Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

What could have caused this car to burst into flames like this?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42474points) January 24th, 2016
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

20 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

I saw that and was wondering that myself. The only thing I could think of was that the guy’s wheels were spinning to the point that it started the fire

filmfann's avatar

I can’t be sure, but I know a trick to driving in cold weather is to put a piece of cardboard in front of your radiator, to stop the car from freezing up. Of course, the radiator can’t breathe, everything gets hot, and the cardboard can catch fire. If the fire then fries the wiring, or flames get near the carburetor or the fuel line, you end up with an auto-flambĂ©.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

You mean Car B Que.

LuckyGuy's avatar

First I do not know if this is the cause but here are 4 condtions that can combine to do it.
1) Fuel lines run along the bottom of the car.
2) The hot catalytic converter is also on the bottom of te car.
3) Most car have in-tank fuel pumps which pressurize the fuel from the tank and send it up to the fuel injection system. The pressure in the lines is about 60 psi, but it can be much higher for direct injection cars.
4) Snow and ice on the road can be so deep it comes in contact with the car bottom. This will often happen to low slung, “sporty” vehicles before the normal sedans and AWD vehicles.
5) The chunks of ice and snow hitting the fuel line can stress it until a crack forms near the hanger that causes high pressure fuel to spray out all over the bottom of the car and on the hot catalytic converter – until it ignites. Fooom!

Hint. Drive behind and well back from people with small cars. They will clear the road for you.

lillycoyote's avatar

LOL. I knew @LuckyGuy would know. He’s a humanpedia!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes he is, @lillycoyote! Good to see ya!

That’s good to know, @LuckyGuy. I’ll keep that in mind, for sure.

LuckyGuy's avatar

There is another option. The snow can get up in the engine compartment reducing the spark plug wire’s insulation causing a misfire. The car will be a little rough but will continue to drive. The driver will think the roughness is due to snow and ice and will ignore the problem. After a few miles the check engine light will come on but the driver will ignore that as well. It is cold outside after all and he needs to get where he’s going.
Meanwhile (if it is a 4 cylinder engine) fully 25% of the fuel and air is passing through the engine unburned and is being reacted in the catalytic converter making its temperature rise. It is cold in the car so the driver does not notice the added heat in the back seat. The carpet begins to smell a little but the driver thinks it is the car heater which is going full blast. At some point the driver stops at a traffic light and the airflow around the converter is reduced. The carpet gets above ignition point and Foom!

Hint: Buy a $30 tester or get a Ismart pone app so you can read the code if your check engine light come on. If it says P0300, 0301, 0302 0303 0304… (misfire, cyl 1, cyl 2, cyl3, cyl 4… ) get it fixed very soon!!!!

Tropical_Willie's avatar

If it was a late model Chrysler-Dodge minivan there is a recall for the drivers door widow switch that is shorting out and catching the driver’s door and dashboard on fire. They may have gotten snow on the armrest and into the switch.

lillycoyote's avatar

And hello to you @Dutchess_III. I’m kind of snowed in here and am not terribly motivated to start digging myself out, and Facebook got boring so I thought I’d see what Fluther was up too.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

It was possibly set alight by morons targeting a contractor’s car.

http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/former-confederate-monument-contractor-finds-200k-lamborghini-burned/37510414

The contractor took on the job of removing four Confederate monuments in Red Stick Louisiana.

I understand concerned and active citizens objecting to this attempt at revising history.

But one should never fuck with another man’s wheels.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think it was an attempt to “revise” history. It was a dawning realization that that history was shameful and nothing to brag about.

At any rate, that was not the car in question.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

So only leaders that you align with your convictions should be memorialized.

Are you willing to spend more time and money avoiding Ronald Reagan Airport?

Dutchess_III's avatar

What on earth are you going on about, @SecondHandStoke?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@filmfann “but I know a trick to driving in cold weather is to put a piece of cardboard in front of your radiator, to stop the car from freezing up.”

I come from a family of auto mechanics (including, but not limited to my father and my grandfather) and I have literally never heard anyone ever suggest this. In fact, it’s a very quick way to fuck your car up (as you acknowledge). Not only does the radiator need to “breathe”, if the car is running the heat from the engine will keep it from freezing up. Bad suggestion is bad.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s trick, @Darth_Algar, for sure, but it can be done, if you’re careful. I drove an Aerostar mini-van for 8 years. The last two it had no AC OR heat. The AC I could deal with. No heat was just brutal. When it was really cold, below about 10, I’d cover the radiator and that would give me just a tiny bit of heat inside. I’d keep an eye on the heat gauge though.

filmfann's avatar

@Darth_Algar My Dad was a minor legend in auto racing. His expertise was without question, and he knew most of the racing legends of the 1960’s. He told my brother this trick when my brother was stuck in Tahoe with a frozen engine.
I see the danger in it, and I am sure my Dad knew it too. I am not advising anyone to do it, but I am using it as a possible explanation for what happened.

kritiper's avatar

Electrical fire. When it happened was a bit of a coincidence. In cold weather, things shrink or contract. Electrical wires are no different. If there was a weak/worn spot in the main battery to starter cable over the frame or other metal component, a sudden fire from direct short could be the result. Some people who have installed those high-power stereos in their cars neglect to properly isolate wiring, or neglect to install fuses, fusible links, or circuit breakers, and intense sudden fires can occur.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

FYI, the carboard “trick” is a workaround for a stuck open thermostat.

filmfann's avatar

It would also work for that.

jerv's avatar

I think @LuckyGuy overlooked a couple of things. Or at least overthought them a little.

1) Overworked torque converters and clutches generate considerable heat. Automatics generate enough that they are often plumbed into the radiator… or in the case of many US-made cars, should be. Clutches usually generate negligible heat unless they slip, though that requires a combination of over-worn components, overloading, and driver incompetence.

2) It may have nothing to do with the snow or anything. Electrical issues are good for that, as are dropped cigarettes. I think @kritiper nailed that one.

@filmfann I’ve had to use the cardboard in a couple old Corollas, though only when it was cold enough that the ambient air (even under the hood) was cool enough to make airflow through the radiator actually detrimental. Then again, carbureted engines tend to fare a little worse than fuel injected ones when it gets really cold. Retaining enough heat to prevent the gas from condensing before it gets to the cylinder makes the whole internal combustion thing work a lot better than trying to ignite dry air with barely a trace of gasoline in it.

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