
It can be a problem if flames are big.

What you should do is pull the cable to release it a little. Crouch down, aim extinguisher through the now small access and squirt it at flames.

It does work if you catch the fire quick enough !
up in flames - martint123
Did someone say it was uncommon? Local papers website shows this today.
up in flames - lori1247
Goodness that brought it all back to me martint123 I got the inspectors report this afternoon about the fire .............. they say it was faulty electrics so at least i know now that it wasnt someone that disliked me ........... on the other hand i could have been in it with my children ........ it doesnt bear thinking about ................ thanx to all that left replies to my question ........... its just great to see that there is some very caring people out there to take the time ..........thank you all xxxxxxxxx

Edited by Dynamic Dave on 23/07/2008 at 01:20

up in flames - daveyK_UK
A recall earlier in the year for vauxhall combo vans after few went up in smoke.
up in flames - Mapmaker
The problem with carrying a fire extinguisher in a car is that it is a very heavy lump of metal to have flying around the car when you have an accident. Add in the 1-2 year lifespan the chances are that it won't work - even if it didn't kill you.
up in flames - Dynamic Dave
The extinguisher I bought from LIDL back in 2006 came with a 5 year lifespan. I saw some in Tesco the other day at twice the price I paid for mine with only 2½ years lifespan left on them.

Mate of mine recently replaced his aging extinguisher - the old one had an expiry date of 2005. He set the old one off and it still worked perfectly. Sods law dictates though in an emergency it probably wouldn't have worked.
up in flames - buzbee
In case of fire, cut the battery cable

A suitable pair of cutters, that can quickly cut one of the two the main battery cables, can be very effective for electrical fires. Stop the heat source.

The cable is also very easy to find. You just look for the battery.

You can cut either the positive or the negative battery lead but the negative one is preferable because it is usually the easiest one to repair/replace afterwards.

Many years ago I did this whilst doing something under the bonnet. When things suddenly start smoking there no time to stop and work out the cause. And as the offending wire is usually red hot, it is also dangerous to start grabbing at things trying to break apart the short. Just cut the power and sort that out later.

If you now plan to cary a pair of cutters so that you can do this, make sure you keep them where you can get at them quickly.

up in flames - oldnotbold
ISTR that rally cars were fitted with an exterior battery master switch. Makes lots of sense, and would be quite easy to post-fit in many cars.

The problem with using cutters is that you have to a) lift the bonnet, allowing in more air and b) get very close to the dangerous bits as they are getting hotter and even more dangerous.

It's still best to get all people out of the vehicle, move well away, and leave it to the pros.
up in flames - PeterRed
As a youth, I recall driving along in my Scirocco when there was a smell of burning inside the cabin. I stopped the car and had a look around the cabin and saw a wire glowing bright red like a heating element under the glovebox. Luckily I had some tools in the boot and was able to cut it with some insulated pliers. I seem to recall it being linked to a carburettor cut-off valve problem.
up in flames - Bagpuss
Many years ago I opened the door of my Peugeot 305 and was greeted by smoke and a smell of burnt plastic. I discovered a black plastic box under the dashboard had melted. On dismantling it, it turned out to be the control unit for the central locking which had never worked properly. A large relay appeared to have welded shut and the heat from the resulting short circuit had turned the circuit board around the relay into carbon. I guess the tracks on the circuit board eventually melted and prevented anything more serious happening. This was only one example of the seriously dodgy electrics which Peugeot fitted to their cars back then.
up in flames - bathtub tom
I was in a '70s Princess on the motorway when we smelt burning. The car was on the hard shoulder, and the occupants up the embankment in a flash!

When nothing happened after a few minutes, we tentatively examined the car. The RH indicator wouldn't work.

It transpired the driver was used to a more modern car that allowed you to hold the indicator against a spring to signal say a lane change. The Princess didn't have this facility, but when the driver indicated a lane change he was holding the stalk until the indicator started flashing, causing arcing. The assembly partly melted!
up in flames - buzbee
"It's still best to get all people out of the vehicle, move well away, and leave it to the pros."

Meanwhile you can watch your car goes up in flames!

In the first period after you see smoke, the car is not going to blow up because there is usually nothing yet to blow up.

You are suffering from seeing too many movies, where cars have been packed with combustible mixtures and gas canisters and have a priming charge to set it all off.

up in flames - oldnotbold
"You are suffering from seeing too many movies, where cars have been packed with combustible mixtures and gas canisters and have a priming charge to set it all off."

Er, no. I'm suffering from doing to many Firefighting at Sea courses. Three in total, and then three years working/running fire teams on North Sea drilling and production rigs. Worst fire I fought took out twenty x 20' containers that were converted for use as accom.
up in flames - buzbee
Stretching it a bit, isn't it, to quote the fighting of a North Sea oil rig fire as justification for not trying to do anything about a car that has just started to smoke. There arn't exactly gallons of flamable liquid under the bonnet waiting to flash up.

A good point about being careful not to breath in the fumes, burning cables and plastic etc. Very nasty.

I close my car vent whenever I am in smoke.
up in flames - henry k
>>.....and leave it to the pros.
>>Meanwhile you can watch your car goes up in flames!
That may be exactly what is required.

The only car fire I have seen ( a few years ago) was Renault Fuego in the next street, gently burning away with a bunch of firemen from the local station ( half a mile away) watching it.

The engine compartment was on fire and the bonnet shut.
I was close enough to watch the dash melting.

They said that if they used their ( powder?) extinguisher and it did not work then the problem would be worse than monitoring it burn.
IIRC the Fuego had a magnesium alloy head and that might hace cause some of the complications extinguising the fire.

So IMO first instints to put out the fire may not be the best approach.
up in flames - Ben 10
You're correct. The car is not going to blow up in a fireball as you see in the movies. If you see smoke coming into the cabin from the dash, park up, get out and stand well away.

Firstly the smoke generated from a blazing car contains many "nasties" your lungs wouldn't appreciate. Then there are minor "bangs", that would scare you enough that can contain projectile hazards. Shattering glass, gas struts(hatchbacks) expand and blow, gas filled suspension, tyres,air bag canisters and fuel tank. Most of these occur due to expansion from the heat.They all can go with quite a surprising bang.

So if your car develops a fire, pop the bonnet inside the car if you can before leaving and remove the keys, its a great help, and stand well away up wind of the smoke and any possibility of flying debris.
up in flames - Dynamic Dave
There's a guy over on Vectra-c.com who's in the process of putting a fire damaged Vectra back on the road. I don't envy the amount of work he's got coming up.

up in flames - yorkiebar
Not advising anybody to be a hero and put out a badly burning car.

But all fires start as small ones! If you catch it early a small extinguisher will work and save a lot of problems too!

IMO its more essential than correct number plates which are checked on mot, but everybody welcome to their opinion !

If you lived miles away from "civilisation" would you have an extinguisher in the house? Why? If not in a car why in a house? Far more problems there !

Securely mounted, checked at mot time. Used if needed, not if not. Whats the problem? Not saying it should be made compulsory to use it; just carry it! Off duty fireman or onb in the same queue as you at a burning car might even be able to save a big fire problem with enough small extingusighers too.

Might just save a life one day !
up in flames - zm
There's a guy over on Vectra-c.com who's in the process of putting a fire damaged
Vectra back on the road. I don't envy the amount of work he's got coming

Just had a look at the photos; why on earth is he bothering?? The car will never be right in the end - lol
up in flames - Screwloose

He'll never get the smell out - and he hasn't even removed the chav from the driver's seat....
up in flames - bathtub tom
I wonder if he's heard of hydroflouric acid?
up in flames - Screwloose
I wonder if he's heard of hydrofluoric acid?

He will - it takes a while to do it's deadly work.....

[Maybe he'll need the chav to drive it - when he's got no arms.]
up in flames - Blue {P}
Is that the stuff found in burnt car plastics that rots your nerves or bones or something like that?

up in flames - Red Baron
HF does not hang around for long. It dissociates very quickly and is infinitely soluble in water. The sort of concentrations he would encounter are minimal. There are plenty of worse carcinogens in burnt plastics, especially polyurethanes and epoxy resins.

These days there are more and more devices in cars that can be the source of a fire. Residual current devices such as capacitors, transformers and inductors are just the thing. Even insubstantial components such as diodes and semiconductor switches can cause a depowered or swtiched off car to suddenly begin to draw current again. The materials used in car electronics are waaaaaay behind those used in the aircraft industry in terms of heat resistance and so any overstressed component will cause much greater damage once the heat gets to the circuit board material, for example.
up in flames - Tornadorot
Is that the stuff found in burnt car plastics that rots your nerves or bones
or something like that?

Yes, that indeed is hydrofluoric (sic) acid. Permeates skin without you knowing it, dissolves glass, flesh, bone and concrete. Only fluorinated plastics are likely to form it after burning though.
up in flames - oldnotbold
"There arn't exactly gallons of flamable liquid under the bonnet waiting "

But there's a fuel pump in your tank pushing it into the engine bay. If the wiring loom is smoking/shorting, there's no reason why the pump isn't still working even if the key is out of the ignition.
up in flames - Dog
1000 apologies if this has already been mentioned but ... I was reading up on the Renault Scenic via wikipedia and it specifically mentions that the door mirror switch which is permenently live as being a potential fire risk.
up in flames - Red Baron
>>knowing it, dissolves glass, flesh, bone <<

It doesn't dissolve flesh. It is not that type of liquid. It will leave a red, inflamed, itchy area, not much worse than hydrchloric acid. To get HF in any reasonalbe concentration you have to buy it, and even then it is rare to get higher than 40%. Upon touching burnt, fluorinated plastics, I challenge anybody to categorically say that they've received an HF burn AND be able to prove it.

Regardless, with HF you must wear gloves and goggles or any other suitable PPE.
up in flames - Pugugly

Whoops. Wonder what the ignition source was ?

Edited by Pugugly on 29/07/2008 at 20:56

up in flames - yorkiebar
Just a couple of comments.

Was it a job to see anything in detail or was it my computer?

But anyway, brave people putting out (or at least trying to) a fire at a petrol station.

Just proves fires can be put out if tackled quickly, hence my desire to see an extinguisher in every car !
up in flames - Screwloose
Wonder what the ignition source was ?

Judging by the size of the fire; overflowing petrol on to a red-hot engine?
up in flames - Pugugly
That has been a pet fear of mine actually, especially with the blowback eyeful of petrol that the GS has a habit of providing me with. (they all do that Sir)

Edited by Pugugly on 29/07/2008 at 21:09


Value my car