Introduction: Save the Supercars! Install a Car Fire Extinguisher
First, a moment of silence for the fallen supercars who are no longer with us....
*tear falls to the ground*
Back to business.
Car fires happen. A LOT.
I didn't realize how often until I actually read the statistics. To sum it up, in the US alone, there are over 150K car fires every year. Luckily, very few actually result in death or were caused by serious collisions. The majority come from mechanical and electrical failures.
Regardless of what starts it, a car fire is very dangerous and very expensive if allowed to progress uninhibited. Whether you look at as a way to potentially save lives or as a small investment to protect your expensive property, a car-mounted fire extinguisher is a very smart idea.
Step 1: Decision Time: What Type/size of Extinguisher Do I Need and Where Should I Put It?
Decision Point: What type of extinguisher do I need?
There are a lot of fire extinguishers out there labeled as "AUTO" which takes most of the guess work out but you do want to make sure that you purchase the right extinguisher for the right type of flammable material. Fire extinguishers are given a classification based on a lettering system. The lettering system can be found here. The First Alert Model FESA5 that I purchased is BC rated meaning that it is filled with a chemical that is specifically designed to extinguish flammable liquids (B) and electrical equipment (C). Considering that your car is full of flammable liquids and electrical equipment, it is imperative that you get at least a BC rated extinguisher. An ABC rated extinguisher allows for a more diverse application. However, the chemical inside is monoammonium phosphate which is sticky and much harder to clean up. BC extinguishers are filled with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) which is much easier to clean up. Another factor in your type decision is what kind of spraying mechanism it uses. The Model FESA5 has a small head with no spray hose which allows for one-handed spraying (you can pull the pin with your teeth). However, the Model FESA5 also has no gauge for telling your how full it is. It does have a little green tester pip on top but not an actual gauge because it is one time use and non-refillable.
Decision Point: What size of extinguisher do I need?
Here you will need to balance your need for spray duration with your space requirements and added weight. A bigger extinguisher allows for you to have a longer spray duration and thus tame a larger fire. However a larger extinguisher is also quite bulky, difficult or impossible to use one-handed, and adds weight to your car which saps performance and fuel economy. The Model FESA5 is 2.5lbs and a little taller and skinnier than your standard Nalgene. It's about as small as they come. I chose this size because it allowed me to put it in the location I wanted, doesn't add much weight, and has enough of a spray time to manage an engine fire that is still in its infancy.
Decision Point: Where should I install the extinguisher?
Part of what prompted me to install an extinguisher in my car was the film RUSH. In it, Niki Lauda gets burned alive in his F1 car and has to endure a horrible, painful recovery. No sir, thank you very much. I prefer that my face stay unbroiled. Thus for me, it was important that I could access the extinguisher in the event of a massive crash or rollover even if my seat belt locked up (yes, I know that the statistics say this is unlikely but better safe than sorry). Thus I settled on the space immediately below the edge of the driver's seat. Perhaps you're not quite so concerned about a crash or need a larger space for your larger extinguisher. Maybe the trunk or the backseat is a better place for you. I recommend sitting in the driver's seat and holding the extinguisher in a variety of locations to see what suits you. Try the floor, the door, under the center console, next to the shifter, etc. Other factors to consider include whether other passengers can access it, if it inhibits other features of the car, and aesthetics. Also, make sure that it isn't in a location where it could get launched by an airbag! The last thing you want is to get into a minor fender bender and get killed by something you installed to save your life.
Step 2: Installation
Installation for the Model FESA5 is quite simple. The included bracket has 2 holes for screws. Line the bracket up in its desired location and use a writing utensil to make 2 dots using the screw holes as guides. Then use a small drill bit to make pilot holes for the screws you plan use. Then install the bracket using a screw driver and 2 screws.
I made sure to install my bracket so that the latch would release with a pulling motion rather than a pushing. Just a personal preference.
Double-sided foam tape, epoxy or other adhesives- Perhaps you can't or don't want to drill holes in your decided location.
Velcro straps- Perhaps your extinguisher did not come with a mounting bracket or one suitable for a car. This is Instructables! Get creative and make one of your own. I think 2 long Velcro straps and screws/epoxy would work nicely.
Step 3: Final Thoughts
On any given day, the most dangerous thing that you will do is drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Having a fire extinguisher helps mitigate that risk just a little bit. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And even if you're not concerned about getting burned, that $20 extinguisher could mean the different between buying $200 in engine parts or watching your baby burn to the ground. Fires grow extremely quickly, doubling in size every 60 seconds. Even the fastest fire department is slower than you with an extinguisher.
Also, make sure you know how to operate your particular extinguisher. Most have pins that need to be pulled before using. Murphy's law dictates that you may end up having to use yours upside-down, one-handed in the black of night with no way of reading the instructions while in a lot of pain because your femurs are broken. Preparation and practice. Here is a good link on how to use an extinguisher.
Take care and drive safely!