Can a Car Engine Catch on Fire?

This blog post will answer the question, “Can a Car Engine Catch on Fire?” and discuss the causes of fire and what can be done to avoid it.  

Can a Car Engine Catch on Fire?

Yes, a car engine can catch on fire. Nowadays, engine fires do not happen frequently but when it occurs, they can be quite deadly. Some of the most common causes of an engine fire are listed below:

  • Leakage of fuel under a car
  • Smoke and sparks from the engine or near it
  • Rapid temperature rise in the engine
  • Poor Maintenance
  • Car batteries explosion
  • Old engine with an overheating problem
  • Inefficiently installed engine components, etc.

The problem in any other part of a car can cause heat and fire in the engine. While some engine fires are caused by collisions, electrical wiring, energy system, or indeed cigarettes left in a car, leaving the engine to catch fire. 

What are the Causes of Engine Catching Fire?

A car contains several materials that are combustible like gasoline, oil, electrical wiring, etc. Most of the time there is not a single cause of the fire but a combination of things, such as; human error, mechanical failure,  and chemical combustion.

Here are some most common causes of a car engine catching fire.

Leakage of Fuel

A car contains highly ignitable and flammable fluids that are highly dangerous for humans. Fluids like gasoline, engine oil, transmission fluid, steering fluid, and coolant fluid are circulating in a car frame.

If one of the fluids catches fire it will cause an immediate fire in a car engine. Moreover, a spark from electrical wiring can cause ignition.

Electrical System Failure

Electrical failure is one of the most common causes of a car fire that leads to an engine catching fire. A small spark in an electrical wire can lead to fire and create a deadly emergency.

Also, the batteries in the car releasing explosive gases are not very secure. A small ignition near the batteries can cause a fire in an engine. Even, the current passing through the batteries can have a spark that can create an explosion in batteries.

Car Crash

A car crash can result in fuel leakage, spark, smoke, heat, and destruction of the car frame. A combination of fuel and spark can create fire and it can even be explosive.

This kind of accident is the most dangerous way to cause a fire.

Overheating in Engine

An overheated engine is a good example that a combination of factors that cause a fire in the engine.

A car has a radiator fan that is not working, leaking coolant, and a water pump working inefficiently makes the engine overheated which causes heat to transfer to other parts.

When heat affects the fuel system to leak oil then it can easily ignite. One problem leads to another and causes a fire in the engine.

Poor Maintenance

The most common human cause that leads car engines to catch fire is poor maintenance. Poor maintenance of the car eventually results in mechanical and electrical failure, heating of an engine, and ignition.

Some of the causes that can lead to a fire in a car engine are mentioned above and there could be other causes as well. Fire in a car does not involve only one factor but a combination of problems in a vehicle which include the overheating engine, electrical system failure, open wires, fuel system leakage,  etc.

How Can You Prevent Fire From Happening?

The National Fire Protection Association provides some guidance to prevent fire.

  • Do regular maintenance of your car. If you see any leakage or suspected overheating then take it to a professional mechanic.
  • If you need to take gasoline with you, try to take sealed gasoline with a small amount. Keep open the windows for ventilation while carrying fuel.
  • Whenever traveling with gasoline never put gasoline cans in the passenger area because they can fall and cause severe problems.
  • Avoid parking your car where flammable items can touch the catalytic converter or exhaust system, and start a fire. Because the Catalytic converter can easily raise its temperature and can reach 600 degrees in normal conditions.
  • Follow traffic rules to avoid car accidents that can lead to an engine fire.

What to do if a Car Catches Fire?

Most people while driving fail to recognize the danger that the car engine can catch the fire in minutes. If you feel smoke or see a flame in your car while driving and know what to do then it can prevent big danger coming with fire.

A fire can break into the car other than the engine part. As soon as a person realizes something wrong and sees some evidence of fire, one should start following the steps recommended by National Fire Protection Association.

  • Stop your car and turn off the ignition
  • Vacant the car from people and don’t let anyone go back 
  • Move at least 100 feet away from the car
  • Call 911 for help
  • Try to alert traffic to prevent further damage

Don’t try to cool the fire by yourself. Opening the car doors can cause more flames because of air circulation.


This blog post addressed the question, “Can a Car Engine Catch on Fire?” We came to know that there are several causes including fuel leakage, electrical system failure, car accidents, overheating, etc. that lead to a fire in a car engine. We have discussed these causes in detail. Moreover, some steps are also mentioned that can be taken while driving when the car catches fire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can a Car Engine Catch on Fire?

What causes car fires?

A car may catch fire due to a car accident, electrical wiring spark, mechanical failure, sometimes a lit cigarette left in the car can burn seats, carpet, etc. Sometimes, a design flow causes different problems in the system that leads to fire. 

What causes a car to catch fire in an accident?

A car accident is one of the most common ways that lead to a fire. Severe collisions cause fuel leakage and damage the installed electrical system. Fuel and spark ignition fire in a car engine that causes huge damage. 

What do you use to put out a car fire?

A dry powder or a specific fire extinguisher can be used on a car that can cool the fire. The safest way is to go far from the car and call the fire department for rescue.

Where do most vehicle fires start?

In many cases, mostly, a fire starts from the engine compartment. There are different reasons for this because the engine is the most crucial part of the car

Can a car spontaneously combust?

Yes, but it does not happen frequently. Fire is generally caused by a mechanical and electrical failure in a car. Leakage of oil and overheating can cause an immediate fire. Fluid or oil leaks, loose wiring, or rapid changes to fuel levels or the engine temperature are the indicators to cause immediately.


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