"Preventing mobile equipment and vehicle fires begins with regular and complete maintenance,” says Craig Stevens, Property Safety Manager at Selective Insurance, “Currently, with an increase in usage, maintenance may be overlooked and could be leading to a rise in fire losses."
With the average vehicle fire claim costing nearly $15,000, it is important to take the appropriate preventative measures in addition to having the right insurance coverage. You can reduce your risk of fire in both your personal vehicle and business fleet vehicles and mobile equipment with a few steps on a regular basis.
Check the engine compartment, heated components, and moving parts regularly for debris build-up. Especially in dry months and with vehicles that aren’t regularly used, dust, leaves, litter, and other debris can build up in the engine compartment and other small areas that may have mechanical parts that get hot during operation. Keep these areas clear is the first step in preventing fires. You should regularly give your engine compartment a thorough cleaning, and when safe to do so per your equipment’s operating manual, consider power washing equipment to clear areas you might not otherwise reach.
When hoses and lines wear out, they can cause flammable fluids to leak onto your engine’s hot components, increasing your risk of fire. The fuel system as a whole is generally a complex system, and a poorly maintained fuel system can result in a fire. Check all hoses and lines regularly for signs of deterioration, and ensure that the air intake is clear and filters are being changed regularly. The emissions system is a critical part of the health of your car, so be sure to have it regularly checked for pollutants as required in your area. If you’re not sure what to look for, bring your vehicle to a licensed mechanic for inspection and maintenance.
Stop Spark Risk
About 29% of vehicle highway fires are caused by electrical issues. What causes electrical fires in cars, exactly? Sparks from loose wires igniting leaked fluids, faulty or improperly installed batteries, and design flaws can all contribute to risks. Hybrids and electric vehicles are no exception to this rule, as their more complex battery packs can contain defects or malfunction easily. Check your engine regularly for frayed wires or blackening around connections, as these can indicate electrical faults. Make sure your mechanic performs diagnostic electrical testing as part of regular maintenance. If at any point your vehicle or equipment surges unexpectedly, shuts off randomly, or has an unattended activation of electrical components, have the system evaluated and repaired as soon as possible (and be sure to store any vehicles with suspected electrical damage away from structures, chemicals, and flammable materials.
No amount of preventive maintenance can remove all risk of fires. In fact, many vehicle fires start due to a collision. In order to protect yourself in the event of a fire, install a fire extinguisher in all vehicles and mobile equipment. Trucks, tractors and non-tow away buses used for commercial purposes are required by law to have a fire extinguisher under Code of Federal Regulations 393.95. The specific size of fire extinguisher required in a vehicle may vary, so be sure to check regulations and ensure you’re in compliance with local, state, and federal law. While your personal vehicle isn’t required to have a fire extinguisher, there are many options readily available to the mainstream consumer for personal vehicles.
With vehicle fires accounting for approximately $233,000 in damage per hour every day in the U.S., protecting yourself and your property is absolutely critical.