Why Do Cars Explode?

Why Do Cars Explode?

Are you a lover of Hollywood action movies? If yes, I’m sure you must have seen several cases where car explosions occur. But here’s a quick question, do car explosions occur frequently in reality as we see in several different movies?

In reality, you need to understand that it’s relatively rare to see cars explode. Of course, this doesn’t mean that cars don’t explode and catch fire.

Several different factors can cause car fires. However, unless you’re using explosives, it’s rare to see cars explode. A car battery can explode if it’s overcharged but it doesn’t always happen. Another very rare case where car explosions can occur is when fuel leaks and drops on extremely hot metal, causing ignition.

Why do cars explode? Do car explosions occur frequently? Is it possible for cars to explode when they catch fire? What are the common causes of car fires? In the rest of this article, you’ll find answers to these burning questions and more. So, read further.

Why Do Cars Explode?

Why Do Cars Explode?

As previously stated, it’s only in rare cases that you’ll see cars explode in reality. One of the few ways that a car explosion can occur is when chemical explosives are involved.

Heated gas in a pressurized chamber (BLEVE)

BLEVE is an acronym for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. It’s one of the few rare causes of car fires and explosions.

For car explosions to happen out of nowhere, first, heated gas (in a large amount) will have to be produced in a pressurized chamber. If this happens, the gas is likely to explode out of the chamber.

But is this even possible? Well, the chances of that happening is almost zero. No doubt, the car’s gas tanks are a confined chamber. However, you need to understand that they are not pressurized vessels. Yes, they make use of sealers, but they aren’t right enough to cause any build-up of pressure in the tank.

Overcharged batteries 

Furthermore, as earlier mentioned, overcharged lithium-ion batteries are capable of causing car fires and explosions. However, you need to understand that this will only happen in rare cases.

Furthermore, batteries primarily have two lead plates, which are usually immersed inside sulfuric acid. During overcharging, car batteries tend to produce heat. The presence of heat could cause hydrogen to be released from sulfuric acid, triggering the release of poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas. Unfortunately, sparks in the car can ignite hydrogen gas causing battery explosions. Again, you need to keep in mind that this only happens in rare cases.

Fuel leaks

Another rare cause of car explosions is fuel leaks. In case you don’t know, one of the signs of gas leaks in a car is rough idle. If this happens, the best way to prevent car fires or explosions is to address the gas leak issue.

A gas leak from a running car can cause fire or explosion if the gasoline drops or comes in contact with an extremely hot surface. That’s not all; even a spark with leaked gas can cause car explosions.

Do Car Explosions Occur Frequently?

Here’s another question; how frequently do car explosions happen?

Unlike what we see on big screens, it’s almost impossible to experience a car explosion. That’s so because automotive manufacturers designed cars in such a way that it’ll be impossible to experience BLEVE. That said, the answer to the burning question is that car explosions don’t always happen.

Do Cars Explode When They Catch Fire?

It’s worth knowing that car fires happen quite frequently. As of 2019, it was reported that approximately one in eight fires is a car fire. But is it possible for cars to explode due to vehicle fires?

To answer this burning question, I’ll say yes and no. The fact remains that unless there’s a right proportion of fire, gas, and oxygen, it’s almost impossible that vehicle fires will cause explosions.

Common causes of car fires

Why Do Cars Explode?

Unlike vehicle explosions, cars can catch fire due to several different reasons, which could either be mechanical or electrical. Let’s have a quick look at some of them below:

1. Car crash

Car accidents are one of the common causes of car fires. No doubt, most modern automobiles aren’t likely to catch fire when they encounter accidents. However, this isn’t always true in the case where the accident is between a car and a big truck or tractor.

2. Fuel leaks

Another common cause of car fires is fuel system leaks. This most likely happens when gas leaks and comes in contact with extremely hot surfaces. That’s not all; a spark can also ignite a leaked gas, causing a car to catch fire.

3. Electrical issues

Electrical issues are also a common cause of car fires. I’m sure you know that the electrical system coming from the hood runs entirely throughout a car. However, in the case where the wiring shorts or becomes faulty and gets too hot, it could lead to a car fire.

4. Overheated engines

Several different factors can cause a car engine to overheat. One of them is when you have a faulty water pump. Apart from that, clogged hoses, faulty radiator fans, and leaky coolants are some other factors that can prevent heat from leaving the engine. With an overheated engine, leaks will most likely occur and this could cause fluids to come in contact with hot surfaces.

5. Overheated Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter, an exhaust emission control system, is responsible for converting harmful substances in the exhaust gas coming from the engine into less toxic substances. The car component is expected to function between 700 – 800 degrees Celsius.

However, catalytic converters tend to clog up over a period of time. When this happens, it can misbehave and start overheating. That said, you need to understand that an overheated catalytic converter can cause fires if it comes in contact with debris.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there! I'm Gui. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in cars. But what I'm really, really not interest in is spending lots of money fixing my car up. Thankfully, I have a father-in-law who's obsessed with cars and a brother getting a PhD in internal combustion engines, so I get to learn about fixing cars. And with Fixing Engines, I hope to help you save a lot of money and take good care of your cars.

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