What Causes a Car to Catch on Fire after a Crash?

Burned car close up. Car after the fire, crime of vandalism, riots. Arson car. Accident on the road due to speeding. Explosion. High-quality photo


  • Car fires are terrifying, potentially resulting in severe injuries and deaths.
  • Potential causes of a car fire include a leaking fuel tank, electrical system or engine failure, and faulty batteries or airbags.
  • Taking the right steps after a car fire can save your life.
  • Some of the potentially liable parties responsible for a car fire include the manufacturer of a defective part, a negligent mechanic, or a vehicle owner who ignored the signs of a problem.

A car crash can be scary enough. When the car catches fire after a crash, that can be downright terrifying. Fire can destroy nerves and cause other types of permanent injuries. In many instances, these injuries require not only excruciating treatment but also grueling physical therapy – and that’s only if a person is lucky enough to survive.

Please don’t allow a negligent driver to escape accountability for causing a car crash that leads to your car catching fire and you having to suffer horribly as a result. The attorneys with The Eberst Law Firm will be here to help ensure you get the money you deserve. We will make sure you’re completely informed through the entire process and that you fully understand what’s going on at all times.

You can get in touch with us for a free consultation by contacting our firm online or calling 1-888-CALL-JON.

The following is a look at some of the more common reasons a fire can start after a car crash.

Leaking Fuel Tanks

This is probably the leading culprit when a car starts to go up in flames after a wreck. Just a small leak is all it takes for a vehicle to be quickly engulfed – as well as anyone inside. Metal can become super-hot, or a tiny spark can suddenly trigger an inferno.

There are times when some sort of manufacturer’s defect can contribute to a fuel leak. For example, the fuel tank may have been designed in a way that a fire would be more likely.

It could have been placed near a bracket or some other type of sharp object in the undercarriage of the vehicle. Or, the fuel lines may have been improperly routed and more prone to leaking as a result.

Electrical System Failures

Any sort of failure in the electrical system can cause a driver to lose control of their car and be involved in a collision as a result. But an electrical problem can also lead to a car crash fire. Sparks from a failed battery can ignite a fluid leak or ignite any gasoline vapors that might be present. Wiring in the doors, under the seats, and under the floor could also fail, resulting in a fire.

Severe Engine Failure

The engine is another obvious location where a fire can start. The usual cause is overheating. While the engine itself isn’t likely to explode, overheating can make coolant, oil, and other fluids rise to dangerously high temperatures, increasing the risk that they will leak onto the exhaust system, the engine bay, or some other incredibly hot surface. If that happens, then it will probably only be a matter of time before a fire starts.

Faulty Batteries

As we mentioned earlier, a battery can sometimes contribute to a fire after a car crash. The battery might not have been correctly designed, increasing the risk of combustible corrosion forming on its terminals.

The wires coming from the battery could have been poorly designed, creating a current overload. This, in turn, can melt the insulation that protects the wires, turning into a fire hazard in the process.

Airbag Explosions

Airbags are supposed to protect drivers and their passengers in the event of a wreck, of course. But when they malfunction, the result can be a fire that leads to a severe, debilitating injury. Many motorists have suffered severe burns due to a malfunctioning airbag.

You might not realize that airbags actually don’t fill with air. They fill with gas when deployed. When a collision occurs, a small device, about the size of an aspirin pill, ignites. The ignition converts the device from a solid to a gas, which only takes a fraction of a second to fill the bag. When this process goes wrong, however, the airbag can catch fire after an impact.

But faulty airbags don’t just cause burns. They can cause other types of extreme damage to the body. Manufacturers have sometimes used very unstable propellants, which exploded suddenly, even when there was no crash. This led to metal fragments racing through the inside of a car, much like the fragments inside a hand grenade.

Mechanical Defects

You learned a little bit already about how certain design defects can contribute to the development of a fire after a collision. There are many types of mechanical defects that can do the same thing.

These include oil pans that leak due to being made of defective materials and engine blocks that corrode too easily, contributing to the leaking of flammable fluids.

Steps to Take if Your Car Catches on Fire

As terrifying as it can be for your vehicle to catch fire, it will be critical for you to stay calm and focused. If you panic, you won’t be able to take the appropriate action to avoid a severe injury. Try to take the following steps.

  • First, turn on your signal and pull over to a location as far away from traffic as possible. Never stop in the middle of the road or highway.
  • Turn off the ignition to cut off the fuel supply and keep the hood closed. If you open it, that can add oxygen that will worsen the fire.
  • Get out of the vehicle immediately and get away. Not only is smoke inhalation a risk, but so is an explosion.
  • Call 911 immediately and give them your precise location.
  • Don’t try to extinguish the fire unless you have the proper training and equipment. A car fire can be unpredictable, so get yourself out of danger.
  • Also, don’t try to get back to the car to remove personal items. You can replace anything that’s lost.

Potential Liable Parties in Car Fire Cases

As with any personal injury case, a car fire can be complex because several parties could be responsible.

For example, you could possibly sue the manufacturer for a defective part, such as an electrical component or a faulty fuel line. If the part isn’t defective, there could have been a problem with the manufacturing process. The company may have a lack of quality control, leading to flaws.

Or, you may have recently taken your car to a mechanic who failed to fix a damaged fuel line or electrical system. If an investigation shows this to be the case, you could sue the repair shop.

If you suffered an injury and don’t own the car, you could take action against the owner. They may have ignored warning signs like visible leaks or a burning smell.

You must speak with a car accident attorney as soon as you can so they can investigate the accident and determine all potentially liable parties.

What Happens if My Car Catches on Fire, but Someone Else Is at Fault for the Accident?

When a collision takes place due to another driver’s negligence, any design or mechanical defects that exist can become magnified, with terrible consequences. If this happens, the injury victim is going to need to prove they weren’t to blame. This takes solid evidence.

An experienced car accident attorney can help you obtain that evidence, and deliver the proof it will take to make your case as strong as possible – and give you the best possible chance of obtaining full and fair compensation in the process.

Fires Can Cause Severe Injuries. Hire an Attorney that Will Get You the Compensation You Deserve

The attorneys with The Eberst Law Firm have that experience, and we also have the skills needed to help our clients achieve positive results.

Our team of experts has established a long track record of success, mainly because we provide tenacious representation. We will work incredibly hard to make sure our client’s rights are protected at all times.

Incredibly, however, there are some people who actually think they don’t need to hire an attorney. They’re certain they can represent themselves and still get the money they deserve. Please don’t make this mistake. Self-represented injury victims fail the vast majority of the time – and wind up getting no compensation at all.

Let The Eberst Law Firm show you what we may be able to do for you. Schedule a free case review by calling 1-888-CALL-JON or contacting us online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can regular maintenance reduce the risk of a car catching fire post-crash?

Checking for fuel leaks, electrical issues, and worn-out components can significantly reduce the risk of a vehicle fire. Take your car to a qualified mechanic so they can address any potential problems before they escalate.

What are the common injuries associated with car fires in accidents?

Common injuries from car fires not only include severe burns but also smoke inhalation. Some people suffer severe injuries when trying to leave the vehicle.

How do I claim insurance for a vehicle fire after a crash?

You must immediately report the incident to your insurer, providing all relevant details and documentation. Take photos of the burned vehicle and any other property damage. Also, keep all medical bills and other paperwork related to the accident. Speak with an experienced attorney if you encounter any difficulties or disputes in the claims process.

Get Answers Now

Attorney Jon Eberst

Attorney Jon Eberst

Jonathan Eberst, the driving force behind The Eberst Law Firm, is known in his community and across Florida for knowledge and skill in the personal injury industry. Respected for his friendly and help attitude, he has consistently helped thousands of clients, ensuring their rights are upheld. Jon's profound expertise makes him a sought-after voice in the legal community, both online and in-person.

View All Posts