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High heat, hot brakes can lead to burning cars, wildfires

High heat combined with hot brakes, leaking oil and other problems can lead to vehicle fires. The Penticton Fire Department doused a parked Jeep Cherokee on July 31 near the city's downtown core.
August 27, 2013 - 2:29 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Your cool car can become an even hotter ride if it catches fire thanks to bad brakes and leaking oil.

Fire departments in Osoyoos, Penticton, Okanagan Falls and Oliver responded to seven reported vehicle fires since the beginning of August and on July 31 the Penticton Fire Department drenched a burning Jeep Cherokee parked near downtown Main Street.

To be on fire is an expression meaning a person is doing well but the meaning flips when it involves a $40,000 car or truck with bad brakes and leaky oil lines.

Penticton Automotive mechanic Marvin Ford said engine oil and hot exhausts are bad combinations. A leaky muffler can also be a problem. He remembers a car's floor carpet catching fire after the vehicle's underside was cooked by a muffler with a hole in it. Another time a parked vehicle caught fire in his shop thanks to dripping oil and hot metal.

He said oil systems need to be checked on a regular basis. Drivers are asking for trouble if they take their poorly-looked after vehicles up Okanagan hills where the effort can ratchet up engine temperatures.

Coming down a mountain also has its problems. Ford said he remembered a crashed big rig catching fire after it flipped on its side descending Highway 3 near Anarchist Mountain. A trailing RCMP officer had said he could smell burning brakes. The driver managed to nudge the semi-trailer into a runaway lane where it overturned. The driver escaped before the vehicle burst into flames which then started a wildfire that destroyed 50 hectares.

Transport drivers have to check their brakes and their speed Extreme Pro Truck Driver Training owner Ed Pitura said.

"What happens is guys who come down the hills are going too fast and the jakes (engine brakes) aren't holding them back," Pitura explained. The drivers switch to the regular brakes which will heat up and increase the risk of fires. There's a reason drivers are required by law to inspect their brakes.

Kelowna Fire Inspector Rick Euper said improper installation of stereo systems is another cause. Newer systems draw a lot of power and if not installed right disaster can spark.

The inspector used to be a mechanic and said rodents can be a problem. Rats will make nests on engines where it is warm and tucked away from the elements. They'll even store cat and dog food they've stolen on top of engine blocks. Drivers should flip their hood up regularly and clean off their components.

To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065, tweet @shannonquesnel1 https://twitter.com/shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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