Nobody wants to drive a leaking car, regardless of what is leaking out of it. In most cases, a leak is a sign of a much more serious engine problem. However, if external leaks are serious, internal ones are scary. And they could potentially lead to more disastrous outcomes, like sudden random fires. Sudden fires can be perplexing and terror inducing incidents. In the history of cars, there have been several cases of car fires, some of which, as we will see below, resulted in a number of fatalities. It is also noted that they tend to happen with certain models that were made within certain periods of time. Fortunately, the response to this has come a long way, both in terms of incorporating safety standards during production and responses when faults that could cause car fires are reported in cars.
Still, no one wants to be in a burning car, regardless of whether it is mobile or static. Although, I have to admit the former could be scarier. Since nobody wants to be found in such a situation, we have looked at several cases of reported car fires, and car fire risks, both current and recent, and listed them below. You may need to keep this, and the safety levels of any car, in mind the next time you are going to make a purchase.
20. Opel Zafira B
This UK-made Zafira B seven seater model was badly affected it was recalled twice. The problem affected cars made between 2005 and 2014 and was attributed to improper repairs to the blower’s motor resistors. According to the company, resistors were to be replaced and not repaired.
By then, more than 130 cars, which are mostly family cars, were reported to have overheated behind the glove box area. However, in some cases, there were no advanced warnings. It was reported that smoke came through the dashboard vents a few moments before the car burst into flames. In three of the cars, there were kids inside. Unfortunately, there was no harm to passengers. The company eventually announced a recall of 220,000 Zafiras in an attempt to mitigate the issue.
19. Ford Pinto
This small car was manufactured and sold by Ford between 1971-1980. It was also during this period that it developed a fiery reputation. The car was designed and built in a hurry as Ford was facing competition. Some things escaped the builders’ attention in the process. In this case, what slipped by them was a design fault that could lead to fires. They placed the gas tank nine inches away from the axle which left it vulnerable in the event of a rear-end collision. Fuel leakage from the tank didn’t take long to combust. The result was disastrous. The death toll attributed to the car’s faulty design is pegged somewhere between 500 and 900. Quite a toll. Ford finally started using a rupture-proof fuel tank, but a lot of damage had already been done. Some of the cars are still around today.
18. Ford Kuga
This car manufacturer experienced a fiery period in South Africa as well. Interestingly, the fires were experienced in cars that were sold only in South Africa. This saw the company recall 4,500 cars in January this year, a scale down from the 63,000 it had planned to recall after 39 fires reportedly broke out in this particular. The glitch affected cars manufactured between December 2012 and February 2014. The company said no injuries had been reported. The fires were attributed to overheating caused by lack of coolant circulation which could, in turn, lead to cracks in the cylinder head and leaking of oil. Hot weather was only mentioned as a factor.
17. Porsche Boxster 718 & Cayman 718
Sometimes, even a lot of money doesn’t guarantee you a fire cushion. Porsche are a statement of fine German engineering and status symbols. Therefore, when a caution is raised, no matter how slight it is, extra attention is required. 239 Porsche cars, across three models, were earlier this year recalled in Australia. Reason? The possibility of fastening screws of the fuel collection pipes to loosen and shear off, and if the leaking fuel comes into contact with the ignition, there could be a fire. Something no one would wish for in a Boxster 718 going at full speed. If that were to happen, it could be such a fast and expensive way to go out.
16. The Ford Fraternity of 2009 Recalls: Ford Windstar, Ford Explorer, and Ford Ranger
Ford and spontaneously combusting cars have been bedfellows, albeit strange ones for a long time. In 2009, the company voluntarily recalled 4.5 million vehicles in the US due to faults that could possibly lead to a fire. 1.1 million of those were Ford Windstar minivans. Internal leaking from the switches made them susceptible to a fire. A number of these switches had been linked to the problem during an internal investigation that was prompted by several reports of fires under the hood. The rest of the recalls consisted mostly of SUV’s and trucks that use the same switches. The recalls applied to 1992 to 2003 models.
15. Opel Corsa
Another Opel model. Seems once this problem checks into your door, it has a tendency of sticking around. The problem with the Corsa is said to be caused by the same challenge that plagued the Zafiras, a heater wiring problem that could cause flames to erupt through the dashboard. The fire problem affected the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a majority being in the Black Edition specification manufactured between 2006 and 2014. A few SE and SRi models were also affected according to the company. However, some reports included the Corsa D and Corsa E models which brought the total number of cars affected to 1.1 million.
14. Hummer H3
For this SUV over in the US, 42 vehicle fires and three people being burned were the reason a recall was issued for up to 200,000 units. Besides the 2006 to 2010 model years, the HT3 from the same years was also affected. Two of the three cars in which the three people sustained burns were destroyed by the fires. The cause of the fires was linked to heating, cooling and ventilation systems, though some reports narrowed it to the control module that controls the blower motor speed in the HVAC system of the truck. The effect of the recall extended to Mexico and Canada.
13. Jeep Grand Cherokee
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles not only recalled the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2015 but also some Dodge SUVs bringing the total for their recall to 570,000 SUVs. The cars were recalled so that the carmaker could replace the wiring in the headliner which a government agency found to be susceptible to short-circuiting and overheating, creating a potential fire hazard. The wiring was to be secured with a new adhesive. Some Jeep models included in the recall are the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot that were manufactured during a five-month period in 2015. There you go, we got you all covered on the Jeep front.
12. Audi, Several Models
A fire risk due to a potential coolant pump problem led to a recall of five Audi models earlier this year in the US. In 2015 and 2016, reports were made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of some cases of localized heating and overheating in the engine compartment of several Audi models. These problems were attributed to a blockage near the coolant pump. The agency reported that some vehicles equipped with a 2.0L TFSI engine would have their coolant pumps blocked by debris from the cooling system. The outcome could be an overheating pump and the risk of a vehicle fire. The models affected included the A4, A5 Cabriolets, A5 Coupes, A6 sedans, Q5 and A4 Allroad wagons that were produced during specific times between 2012-2017.
11. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Outlander Sport had been found to have a problem with its leaking transmission fluid. This means that this particular problem could lead to increased chances of the vehicle catching fire and has led to the recall of 45,000 units that had been sold. The make that was most affected was the 2015 Outlander Sport crossover SUV. The main problem was that the clamp of the CVT may have been poorly installed during assembly and this allowed the hose to detach causing it to leak transmission fluid. This is a major fire hazard and especially if the leaking fluid comes into contact with a hot surface. If the vehicle also loses too much transmission fluid, it would render the vehicle inoperable, which is a safety hazard and especially if it malfunctions under operation.
10. Nissan Rogue Crossover
Nissan Motors issued recalls for 486,815 units of the 2008 to 2014 model year Rogue crossover that were susceptible to electrical shorts and fires in the presence of moisture. This shortcoming affects cars that were made between March 2007 and July 2014. The company said that moisture of water and snow and salt seeping through the floor on the driver’s side could cause the cars to experience an electrical short in the harness connector. Solutions include replacement of the harness if it fails inspection and installation of a waterproof seal. This recall affected cars in North America and, like most, were prompted by reports to the NHTSA.
9. Kia Sportage
For Kia Sportage models from 2008 and 2009, an electrical short in the computer was potentially dangerous enough to warranty recall of 72,000 cars in the US. This all results from water with road salts getting into the braking control panel which could cause rust of the wiring connectors. It could also cause a circuit board to short, potentially causing a fire. On the sunny side though, this problem was discovered when a Kia Sportage parked on a driveway caught fire. Other examples happened in the course of the investigation of the cause of the first fire prompting the recall of the models for a possible replacement of the panel.
8. Ford Focus
This affected the models that were sold in China. New Ford Focus models produced from 2009 were recalled after the car was found to have a fuel leak risk. Ford’s Chinese venture Changan Ford Automobile Co. Ltd. made the decision to recall 191,770 cars after inspection by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine that was prompted by customer complaints of leaks that some experts said could lead to potential fires. Not that you need an expert to tell you that a fuel leak could lead to a fire. Ford Focus is one of the best-selling compact sedans in the country. Therefore, one can see the wisdom of a recall as opposed to another mitigation effort.
7. Toyota Crown Sedan
The Japanese company’s Chinese venture recalled 93,700 cars due to leaking brake fluid. The recall affected the Toyota Crown model sedans that were produced between Dec 1, 2009, and June 14, 2012. The company’s automotive watchdog attributed the recall to the tendency of the car’s braking system to leaking fluid. While everybody agrees that nobody wants anything leaking from a car they are driving, we can acknowledge that a leak and potential brake failure make quite a potentially disastrous outcome. The Chinese watchdog’s decision to ramp up on car safety in China saw quite a number of recalls that run into the millions, affecting even state-owned cars. Toyota’s Chinese operation is a joint venture with a state-owned company.
6. Various Mercedes Models
This is quite recent. Nope, scratch that, it is current, and it is worldwide. Mercedes is recalling a whopping 1 million cars globally due to a hitch that could lead to fire after it reported 51 fires worldwide. The recall affects sedans and SUVs made from 2015 to 2017 in these categories; C-Class, E-Class, CLA cars, GLA and GLC SUVs. A fault in the starter part that could cause it to overheat and cause fires prompted the recall. According to the company, in case there is a failure of the engine and transmission to turn over, repeated attempts to start the vehicle can cause a current limiter to overheat thus causing a fire.
As we have seen before, even being luxurious and expensive does not necessarily insulate cars from potentially turning into igniters. For some Maserati models, the fault is almost funny; it is prompted by adjusting a seat. For Maserati Quattroporte, Ghibli, and Levante, made between 2014 and 2017, adjusting the front seats could lead to potential electrical shorts and fires. This affects cars in the US that fall under the territory of Maserati North America Inc. 39,381 cars have been recalled.
4. Lamborghini Aventador
Wow! Even the prodigious mastery at this mega-expensive operation doesn’t seem to have been spared. However, we acknowledge that having electrical systems and gasoline close together in such a high-performance machine can occasionally be a tad intense. In February, Lamborghini recalled 5,900 cars due to a possible fire risk. Apparently, filling Aventadors with too much gas could exhaust the system when driven in conditions the company did not describe. And if the liquid reaches the exhaust system there is a high likelihood of a fire. Given the make and abilities of any car from this Italian car maker, the possibility of such an occurrence should be best treated a really high risk.
3. Mazda RX-8
This sports car whose manufacture was discontinued after the 2012 model, saw 69,477 of them taken off the road in the United States because of a fire risk due to fuel leaks late last year. All the problems were narrowed down to the fuel tank, especially the fuel pump rings. The company said if the heat resistance on top of the fuel is not sufficient, the fuel rings could deteriorate from engine and exhaust pipe heat causing the fuel pump seals to crack and leak gasoline on hot surfaces potentially leading to a car fire. The recall affects cars that were manufactured from April 10, 2003, to Feb. 18, 2008.
2. V8 Ford Mustangs
More than 1,300 of the V8 Ford Mustangs built between May 27, 2015, and March 1, 2016, are being returned to dealerships in Australia due to a wiring fault that poses a fire risk. The company said a number of these of these vehicles could have insufficient clearance between the battery cable wiring loom and the exhaust manifold. In such a case, the wiring loom could possibly contact the exhaust manifold leading to short circuiting which could potentially result in an engine fire. The Mustang received a two-star safety rating earlier on which means this development compounds its safety concerns. There weren’t any fires reported in this car in Australia as of the time of the recall.
1. Honda Accord
This one also ran into fire problems in the land down under where over 45,000 cars were recalled during to a manufacturing error that could cause car fires. Honda Accord Euros, 2003 through to 2008 models with registration number 30,373, were found to have cases where the steering fluids leaked on the car’s host exhaust generating smoke and burning smell, and could potentially cause an under-bonnet fire. Also, under-bonnet temperatures, in prolonged situations, could cause the power steering hose to deteriorate prematurely causing it to crack and leak power steering fluid which could potentially lead to a fiery outcome.
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