Car fires

What would cause a car to get on fire when it is parked and the engine is not running?

I was driving my mom to drop her off at work and then I went to a nearby restaurant to meet up with a friend. Less than 10 minutes after parking my car and walking into the restaurant I notice out the window that the hood of my car is on fire. The fire inspector could not tell what caused the fire but it originated near the battery of the car. My dad (about two months ago) had an accident that caused damage to the front of the car, but it was fixed by Toyota. And two days before the fire my dad had the car serviced (brakes and fluids) by Toyota. Also, the car is not old, it’s a 2003 Toyota Camry. What do you think could have started this spontaneous fire?

Near the battery? Easily could have been an electrical fire. Batteries can hold more than enough energy to weld steel. A short across the battery would definitely start a fire. There have been numerous recalls over the years about shorts causing fires. Even in fuse protected circuits.

I personally saw a car catch fire in a garage when a starter caused a dead short, and fried the battery cable causing a fire. I heard early model Saturn’s had a recall because of a battery cable that was too short and getting damaged, causing a dead short. Some Dodge trucks had bad ignition switches causing fires, even after being parked for hours. Basically, it happens sometimes.

I agree that this was likely of electrical origin. However, it might not have begun in or near the battery. I can distinctly remember an incident with my father’s '59 Plymouth when I was a mere child of…perhaps 10 years of age.

His mechanic had recently done repair work on or near the ignition switch, and had not properly tightened the knurled bezel that held the lock and switch to the instrument panel. The assembly fell into the dashboard area, and within seconds, wires all over the car began smoking. If not for a quick-thinking teenager who was working on his car nearby, the '59 Plymouth would probably have been consumed by flames. The young guy quickly disconnected the battery, ending the situation.

On the following day, my Dad’s mechanic replaced much of the car’s wiring, gratis.

In a similar fashion, it is possible that the recent repair work on your father’s car left an electrical connector loose, and that two months later, it worked its way free, causing a dangerous short circuit. The problem will be proving the cause and effect of this scenario. Good luck!!

I don’t know the origin of your fire, but I DID learn something about car fires about 22 years ago. If you have one, and you KNOW it’s a fire and not a burst coolant hose, say “code three, flames are visible” when you call the fire department. Otherwise they will roll the cheif’s car out for a look-see before rolling a real truck. My nearly new Chrysler LeBaron Turbo was completly consumed by the time the real truck arrived. It was caused by a gas leak directly onto the red hot turbo charger. It was a subject of a safety recall sometime later, but that didn’t help me. I was told by the fire chief that 90% of car fires reported are actually steam from a burst hose. At least I had GOOD insurance.

It would appear they missed something.

Start with Toyota. See if they are willing to take responsibility, if so, great.

In not, then call your insurance company and see where you stand with them.

I think that the OP should start with the insurance company and include the explanation about repairs. They are probably in a better position to beat on the dealer to get the repairs paid for.

Since it was near the battery I would guess something either caused the main cable to the starter solenoid to short to ground or the hood came in contact with the positive battery post. I have seen where the head of the stud bolt to the main battery cable became shorted to ground after someone worked on the connection. I realize you didn’t touch yours though. The accident may have caused a pierce in the insulation of the main cable or it got next to the exhaust system and then finally the short happened after driving it further.

Your fire was probably caused by an electrical problem. My son’s inlaws had a fire start under the hood of their Lincoln late at night. The car was shut off and parked in the driveway. The fire started under the hood, but jumped to the eaves of the house and did considerable damage to the house as well as ruining the car. As I understand it, the insurance company did collect from Ford motor company. There are many things that are electrically energized in a car today even when the car is shut off. It doesn’t take much electrical power to start a fire. I was changing 9 volt batteries in the smoke detectors at my church. I put one battery in my pocket and the terminals shorted against the case of my pocket knife. Things got rather warm in my pocket.