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Old 06-27-2014, 09:27 AM
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,523,609 times
Reputation: 35864


Many things, though unlikely, can cause a car to catch on fire. One that comes to mind is if there is a faulty catalytic converter, the exhaust system can get red hot (literally glow in a dark garage). If there are some scraps of papers or dead leaves under a car where you park it, the hot pipes can ignite that material, which can flare up and ignite accumulated oily materials collected on the exterior of the engine.

Before electric fans, when fans ran only off the belt, car engine temperatures would rise when you shut them off, and then gradually cool down. They still do, but the electric fan runs when necessary to cool them.

Engines are made of non-combustible materials, and what burns is flammable materials, like road film, under-hood insulation, hoses belts and filters, etc., and the engine doesn't have to be running for those to catch fire. (I've always wondered how Jutes and Visigoths set stone castles on fire.)

Raccoons are very smart and cunning, and can be spiteful enough to set your car on fire, if they take your credit card to an ATM machine and it is rejected. Never underestimate them.
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Old 06-27-2014, 09:38 AM
Location: Huntsville
5,328 posts, read 3,589,684 times
Reputation: 6007
I'd simply just ask the person to move the vehicle and that you don't want to assume the liability if it is vandalized. A fire is very unlikely to happen. I've seen a car catch fire at school years ago, but it was a late 70s Camaro with a completely butchered wiring job. The wiring rubbed through and created a short.

As for a bone stock vehicle, it's not very likely and if I were the friend I'd be less upset with you telling me you don't want the liability than trying to make excuses for what "could" happen.
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Old 06-27-2014, 08:01 PM
7 posts, read 9,578 times
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I saw it happen about 15 years ago. our neighbors had a Chevy Blazer that started blazing. afaik it'd been sitting all night without use as it I remember everyone in the neighborhood evacuating that morning in our PJs in case the gas tank exploded. Thankfully that didn't happen but it was still pretty scary. That car was pretty messed up, but still....very weird.
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Old 05-29-2015, 04:23 PM
1 posts, read 718 times
Reputation: 10
Today my neighbors car was just sitting in his driveway (not started and not having just been drove) caught fire. The fire department had to put it out.
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Old 05-29-2015, 05:43 PM
Location: Idaho
2,476 posts, read 2,013,442 times
Reputation: 5097
Did you say Fiero, Iron duke 4-cylinder? Had one, leaked from the engine block, sprayed oil on hot exhaust, caught fire about five minutes after I parked it. So, yes a vehicle can catch fire after it has been turned off. And it makes for a pretty bad day from then on!
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Old 05-29-2015, 06:12 PM
1,690 posts, read 2,009,467 times
Reputation: 2592
Originally Posted by thrillobyte View Post
I let a neighbor park her 1996 Accura Integra in my unused attached carport. Lately I've begun wondering if an auto can catch fire while sitting. She never leaves it idling but I just wonder about the electrical system shorting out or the engine just spontaneously erupting into flames. She's a good neighbor and needs the extra space, but if there are any dangers or chances that my fire insurance wouldn't cover any damage, I'd have to ask her to move it. Is such a thing, though unlikely, still possible? I goggled the title and can find nothing. Thanks for any help.
There were Ford trucks that did this due to a bad cruise control switch and prompted a recall. But its really quite rare with other makes.

Don in Austin
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Old 05-29-2015, 06:19 PM
Location: SC
8,382 posts, read 5,021,700 times
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Originally Posted by thrillobyte View Post
How could it happen? I'd like to be able to explain it to her when I ask her to move the car just so there's no hard feelings.
Most likely, a fuel or anti-freeze leak.

While running, the fan and other motion washes the fluid off the hot engine.

When stopped, the liquid can sit in pools in hot areas of the vehicle. As it evaporates, it becomes more flammable. Under the right circumstance of leak, heat, and time sitting while hot (or a spark), this can combine to cause a flash fire.
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Old 05-31-2015, 11:10 PM
Location: Wichita Falls Texas
999 posts, read 1,323,320 times
Reputation: 968
You betcha. That's how I lost my 76 Pinto. Came home one Saturday night, went to bed, one hour later the fire department is at my door. Something went bad in the wiring.
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Old 06-01-2015, 01:32 AM
Location: Denver
3,138 posts, read 6,901,436 times
Reputation: 2907
A car is full of stored energy just waiting to be freed. Oil, gas, plastics, and tires....it just needs an ignition source like the battery and a short.
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