As summer time is here and we pull out our cars to get in more cruise time or hit the car shows, the one thing many do not consider is "What if?" Mechanical problems can happen at any time and you never know what they will be. I like to keep a few general items in my trunk like the cap/rotor, coil wire, spark plug/spark plug wire or two from my last tune-up, and an extra fuel filter. Ignition & fuel are probably the two most areas you will run into problems out on the road - at least in my experiences. I always have a tool box in my trunk with the basic tools to get the job done in a pinch. Then I have AAA coverage which includes the 100 mile tow package. Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance & towing, so it is a good thing to have and can add security to your drive should the need arise.
But what if you have that unexpected situation which could take out your car? The two most unfortunate situations are a fire under your hood or an electrical fire. Most are not ready for such a catastrophe and these two things can destroy your beloved ride.
I always add these 2 items to all my "old" rides - a Battery Disconnect
and Fire Extinguisher.
I add this style of Battery Disconnect
shown in my pic. There are other types, but I like this one. It is designed to fit on the negative battery post, BUT, in my application I gently spread the clamp a little wider and fitted it to my positive battery post and then attach my positive battery cable to the post found on the Battery Disconnect device. Either way, you want to make sure that it does not strike the body or any hood bracing when you shut the hood.
The device looks like something you would see in your science class or a Frankenstein movie. You simply rotate the arm to complete the connection from the positive cable to the positive terminal on your battery. To disconnect power, simply rotate/pull the arm up. FAST
and simple as it should be if an electrical wire begins to melt down, your starter solenoid sticks and won't disengage, or a hot 12V wire rubs through or melts down from exposure to high heat like those wires near the exhaust manifold.
I have literally watched a wire burn up under the dash of one of my cars - someone had messed around with the wiring adding something that was no longer on the car. I suspect it grounded out at the time and as the wire got red hot, set the plastic wire covering on fire as it melted it. It won't go out by blowing on it - the electrical power needs to be disconnected so the short that is grounding the wire out is also disconnected. Trying to run to your trunk in a panic, sort through your tools to find your wrenches, and undoing that really stuck positive battery cable might be all the time that is needed to really fry all those wires under the dash or engine compartment or worse......set something ablaze which could have happened to my car if it simply wasn't a hanging wire and one that was deeper into the dash and maybe even up against some insulation.
Additional benefits include: Stops unwanted battery drain, can help prevent theft, tampering and unauthorized use and also improve safety and security of stored vehicles. I got mine at AutoZone and are reasonably priced, especially when you think of the value of your car.
The next item is a no-brainer - a Fire Extinguisher
. Its too late when the fire has begun and generally you won't know until you see the smoke and by that time it may be too late. Most fires occur under the hood and are gasoline caused like a rubber hose lets go spraying gas all over or your carb float sticks pouring gas out the vent and onto your hot engine all the while as you are still driving and the car starts running a little "funny." You may smell the gas, but it could be too late at that point. Again, you could have a wire fire and the combo of a quick battery disconnect and fire extinguisher may minimize the damage or keep you from having a total loss of you vehicle.
There are many brands of fire extinguishers and they come is various sizes as well as quality, content, and different pricing. I got just a basic one from my local auto parts store. It is an Auto/Marine extinguisher and rated for A/B/C class fires which includes electrical and gasoline.
Most extinguishers like mine are a dry chemical. From what I have read, it'll put out the fire, but may ruin things like interiors or make a real mess of the engine compartment. BUT, the important point is that you save the car. The first job of most extinguishers is to interrupt the combustion process. The second thing that is almost as important as the first is whatever is burning needs to be cooled as there is a good chance it could reignite. The dry chemical extinguishers help to coat the surface with material that does two jobs, interrupts the combustion process and to coat/insulate the surface to prevent reflash.
Things to remember:
Opening the hood to gain access to an engine fire will add oxygen and increase the fire instantly--you could get a face full of fire.
If your car catches fire while moving, try to get it stopped safely, in a safe place, shut off the ignition, and apply the emergency brake. This makes it safer to exit the vehicle. A burning car rolling down a road or hill is very scary.
If you do get the fire out initially with an extinguisher, chances of it reigniting are very likely. The heat is still there to ignite vapors from fuels and super heated combustible materials. Be aware of this and if need be, nearby dirt/sand can make a good source to throw on a fire to put it out.
Smoke from car fires can be extremely toxic and dangerous.
If the fire gets out of control, don't try to do any more - call 911. The heat from a car fire is extreme and you need to get a safe distance away. Let the professional fire fighters and their equipment do their job.
You can do your own research on other fire extinguisher options, but you should have as a minimum a dry chemical ABC rated extinguisher in your trunk and easily accessible should the need ever arise.