Can You Use a Fire Extinguisher on a Car Fire?

There’s a lot of talk about car safety, but much of it discusses only a handful of topics. Typical car safety discussions often include roadside emergency kits (a critical interior car accessory) but rarely car fires. Every year, over 150,000 car fires in the U.S. lead to major property damage, injury, and even death. Do fire extinguishers work on car fires? They do—and they’re an essential safety accessory to keep in your vehicle. Having an automotive fire extinguisher could make a big difference. 

Choosing an automotive fire extinguisher

First things first—yes, it is perfectly safe to put a fire extinguisher in your car, as long as you follow a few simple rules. First, secure the extinguisher using a mounting bracket system. Second, don’t let your car’s interior get too hot. Lastly, keep the extinguisher out of direct sunlight. Follow these tips, and you’re good to go. 

A compact car fire extinguisher can be very effective on vehicle fires, whether the fire is caused by a fluid leak, mechanical failure, or a fire in a nearby environment. Choose a relatively small fire extinguisher that can easily fit your car and be snapped into a bracket or secured in a mount.

The expert in the video above recommends a carbon dioxide extinguisher for your car. These are filled with eco-friendly (and engine-friendly) non-flammable carbon dioxide gas. You can mount an automotive fire extinguisher in your vehicle quickly and easily.

5 simple steps to prevent car fires

A mechanic leans over an open engine bay, inspecting the vehicle. Routing inspections are important for preventing car fires.
Routine inspections can prevent car fires | Kate Ibragimova via Unsplash

There are various ways your car could catch fire, but there are just as many ways to prevent car fires from happening in the first place. Even the most cautious drivers can still run into trouble, so be sure to invest in one of the best automotive fire extinguisher kits for your car.

Firefighter Garage recommends these five simple ways to prevent car fires:

  • Drive safely to avoid accidents, which are a primary cause of car fires.
  • Schedule service for your car regularly with a qualified mechanic.
  • Perform routine checks for any oil or fluid leaks, which can lead to car fires.
  • Avoid parking on or over long grass or dry, flammable areas.
  • Practice safety when transporting gasoline—only Class B car fire extinguishers can put out gasoline fires.

Remember that companies only build small car fire extinguishers for small fires. In the event of a car fire, get all passengers out of and away from the vehicle and call 911 as soon as possible even if the flames seem small.

Are there laws about having a fire extinguisher in your car?

A car completely engulfed in flames. Automotive fire extinguishers can only handle small fires.
A car engulfed in flames | Gerard Bottino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to Quick Response Fire Supply, there are not currently any laws about personal passenger vehicles having an automotive fire extinguisher in the cabin. Though, it is recommended to have one onboard for emergencies. 

There are, however, laws about commercial trucks and buses keeping fire extinguishers in the vehicle at all times for public safety. They recommended these only for personal cars at this time. But, with the rise in vehicle fires—particularly among newer cars and electric cars—-I have to wonder if we may start to see automotive fire extinguishers offered as standard equipment on vehicles within the next few years.

It’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst. Learn how to install a fire extinguisher in your car and learn what to do in a car fire.

RELATED: Is it Safe to Put a Fire Extinguisher in Your Car?