In 2018, approximately 181,500 vehicle fires were reported. Some of these resulted from collisions, but most resulted from vehicular malfunction. Typically, vehicular malfunction to this degree is prefaced by smoke emanating from your vehicle. However, not all vehicular smoke means you are in imminent danger of a vehicle fire, or explosion. For this reason, knowing the smoke colors and the potential problems they indicate will help keep you safe.
If smoke is coming out of your vehicle, the location of its origin matters. For example, smoke coming from the engine bay of your car is always an emergency. Pullover right away and notify the proper authorities. Conversely, if smoke emanates out of the tailpipe, your car may still function giving you the time to get your vehicle to a repair shop.
Steps To Take if Your Vehicle Catches Fire While Driving
- Locate a safe place to pull over
- Turn off the ignition
- Get out of the car, do not return for personal belongings
- Move at least 100 feet away from your vehicle to avoid any flames and/or toxic fumes
- Call 911
- Alert oncoming traffic (if you can safely do so)
If you find yourself in this situation you should not attempt to put out the fire yourself. Opening the hood or doors of the car will increase the air supply and will accelerate the fire.
What to do After a Vehicular Fire
After a fire has occurred, you should contact your insurance company; depending on your policy, they will tow your vehicle and estimate the cost of repairs. Your insurance company may decide to total your vehicle if the cost to repair it exceeds its market value.
You should also take pictures of the damage, and gather witness statements for your insurance company. When the fire has been extinguished you can ask the attending firefighters if you can remove personal items from your vehicle.
Smoke Color Identification and Meaning
- White Smoke:
If you see wispy white smoke coming from the tailpipe of your vehicle it may be condensation burning off. Overnight water may accumulate in the tailpipe of your vehicle, especially if it is cold outside; this type of smoke is nothing to worry about. However, if the smoke persists after your vehicle has completely warmed up, you may have a coolant leak. Smoke from burning engine coolant will have a slightly sweet smell. This type of smoke may be caused by a bad head gasket, a cracked cylinder head, or a cracked engine block. If this smoke smells faintly of gas, you may have an issue somewhere in your fuel system control.
- Black Smoke:
Black smoke that smells like gas indicates your vehicle’s engine is burning too much fuel. This means your vehicle may have leaky injectors, bad fuel regulators, air filtration problems, or faulty sensors.
This type of smoke may also result from an electrical fire and will have a strong electrical burn smell; the smoke from an electrical fire is noxious and poses more of a threat than a potential vehicle fire.
- Blue Smoke:
Blue smoke indicates that your vehicle’s engine is burning oil. This color smoke suggests your vehicle may have worn piston rings, worn valve seals, a bad PCV system, heavy cylinder wear, a bad head gasket, or a leak in the combustion chamber. Blue smoke often coincides with severe underperformance from your vehicle.
- Grey Smoke:
Grey smoke, like blue smoke, could indicate excess oil burning. However, if your vehicle has an automatic transmission, this kind of smoke could indicate problems with your transmission fluid. It may also indicate a faulty transmission vacuum modulator, issues with a turbocharger (if applicable), or you may have a stuck positive crankcase ventilation system.
Were you or someone you know involved in a recent auto accident? Call Auto Accident Care Network now at 801-683-1948 to connect with a live care advocate. Our team at AACN can connect you to trusted attorneys and doctors to schedule a free legal consultation, a free thirty-minute massage, and a no-cost medical exam!
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