Seeing your car surrounded by flames is never a good experience, especially in Singapore, one of the most expensive places to own a car. Not only does it heavily affect your wallet, but you and those around you can face life threatening injuries that can cost thousands of dollars to treat. With car fires recently making headlines, Singaporean drivers should be aware of what to do if their cars catch a fire in order to reduce the risk of heavy monetary or physical loss. Below, we explore how commonplace car fires actually are in Singapore and what you can do in the event of a motor vehicle fire.
Prevalence of Car Fires
Over the past few years, the overall average number of car fires in Singapore has hovered around 208 cases per year. Between 2011 and 2017, car fires made up 4-6% of all reported fire cases. This makes motor vehicle fires one of the top reported incidents of all non-building fire accidents. If the number of cars in Singapore remain around the current 7 year average of 613,000, the chances of your car catching fire in a given year would be 0.03%, which would increase to 1% over the course of 30 years. Though the percentage seems small, car fires are high impact accidents whose damage extends beyond just the car and the driver to surrounding vehicles, passengers and public structures. For these types of risk events, you should always have a contingency plan just in case (i.e. routine maintenance and having a backup plan in the event it happens), otherwise you run the risk of having thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Causes of Car Fires
Car fires are generally caused by owner negligence, manufacturing defaults and, in rare cases, arson. The two most common causes of car fires are fuel system leaks due to faults in fuel line connectors, carburetors or fuel injection systems and electrical system failures starting from fault conditions between the battery and starter cables, or high voltage that can generate a spark in the spark ignition engine. These causes make sense considering the sheer number of flammable components in a car like fuel, engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid. Due to this, maintenance neglect and impacts (such as car accidents) make your car highly susceptible to fires, especially when they cause even a small damage on a component with flammable materials.
Possible Ways to Reduce Your Risk
While there is no way to completely eliminate the chances of your car catching fire, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk. First, you should regularly inspect your car for engine, electrical and fuel defects. Letting your engine leak, neglecting faulty wiring and not paying attention to abnormal sounds can lead to a disaster down the road. If you notice a defect, report it to your car dealer or manufacturer directly and they can replace or service the defective parts. Regularly servicing your car can also make sure your car's components are functioning properly. Spending a few hundred dollars repairing your car is a lot cheaper than spending over a hundred thousand dollars on a new car.
What to Do If Your Car Catches Fire
It is best to get away from your car as soon as possible if you notice smoke or if you smell fumes. Car fires can spread quickly and suddenly, and what may seem like a small overheating problem can quickly turn into a raging fire that consumes the entire car. If you have a fire extinguisher, you can attempt to quell a small fire by cracking open the hood and using the fire extinguisher from a few feet away. However, you should be careful not to open the hood all the way as the oxygen can make the fire grow. If the fire becomes uncontrollable or you notice it coming from the rear of the car, do not attempt to extinguish it and call emergency services.
In most cases, your car insurance policy should be able to cover you for car fires (unless you have Third Party Only insurance). You should call your insurer's emergency assistance number as soon as you get to safety and after calling emergency services. If your insurer provides this benefit, you may get a visit from their emergency response team, who will offer guidance on what to do after the accident, provide towing services and help you navigate the claims process. Some insurers will also provide an alternative mode of transportation while you repair your car or purchase a new one. If the fire was due to a collision, you should be careful not to admit any guilt or liability and do not offer a settlement to the other parties involved until authorities arrive on the scene.
Afterwards, you should make sure you have all the required documents to submit your claim, including a police report, GIA accident report, insurer's surveyor's report and the Singapore Civil Defence Force's fire investigation report. If you sustained injuries, you should also submit your medical report. In the event your claim is successful, your insurer will either pay for repairs up to the market value of your car or pay out the full market value of your car in the event of total loss so that you can get a new car. However, you should be aware that you will suffer a drop in your NCD if you or your negligence is found the cause of the fire. If you were not at fault for the cause of the fire, then your NCD should not be affected.