fire risk and prevention
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  1. #1
    Fellow Frogger! deesse's Avatar
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    Default fire risk and prevention

    Hi all,
    I am wondering about the risk of an old car going up in flames. I have heard some horror stories from dodgy wiring to leaking fuel lines and even cars spontaneously combusting when sitting idle. I am thinking as a precaution I will get an extinguisher for the SM.

    I have a few questions.
    If one has an electrical fire in the dashboard for instance what is the best way to deal with it.
    Likewise an engine fire.
    Also what type and size of extinguisher is good to carry in a car?
    What precautions can one take to prevent fires from happening.

    Any advice would be welcome.

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    cheers Tony

  2. #2
    1000+ Posts forumnoreason's Avatar
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    I had a fire. Oh yes, the dash lit up, it was night, the fumes were atrocious. I'm yet to find a comprehensive reason, suffice to say oil shot out the breather and started burning. Very Rapidly. Fortunately I kept the extinguisher which a previous owner had WISELY fitted upon the drivers front seat box section, anyway I got to use it one night as the old girl hauled herself up the incredibly straining climbs back from Newcastle to Sydney and just before Woy Woy blurgh woompa.
    Those little powder/foam household scale jobbies have incredible effects on fire. And leave a wonderful mess on everything. They also do nasty corrosive things to dashboards.
    Richo had made a better fitting for those pesky carburettors fuel line connections, we've all seen in photos what happens to aluminium bonnets when petrol ignites and isn't contained very quickly. There was a thread he discussed this, he'll probably illuminate this better, I wouldn't mind one myself, they should be mandatory, Richo I'll buy one if you have any!
    But yes for peace of mind get an extinguisher and don't drive without one. Simple.

  3. #3
    1000+ Posts robmac's Avatar
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    Add a Battery master switch and make sure the alternator main output is disconnected when the switch is opened.

  4. #4
    BVH Roger Wilkinson's Avatar
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    I have had a car burn up before me and it was surreal but wrenching to watch. The cause was an electrical short near the battery. I had a 1kg dry power extinguisher and it was useless. It sprayed for about 8 seconds, nowhere near long enough to extinguish the fire. In my cars now I carry a 2.5kg dry powder extinguisher, and in that car's replacement I carry two of them.

    Roger

  5. #5
    1000+ Posts gerry freed's Avatar
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    Default Re: fire risk and prevention

    A dry powder extinguisher got nowhere with my DS fire. See the pics on my CitroŽn page. It wasn't safe to open the bonnet.
    http://www.globalfreed.net
    I believe that the buyer of my SM fitted a CO2 system under the bonnet.

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  6. #6
    Fellow Frogger!
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    Quote Originally Posted by deesse View Post
    Hi all,
    I am wondering about the risk of an old car going up in flames. I have heard some horror stories from dodgy wiring to leaking fuel lines and even cars spontaneously combusting when sitting idle. I am thinking as a precaution I will get an extinguisher for the SM.

    I have a few questions.
    If one has an electrical fire in the dashboard for instance what is the best way to deal with it.
    Likewise an engine fire.
    Also what type and size of extinguisher is good to carry in a car?
    What precautions can one take to prevent fires from happening.

    Any advice would be welcome.
    cheers Tony
    This is a tale of where lack of knowledge is dangerous, previous experience is misleading, and where I was bloody lucky.
    I'm fortunate to own a '73 USA spec SM. I imported the car from the USA in 2004 and I do all the work on it myself. After many years of working on Citroens I felt capable of coping with anything the SM might throw up.
    As supplied by Citroen the American spec SM engines are potential firebombs, particularly as they are now over 40 years old. In order to pass the USA exhaust emission requirements the USA market cars were fitted with air injection into the exhaust manifolds under certain engine conditions, the intention being that the injected air mixed with any unburnt fuel, combusted and reduced the amount of hydro-carbons exiting the exhaust pipe. A crude but common strategy at the time. What it meant was that the USA SMs have, in effect, external combustion chambers in the exhaust headers. Now the factory SM ignition system uses a distributor rotor with a resistor which can fail. If this resistor fails then one bank of the V6 doesn't fire. However the engine will run on one bank and the bank that's not firing is still receiving it's full quota of fuel. Yes, I think you're with me - the exhaust headers on the non-firing bank glow red-hot and set fire to anything around them. Happened to me one day and I stupidly continued to drive when the car dropped onto 3 cylinders as I was almost home. I finally pulled over when the smoke became too much to ignore, and I have never seen my wife exit a car so fast. Luckily, the fire was restricted to a wiring loom and didn't catch any further. I now carry a 4.5 kg extinguisher.
    roger

  7. #7
    1000+ Posts gerry freed's Avatar
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    Default Re: fire risk and prevention

    My SM was the US Spec as I was in California at the time.
    Sent from my Transformer TF101 using aussiefrogs mobile app
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  8. #8
    BVH Roger Wilkinson's Avatar
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    The reason I carry 2 extinguishers of 2.5 kg each in my DS19 rather than a single 4.5 kg one is that, although the stream of powder is smaller, it lasts longer. And if one malfunctions or I cannot reach it, the other is available.

    Roger

  9. #9
    1000+ Posts Gamma's Avatar
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    As tragic as it sounds...
    The best thing for a car fire is...insurance.
    Any kind of fire is usually fatal for said motor. Between the mess and damage, there is more often than not....... not a lot left to salvage.

    I have had two fires in...Shitboxes....one fuel related, (spraying fuel from a pump, onto the manifold)..The other electrical, (not much fire, but a lot of damage making the cost of recovery and repair uneconomical).


    You should still carry an extinguisher....2.5kg dry powder or foam, so as you can rescue persons or valuables...but thats about it.

    Over insurance is the best insurance...
    Last edited by Gamma; 17th February 2013 at 09:43 AM. Reason: Speelink
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  10. #10
    VIP Sponsor richo's Avatar
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    Steven (forumnoreason), I can probably make one for you in a couple of weeks time, I no longer though have the taps for cutting the thread in the carburetor.
    That said, there are a number of members here who have them. Worth asking if someone would lend one.

    Roger, I concur with the 2 x 2.5kg numbers, given your experience of such an illuminating moment. I prefer the "fail safe" approach.

    I should do something one day, though FrankenD received my last fuel fitting a few days ago. It's a start.
    My battery and engine wiring is much safer than that of your old '63, on both cars. We learn by experience.

    roger, you were indeed lucky with the SM. I hadn't considered the emissions system a possible threat, its removal would be my my (personal) choice. In your case I appreciate why you have retained it.

    cheers
    r
    Last edited by richo; 17th February 2013 at 10:08 PM.

  11. #11
    Real cars have hydraulics DoubleChevron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamma View Post
    As tragic as it sounds...
    The best thing for a car fire is...insurance.


    ...
    Of course that's the truth .... if it was a modern car you wouldn't dream of risking harm by lifting a bonnet ( ie: feeding more oxygen ) to a fire in a modern car. Grab your belongings out and let it burn. The issue of course with the cars above is. Where would you find another rust free, daily drivable tidy RHD DS19 or low milage museum fresh SM Cars such as these simply don't exist for sale anywhere.

    seeya,
    Shane L.
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  12. #12
    1000+ Posts michaelr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerry freed View Post
    A dry powder extinguisher got nowhere with my DS fire. See the pics on my CitroŽn page. It wasn't safe to open the bonnet.
    When my ID19 burnt in 1972, due to a loose fuel inlet on the carb, I was driving through suburbia. When I realised it was on fire I shut down the ignition and coasted to a stop. I actually coasted about 50 meter further than I needed to as I realised an immediate stop would put me outside a service station.

    Before leaving the car I pulled the bonnet catches. Just inside the front gate of the nearest house was a neatly coiled hose connected to a tap. A fine spray of water under the leading edge of the bonnet (not opened, just on the safety catch) quelled the fire and then I opened the bonnet and gave it a good dousing.

    Note:
    1. In retrospect I should have stopped at the service station... and ready access to fire fighting gear. The hose was just amazing luck
    2. Stopping the engine stopped fuel supply from the mechanical fuel pump
    3. What was then burning was wiring, bonnet insulation and rubber, not a liquid
    4. I wish that the guys from the servo had not arrived 2 minutes later and emptied two large foam extinguishers into the engine compartment... what a mess. AND it cost me a slab of beer as a "thank you"

    I hotwired the car, and wired the fuel inlet, and drove the car home. Over the weekend I rewired the engine compartment and replaced essential rubber parts to drive to work on Monday morning with charred paint on the bonnet and no heater/ventilator system.

    My DS23 now has an extinguisher mounted beside the drivers seat PLUS a Richo supplied fuel inlet.
    Michael
    Member, Citroen Car Club NSW

    DS23 Pallas 5 sp. "Francoise" , BX19TRi Auto "Jacques Dutronc" , Teardrop Trailer "The Toad", BMW R65 "Rosamund"
    In the past: Renault 750, Dauphine, R4, R8, R10, Peugeot 504 Familiale, ID 19 (x2), Safari (x2)

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