What causes cars to burn on the road while moving? Must read!

Posted by: 234DRIVE x NAIJAUTO.COM

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How come car fire is now so common in Nigeria, even luxury cars? Find out in this article!

Have you ever driven on major Nigerian roads and see the burnt chassis of cars on a major expressway? 

You must keep wondering what must have happened. It gets worse when you look closely at the car and discover it's a recent model of a luxury car that you always dream of buying.

What would cause a luxury car to burn while in motion? That's not even the question here, the real question is: "What makes a car go up in flames while in motion?".

I have done an extensive study on this matter which was inspired by an incident that happened last year. One of my favourite Nigerian artists bought himself the 2018 Range Rover Autobiography as a Christmas gift and just only after 10 months it gutted fire along Lekki-Epe expressway. His name? BURNABOY! 

This just tells us that car fire can happen to anybody, anywhere and at anytime.

Car Explosion Compilation

You have a lot of questions regarding this strange fire issue and I would answer all of them today by highlighting the causes of a car fire and why it burns the car totally sometimes.

1. Design error

We are in 2020 and Mercedes-Benz just recalled its 2020 GLE 350 and the GLE 450 SUVs because there is a welding error at the connection between the fuel filter and the fuel tank that allows a leak of fuel as the car is in operation. If this fuel link touches the exhaust system while it is hot, there would most probably be a fire.

Mercedes-Benz is every Nigerian's favourite car brand but remember nobody is above mistakes. There have been few cases of GLE coupes getting burnt in Nigeria from a design flaw also.


Design flaws have many times causes pity to many car manufacturers

Design flaws/errors are mistakes that a car manufacturer fit in the design of a particular car. Some design flaws do not cause any risk at all to a car so it won't have to be recalled. It would just be corrected on the next model. However, design errors that have to do with the ignition/fueling system of a car often lead to fire incidents.

So every car owner needs to be actively checking for news about recalls by the manufacturer because the manufacturer might not be able to reach all its customers due to all the different distribution channels involved. 

2. Engine overheating

It is sad to know that there are a lot of drivers out there that drive cars without looking at the instrument cluster to see what their car is trying to show them.

A car never overheats without giving a sign via the temperature gauge on the dashboard. Once the temperature gauge is rising above the middle mark, the driver needs to start preparing to park and look under the hood for a solution to the overheating of the car.

There are many possible causes, but the most common one is the lack of adequate coolant in the engine cooling system of the car. Once you notice a car is overheating, you need to park the car, allow it to cool down then find a solution to the problem either by yourself or call for help.


This especially requires attention in a place that has such hot weather like Nigeria

Cars overheat to the point of igniting wires and components of the car that now causes a very strong fire to build up under the hood of the car. The extinguishers won't be able to quench this strong fire. 

>>> Read more: 

3. Fluid leaking

I know it sounds weird that any other fluid apart from petrol on a car is flammable.

Well, all fluids on a car are flammable at very high temperatures except water. As a car is running normally, it gets very hot and  fluids going around the car also gets hot as well. Therefore, any small leak from the pipes containing and carrying these fluids at high temperatures can cause ignition around the car, and if the ignition affects the wrong wire, it leads to sparks then fire. 


As we always remind our beloved readers: always check the fluids before you drive

This fire builds up in parts of the car that are not visible to the eye from the exterior. Early detection of this fire is mostly impossible. You should never ignore leaks of fluids in a car. What fluids are we talking about? Brake fluid, transmission fluid, steering fluid and the engine oil fluid.

>>> Here are how to detect leaks:

4. Failures of electrical components

Modern cars have a lot of electrical components that have current running through them as the car is in operation, and a failure of a component can also cause a fire.

I have been around workshops where the failed ABS system of cars causes flames to erupt from within the component. I have automotive wiring technicians as friends and in the course of their training, and guess what, they have almost burnt a car from wiring errors at least once! 

Components like car stereo (Infotainment systems), ABS & AC systems have very complicated wiring embedded within them. Any spark that occurs within wires spreads into the car body through heat shields.


Electrical parts that get faulty very likely cause fire

Sometimes, there might be a surge in an electrical component that leads to an excessive current flowing through which then damages the component and causes a spark then fire.

>>> In case of a car fire, you should know Step-by-step guide to deal with car fire

4. Overheating catalytic converter

The catalytic converter is the largest part of a car's exhaust system that controls the hazardous exhaust gases. When a car's engine is not running normally, it causes the catalytic converter to overheat because it is doing excess work. This overheating can spread to the cabin floor of the car and make the car to start burning.

>>> See the 6 symptoms of a bad catalytic converter you can check easily


The catalytic converter is located right under the car floor which is dangerous when it starts burning


All 5 reasons highlighted in this article are highly backed up with the fact that Nigeria has a very hot climatic condition that increases the possibility of a car fire occurring.

The mobile extinguishers can only do a little quenching of fire before it runs out. Most people don't know how to tactically apply fire extinguishers and I think I should organize a fire fighting class as soon as possible. The fastest way to discover car fire is by using the NOSE!. Yes, the power of smell can save you the fastest from this dirty fire that leaves you "carless". That's going to be all for today, I can see how happy you are knowing that not only overheating causes car fire.

>>> Also read other car tips and advice on Naijauto.com!




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Crank - the head of content for 234DRIVE is a mechanic/car enthusiast/car vlogger that writes and creates relatable motoring experiences. Whenever he lays his hands on any car, he reviews them in depth. He calls himself the 'Educative Car Guy'.

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