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As I got into my friend’s lowered and souped-up Honda Civic, I noticed a small fire extinguisher strapped to the A-pillar of his car. I thought that it was a little weird and when I asked him why he needed it, he replied, “just in case.” I had to wonder if storing a fire extinguisher in your car is even safe.

Vehicles are prone to catching on fire, so a having a fire extinguisher is a good idea

A man puts out a car fire with an extinguisher.
A man puts out a car fire with an extinguisher. | Yavuz Arslan/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Apparently, my friend was onto something as it is not only safe to store a fire extinguisher in your car, but it’s almost necessary. The USFA reported that an average of 170,000 vehicles in the U.S. catch fire on highways each year, which results in around 350 deaths annually. Per Survival Freedom, many of these fires happen due to mechanical failures with the ignition starting around the electrical wire or under the hood.

Fortunately, many of these fires start small and can be controlled with a fire extinguisher. The trick is finding the right fire extinguisher to use. But before doing that, here are the different types of fires that can occur:

  • Class A fire: Class A fires are small fires typically caused by combustible materials like wood, paper, or upholstery. They can be put out using water or a water-based fire extinguisher.
  • Class B fire: A Class B fire is the most common one to occur in a car as it involves igniting liquids like oil, gasoline, or alcohol. This type of fire can be out using carbon dioxide, foam, or a powder extinguisher.
  • Class C fire: A Class C fire is typically started by electrical wires or equipment. For this type of fire, you should use a foam extinguisher or carbon dioxide.
  • Class D and K fire: This type of fire typically occurs due to metal or grease, so it doesn’t usually occur in a car.

The most common type of fire extinguisher that you can buy for your car is a BC Dry Powder one like this First Alert Fire Extinguisher on Amazon.

Can a fire extinguisher explode in your car?

Yes. As ironic as it sounds, if a fire extinguisher is not stored properly, it can explode in your car. Have you ever shaken up a soda can and opened it? Well, a fire extinguisher can basically have the same effect if it’s jostled around in your car due to being improperly secured.

As such, it’s important to buy a fire extinguisher that has a mounting bracket and make sure that it’s properly secured under the seat or in the trunk of your car.

What size extinguisher do you need?

Federal agents put out a fire with extinguishers.
Federal agents put out a fire with extinguishers. | JESUS GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images

Since you’ll only be able to fit a small extinguisher in your car, a 1 kg or 2kg one would work best. These small extinguishers typically have a discharge time of six to 10 seconds, but it should be noted that they might only be effective on a fire that is just starting. Once the fire gets bigger, or the car is in danger of being fully engulfed, then you call the fire department.

It looks like my friend was not wrong in equipping his tricked-out Honda Civic with a fire extinguisher. You never know when the “just in case” event will happen.


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