Hagerty.com

The best fire extinguishers for your classic car


#1

When it comes to fire extinguishers, most people think of the dry chemical versions you find at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other home improvement stores. While those household extinguishers are effective in putting out or containing most common small fires, they aren’t ideal for a car fire.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/11/06/the-best-fire-extinguishers-for-your-classic-car

#2

I’ve been looking to purchase a fire extinguisher for my Corvair since spring. I’ve never had a car catch fire, and I don’t think my Corvair has any thing that points that it might, but you just never know.

After the cooling fan shatter and threw sharp metal all around the engine compartment, it was a reminder to renew my search. I’ll have one of the Halgaurd bottles mounted behind my drivers seat by spring.


#3

Rick, I recently purchased an Element fire extinguisher for my car. It was mentioned in posts on FerrariChat and after I did some research I chose it. There’s limited interior space in my Ferrari 348 Spider and the Element extinguisher is small so that made it easy to find a spot for it. I haven’t had to use it and hopefully never will but I feel safer with an extinguisher in the car.
Also, thanks so much for your help with the shipping insurance for my car’s shipment to and from Germany. Unfortunately, due to mistakes, I believe, by the shipping company the trip in my car didn’t happen but I rented a car and and my daughter and I had a fun time anyway. Your courtesy, assistance and professionalism were wonderful. Thanks! Roger.


#4

I have sold, serviced and used fire extinguishers for a living for over 30 years.
There is a lot of disinformation out there about fire extinguishers and cars-much of it marketing hype.

As a practical matter, there are 2 basic groups of fire extinguishers commonly available: dry chemical and clean agent.
Dry chemical can be broken down to ABC (all purpose), BC and PK (rated for flammable liquids, electrical).
Clean agents come in several forms: Halon, Halotron, CO2… In the sizes usually found in cars, only have a BC flammable liquids, electrical rating.

These are my recommendations for installing extinguishers in your average collector car or truck and why:

1. BC, Purple K dry chemical 5# to 10# sizes:
Pro’s: Best agents for car fires, higher ratings, economical, will not stick and corrode to hot surfaces.
Cons: It is a chemical (sodium or potassium bicarbonate) and will make a mess.
2. ABC dry chemical 5# to 10# sizes:
Pro’s: Like BC and PK they are economical and have good firefighting capability with the addition of class A (wood, paper, plastics…).
Cons: They are a chemical (mono ammonium phosphate), will make a mess and will form a corrosive coating on anything over 350 degrees.
3. Clean agents 5#-11# sizes:
Pro’s: Clean agents do not leave any residue after use. They can put out a small, confined fire without making a mess. Particularly good for electrical fires behind dashes, interior fires…
Cons: In the sizes typically installed in cars they have a very low rating because they are gases and are greatly affected by air movement or wind… They are also very expensive to attain and recharge.

Note that I do not recommend anything under 5# in size.
You are trying to put out a fire before your car becomes a loss…right?
Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
There is a lot of good info here:
http://www.amerex-fire.com/products/?category=hand-portable-extinguishers


#5

Like Jeff, I too recharged, repaired and H-tested portable fire extinguishers for a living. I totally agree with his
recommendations and if I had a nickel for every time some one brought a dry chem extinguisher to the shop because
they “just tested it to see if it would work”, I’d be a rich man. All the pressure will leak out over the next day or so because the powder will not allow the valve stem to seat properly but the extinguisher will feel the same in weight rendering it useless. DO NOT TEST IT. If the indicator on the pressure gauge is at the 12 o’clock position, you’re good to go.
Hope this helps.


#6

@vhuntercox - Interesting note. I have never been a fan of dry chemical due to the corrosive properties of said chemicals, but I do keep one around my garage. It has been some time (read: years) since it was inspected, but the charge needle still shows good.


#7

I have heard that if the dry chemical type of extinguisher sits in one position for too long that the powder will solidify inside making the extinguisher useless for fighting a fire - even though the needle shows “Full”. Is this true?

It also pains me to see SO MANY garage fires where the owner lost an incredibly valuable car / memorabilia collection because they didn’t have a sprinkler system for their million dollar car collection. I’d rather have a water logged garage than a non-existent one. Perhaps school me on why this isn’t a consideration for the serious car collectors out there who are building “garage mahals” for their collections???

PS - When I worked at Mopar City it was REQUIRED for all cars / trucks in our shop to have the negative battery cable disconnected whenever it was being stored overnight inside the building, and I still continue that practice for my collector cars at home as well. It takes a whole 30 extra seconds to reattach it when you want to start the car. Also, if you leave the clamp adjusted just right, it never creates a connection quality problem because you have to twist it about 1/4 turn to get it on the post tightly which cleans the contact a little every time. (You side-screw-post battery guys will have to come up with another game plan like a cutoff switch, etc.)

“Oh, but what about the radio and clock settings…?” None of my collector cars have a working radio as far as I know. The “Check Engine” Light will usually come on when I reattach the battery to my 49 Dodge truck that is sitting on a Dodge Dakota chassis, but I can clear it with my scanner or let it re-learn my driving style as I drive it. It may cost me 1 mpg or .03 horsepower until it relearns the program, but that’s a small sacrifice.


#8

I don’t have the resources for a ‘Mahal’ so don’t have the resources for a sprinkler system either. I DO have both dry chemical and pressurized water extinguishers in the shop.
This thread caught my eye because I’m currently installing a tech-approved extinguisher mount in my car which will hold a 2.5# Halotron…the biggest practical for the space. But @jeffrey_roeger is convincing. Adding plans to install a second 2.5# in the hatch. :+1:


#9

Yes John, if the extinguisher sits for years, never been moved, the powder could become lumpy which could partly impair the use of the extinguisher. So at least once a year, with the pull pin intact, invert the unit so that the handle is in one hand and the cylinder is leaning on your body. (A lot more exertion is required with a 20lb
extinguisher, believe me.) With your free hand,using a rubber mallet, gently tap the side of the cylinder starting at the bottom working your way down towards the handle, . Repeat a few times until you notice a change in the vibration of the unit.
But if you are the least bit concerned, about the operation of your own portable extinguisher, take it in to a qualified service technician. (That was my disclaimer:)