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Jeremycw1's avatar

What to do if your car is on fire?

Asked by Jeremycw1 (1367 points ) April 26th, 2010

My friend’s engine lit on fire… what’s wrong and how can we fix it?

OK, so his car engine smokes every time we drive it so we checked the oil. There was none (not very good to be driving around with haha) So we proceeded to an auto store and bought 2 bottles of 30 weight oil and 2 of 40w on accident (is that a problem?)

After we drove home, we noticed it was still smoking and oil was leaking from somewhere, and there was a tube not connected to anything on top of the crank case by the air filter (not oil related, right?)

He then drove home, and his engine lit on fire! I’m guessing it was probably the oil leak and the high temps that did it.

Here are my thoughts: Main engine seal is no good, intake manifold is leaking, or that tube has something to do with it. He’s gonna try to take it to grease monkey in the near future and hopefully they’ll be able to fix it.

Can someone PLEASE tell me what might be the cause of this smoking and leaking oil?! Thank you so much for your help!

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39 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

A lack of competent servicing it would seem. What would the inlet manifold have to do with either oil leaks or engine smoking? I suggest that you find someone competent and ask them to look at the car – any response here would be just guesswork.

(The tube “not connected” might be a part of the car’s PCV system with a hose missing.)

Trillian's avatar

It’s times like this that I am more than happy to take my car to where the man resides with a piece of paper on the wall stating: “I am qualified to fix what is wrong. you go on home and keep your hands clean.”

dpworkin's avatar

It doesn’t sound like the main seal, because that would just drip on the roadway. Oil is somehow pooling on the head and burning off, hence the smoke and the fire, Where it’s coming from, I don’t know – maybe a cylinder.

Dr_C's avatar

Promiscuous women caused the engine fire… it’s like earthquakes.~

Guy123123's avatar

If your cars on fire, you DONT ask fluther about it, and just put it out

WestRiverrat's avatar

If you overheated the engine, you probably have cracked or warped the heads. You need a mechanic to look at it. Be prepared, it will probably cost more to fix than it will to find a new car.

Trillian's avatar

@Dr_C Oh yeah, it’s always a woman’s fault. That would explain the crotch fires that some guys get as well, right?~
Come to think of it, I guess it does explain that particular malady. ;-)

filmfann's avatar

I am not saying this is your problem. This is just what happened to me:

My oil dipstick was not in correctly, and the oil began spouting onto the engine when I made sharp turns. The engine caught fire, but did minimal damage. The fix was simply replacing the dipstick holder the correct way.
Your problem could be a thousand different things. Take it to someone capable.

MrGV's avatar

For some reason I read this “What to do if your cat is on fire?”

dpworkin's avatar

I teach my kitties to stop, drop and roll.

SeventhSense's avatar

I think the car was running empty on oil and by the time you filled it with oil it was already dangerously hot due to friction. Next step. Put lips on hood, kiss the engine goodbye and push over cliff.

Randy's avatar

Not to get off topic but… funny story.

I had a roommate that had a older Honda. He took some of his friends driving around and one of them lit a cigarette and threw his match out the window but it came back in the car. They got back to the apartment and came in and started watching tv. I was upstairs in my room and about twenty mins later, I hear one of his friends running up the stairs. He burst in and screamed “TRAVIS’ CAR IS ON FIRE!” I went down there and there were 10 foot flames coming from the front passenger seat. THey were carrying pots of water out to put it out. They got it but it was crazy. Just thought I’d share. Maybe that happened to you’re friends car?

SeventhSense's avatar

@Randy
Well if it wasn’t for the running it bone dry of oil that might be more plausible but otherwise I think we can also rule out lightning…

Buttonstc's avatar

He’s going to TRY to take it in the near future ? ?

I would suggest ACTUALLY doing that ASAP.

SeventhSense's avatar

Is this thing still drive-able?

WestRiverrat's avatar

Park it with the keys in it and hope someone steals it.

Dr_C's avatar

Buy a bus pass.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If my car was on fire, I don’t think I could resist driving down the freeway against traffic in the opposite direction at full throttle. It just seems the right thing to do.

Axemusica's avatar

Well, first off I wouldn’t try to rebuild this engine. How long was it running with no oil? Lack of oil is what probably created this problem. The less oil that gets delivered to the cylinder walls = more stress, wear and heat that is produced when operating the engine is this manner.

Stress & Wear= Shot piston rings, possibly damaged piston heads and or rods, unconditioned seals, sticky valves.
Heat= Expanding metals. Due to the lack of oil there’s much more friction, which also puts the water pump under stress, Having all this extra heat can cause the cylinder heads to warp and or crack and it’s more possible if the heads are aluminum or if both the heads and block are.

The fire probably came a couple valves that were stuck open. An open valve during the combustion stroke will often rise back up through the intake.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to salvage this engine. I suggest buying a new engine or car and doing proper maintenance.

YARNLADY's avatar

When that happened to us (smoke coming out of the engine) we pulled over, turned off the engine, walked away from the car and called AAA. They sent a two truck with a fire extinguisher. Later the repair shop found a rats nest in the heater.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Hot flaming rats? I hope you broke out the A1 and shared them with the “two truck” drivers.

funnynerd's avatar

Find a good mechanic. That is the only reasonable solution. Think of it as bringing it to the car doctor.

YARNLADY's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies it couldn’t be my typing – it must be because hubby just ran a full diagnostic on my laptop. No, the rats weren’t in the car, they were in the garage.

letsdanceintherain's avatar

ruuuun Forrest, RRUUUUUNNNNN

Response moderated
Bugabear's avatar

Get a carbon fire extinguisher. And blast the crap out of it. Then go find a mechanic. If that doesn’t work run. fast.

stallion44107's avatar

yeah like was answered above.. first thing get out of the car.
second thing make sure you keep a fire extinguisher of the right type in the car for those “special” occasions.
head to a mechanic you trust or to a car hobbyist friend. they will tell you whats the cause of the fire.
electrical short in your wiring harness.
gasoline leaking from fuel filter,gas line, float in carbuerator,if its an older car,or carb gasket leak,list goes on…
oil leaks head gasket,valve cover gasket,oil pan gasket…list goes on…
driving with NO oil in the car…bad bad BAD.
fluid levels of anything way down or empty all lead to excessive heat which in turn lead to fire.
keep up a regular maintenance with your car and a fire is something you’ll very rarely come across.

JeffVader's avatar

The car sounds like a nail…. is any good really gonna come from not scrapping it?

thriftymaid's avatar

Exit the vehicle.

xRIPxTHEREVx's avatar

Freak out and run in little circles yelling “My car! My car!”

YARNLADY's avatar

@xRIPxTHEREVx that sounds like the most likely answer so far

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@SeventhSense

RIGHT Ohhhhh!

Imagine that coming at you head on the freeway! How could I resist?

Just more stories to tell the grand kids… if I live long enough to get any

Jeremycw1's avatar

Thanks for all the tips… i really don’t know why he didn’t check the oil every now and then… but it’s a 1983 ford escort so it’s not really worth fixing if the fire or lack of oil did do any damage.

By the way, He put the fire out right when it started, so it’s not like i took the time to ask how to put out a fire haha. Should of worded that differently.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Holy flaming rats Batman! Alrighty then, it was NOT the hole on top. Or the main seal. What is more likely the culprit is the oil leaking from the valve covers onto the exhaust, Not every car has it aligned so but yours might. Next to that depending on how and where your oil filter sits and is attached if the seal dries out, crack, or otherwise fails, that could be it, or the oil sending unit. If the oil only comes out when the engine is running it means that the it is a breach in which the oil is being pushed out under pressure by the oil pump. If your oil does not look like café o’ lette then you can rule out the heads (but they usually leak internally anyhow.

If the engine catches fire there is not much you can do less turn it off and get the heck out of there (no it won’t blow up like in the movies, I know from experience) but if your wiring harness gets fried or badly scorched YOU WILL have major electronically induced headaches.

filmfann's avatar

If you used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, you may have a problem.
I have been told the chemical in those will eat the wire insulation.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central
Well blow me down with your combustion engine expertise Caped Crusader. Sweet.
And I think I speak for more than a few when I say thanks for dropping the “truth from fiction….” lead in on every answer…

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@filmfann Invest in halon baby, invest in halon….....

CarQuestions's avatar

… buy a new car…

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