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My new car caught on fire while I was driving it

Any ideas as to why a 2012 Honda Civic might catch on fire? I have had it since October 2012, and it had a little over 4,000 miles on it. Yesterday I was driving it for 15 minutes, and it began smoking, and something was on fire under the hood. It is NOT one of the ones that was recalled for the faulty O-ring that caused oil leakage. I checked, and my car is not under recall for anything. Honda and the insurance company are investigating, but I want some ideas so that no one can pull any wool over my eyes. Just out of nowhere it catches on fire while I am driving??? What is up with that??? Any ideas? Anyone heard of this happening?

There are tons of reasons it could have caught on fire. Anything you get from us based on what you told us would be nothing more than wild guessing.

Yeah, I don’t really have much info until they investigate. Everything in hood is completely charred. Just out of nowhere it starts billowing white smoke, then someone yells at me that my car is on fire. None of the warning lights came on. I turned off the car and got out. However, the tow truck people got the key stuck in the ignition. I guess I’ll have more info later.

It could very well be that o-ring problem, and they guessed wrong as to where to begin and end the recall vin list.

Just because Honda hasn’t recalled it yet doesn’t mean it’s defect-free. Honda will want to find out what caused the fire in your engine, and it’s possible they’ll discover that more cars than they originally thought, including yours, have the O-ring problem, or a different defect they weren’t aware of.

Car fires are not frequent, but they do happen, even on new cars. The main cause of car fires is a gas or oil leak onto a hot engine, and the second most common cause is an electrical short. Your fire could have been caused by either one.

I’m betting with Ken that your car does have the O-ring problem too.

Yours is not alone, a surprising number of exotic Italians have caught fire - brand new Ferraris and Lamborghinis…google ‘exotic car fires’ if you want to cry…

True. But the exoticars have dual Garrett turbos pushing huge volumes of air and fuel pumps that could pressurize a fire hose.

The insurance investigator will sort out the cause. I too am betting on a leaky O ring.

Pretty much if something like this is going to happen, it usually happens to a very new or very old car. In the case of a new car, an undetected bad part or manufacturing defect (like someone not tightening a fuel line) is the cause. In an old car, simple wear n’ tear amounting to the same thing.

If it suddenly started smoking while you’re driving it and became an inferno, probably something in the fuel delivery system let go, spraying fuel all over something hot enough to ignite it, until it did. If it was parked and went up in smoke, that would usually be an electrical problem.

Sorry this happened to you, but at least you got out safe, the car was in warranty and you had insurance. It could have been much worse–you could have just parked it in your garage when it occurred.

My brother had a new Chrysler van (2100 miles) that caught fire on the interstate. He jumped out and put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. The cause of the fire was a paper bag that was sucked up on the exhaust in the engine bay.

Fires can start from any number of reasons. New vehicles were burning up left and right when catalytic converters first came out in the early 70’s. People were pulling over into the high weeds and the super hot converters were starting the fires. The automotive industry started putting heat shields on converters shortly after that.

Thanks everyone for your comments! I hope it isn’t all too melted for them to figure it out! I guess I am really lucky that the car died right as I applied the gas when the light turned green!!!

Sorry this happened to you and your new car Sarah. I think you mean you’ve had it since Oct 2011, right?

I think this is just what they call a “sample defect” which means somebody at the place that built it or one of their suppliers screwed up and the mistake wasn’t caught in their final testing before shipping. Cars are pretty complicated gadgets and this kind of thing does happen occassionally. First off, be thankful nobody was injured. Honda is a good company that makes good and reliable cars and I expect they’ll make you whole on this. You might ask them to supply you a temporary replacement vehicle while they investigate the cause.

It might have been caused by a gasoline leak. There are yards of rubber hoses carrying gasoline at fairly high pressure in fuel injected cars like yours. If one of them was knicked during the car’s assembly – or a connector that connects one hose to another wasn’t tighted properly – that could be the cause.

As mentioned above, car fires are often caused by electrical problems. There’s plenty enough energy in a car’s battery to start something on fire if wires get shorted accidentally. One friend of mine had a car that caught on fire due to a faulty starter. She didn’t realize it, but the starter continued to run even after the car had started. Eventually it caught on fire, as the starter isn’t designed to run continuously. It’s just something that can’t be predicted.

Best of luck to you.