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Friday, February 17, 2006


How not to put a fire extinguisher in your car

I ordered a fire extinguisher Wednesday from McMaster-Carr, and it arrived today. I haven't installed it in the Dart yet, but I thought I'd take the time to list some general things to avoid when putting a fire extinguisher in your car. Sometimes I'm quite surprised at how many fire extinguishers there are sold for automotive use that are not actually approprate for use in a car. Here are some do's and don'ts for automotive fire extinguishers.

1. Do get a fire extinguisher that can put out anything in your car that will burn. The BC-rated fire extinguishers, like the one sold by APC, are rated for putting out oil, gasoline, and electrical fires. But what if your upholstery catches fire? They aren't designed to put out burning cardboard, stuffing, or cloth, just liquids and electronics. Conventional fires like that require an A rating, so an ABC-rated fire extinguisher will work for a typical car. If you have something like a classic VW Bug, you may even want to consider getting a D-rated extinguisher (in the garage - as one anonymous contributor pointed out, there aren't any small models suitable for carrying around in the car) designed for putting out magnesium fires. Class D's aren't designed to put out normal fires, but if you have to deal with an engine fire when your crankcase is made of magnesium, this can be your only option.

2. Do mount your fire extinguisher securely with a metal bracket designed for vehicle use if you're going to . For the longest time I was guilty of keeping the fire extinguisher in the Dart secured with a cheap plastic bracket, and before then, I had it under the seat. In either case, it can come loose in a crash.

3. Don't attach the fire extinguisher to anything plastic. Plastic trim is barely strong enough to hold up the weight of a fire extinguisher on its own, let alone keep it from breaking loose in an impact.

4. Don't put the fire extinguisher where it will block your vision. It used to be trendy to carry a fire extinguisher on the windshield pillar. It's much safer to have a good view of the road than a great view of your fire extinguisher.

Good places to put a fire extinguisher often include on the transmission tunnel, under the dash, or in the trunk. In any of these cases, be sure you can attach the fire extinguisher to the metal structure of the car and not a plastic or cardboard pannel. Just where you can fit an extinguisher and find a good piece of metal will vary from car to car.

Hmmmm... A Class D fire extinguisher in a Classic VW bug. The minimum size one can get has a gross weight of about 52 lbs. ...May be just a bit large for my bug. I just hate being a know-it-all!
Carrying around an extinguisher that big would be overkill, but I'd seriously consider one for my garage if I had a Bug. I would not want a engine fire in my garage and nothing to put it out with!
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