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2001 Infiniti I30 Catches Fire

Recently my 2001 Infiniti I30 caught fire for no apparent reason. It had been sitting in the driveway (outside of the garage fortunately) since about 5 pm. At about 2 am we awoke to the car with its front end in full flames. There were a few explosions, probably from the tires. Has anyone ever experienced a similar situation or have any ideas on the cause? The car was in excellent mechanical shape and had a 100k mile service within the past 12 months. A new battery was installed in October 2009.

There are a myriad of reasons that a vehicle can catch fire. Far too many to list here. The vehicle contains hot items like the brakes or the catalytic converter. It’s filled with highly combustible fuel sources…gasoline or brake fluid. The 12 volt DC battery is connected to countless relays that are usually wired to be “hot” all the time. Add that to external sources like rodents chewing on “hot” wires, people burning things that get blown by the wind and careless smokers walking by. I hope your insurance policy covered the loss.

My son’s inlaws had this happen on a Lincoln town car. They weren’t as fortunate. Although the car was parked outside their attached garage, the fire jumped up to the eaves of the house and did quite a bit of damage. The best guess in their case was a problem with the cruise control circuit. The insurance company that insured the house did go after Ford and collect.

In your case, it was obviously an electrical problem. It doesn’t take much electrical energy to generate heat and cause a fire. I was changing smoke detector batteries (9 volt batteries) and had put the old batteries in my pocket. I suddenly felt something hot in my pants and the terminals of one of the batteries had been bridged by the keys in my pocket.

There are a lot of circuits in today’s cars that are energized when the ignition switch is off. In the old days about the only circuit energized in a car when everything was turned off was the clock if the car had one. In your case, I wonder if the ignition switch might have failed causing the starter to engage and overheat the starter motor.