Cause of vehicle fire


My '90 Corolla was hit on the passenger side, next to the headlight, by a car that pulled out in front of me in order to grab a parking space on the other side of a [two-way] street. As I recall, although the car was going at a slow speed, it took the driver some time to realize that my car was there (I was screaming). The damage to my car appeared to be minor–a dent in the front corner, and the wire & bulb from the turn signal hanging out.

After exchanging insurance information with the other driver and calling insurance companies, I continued driving, and parked less than a mile away from the accident. Once parked, I realized that steam was coming out from under the hood. The hood was too hot for me to open it; in fact the paint was starting to melt and bubble. The car caught on fire and the fire dept. came to put it out.

The battery and everything right around the battery (hoses and radiator) were toasted black. The battery was on the opposite side from the point of impact from the collision. In fact, the plastic reservoir of windshield-cleaning fluid (near the point of collision) was unmelted, completely intact.

My question is what caused the battery to catch fire? What did the collision have to do with the fire? (Of course I am very glad that the fire occurred after I was safely parked, and not on the freeway.) Thanks for any insight on this matter!


The battery may NOT have been clamped in place, and when the impact occurred, the battery was joust led into contact with the hood or other metal object. The contact would cause the battery to arc. If the battery stayed in contact with the conductive item (probably metal) it could get so hot that it would burst. The plastic of the battery case, and maybe hoses near the battery, would feed the flame.


I think art12 has a good idea there. I suppose there are other possible issues, like maybe some sort of metal that came loose and ended up in the wrong spot for example. I really don’t think it is material, as it is almost certain that it was related to the accident.


Thanks for your insight.


It’s possible the battery moved and caused a short circuit, its also possible that a wire was pinched and grounded causing a short circuit. It would have to be a wire that was not protected by a fuse, maybe the main wire from the alternator/voltage regulator. Either way, it seems clear that the fire was a dirct result of the accident and should be covered by insurance (theirs or yours).


I agree with the other about this being caused by a short to the battery. I suspect the hood was buckeled from the hit and it came down on top of the battery posts causing a short. Just a guess though.