The Risk of Catalytic Converter Fires
Driving down the street with the setting sun at his back, Bob Cummins navigated around parked cars and fire hydrants to find the right place to park. It just wasn’t something that was easy to do – finding a vacant spot – on his narrow, winding suburban street. Wedged between two business districts, Bob’s block was frequently filled with cars from outside the area, taking away from the already limited on street parking. While he knew he could simply pull into his own driveway and park, he also knew that he’d have to move vehicles around later when his wife, Susan, returned home with the kids.
Glancing out of his right mirror he noticed it and slammed on his breaks. A car pulled out of a spot down the street behind him and its driver pulled into a nearby driveway and exited the car. Bob slowly backed up halfway down the block and slipped his Volvo XC90 into the empty spot. A little tight, he thought, as he left just enough room between the driveway in front of him and the car behind him for his SUV. Within moments Bob left the comfort of his Volvo and stepped inside the foyer of his center hall colonial.
Less than ten minutes later the sounds of sirens filled the neighborhood. At first, Bob did not give it much thought, but as the sirens drew closer he decided to step outside to investigate. To his utter horror, a car just two houses down from his home was engulfed in flames. Within moments his worst fears were confirmed: his new Volvo XC90 was on fire! Minutes later the fire was extinguished but Bob’s SUV was destroyed.
An important part of your vehicle’s emission system is the catalytic converter. It is tasked with reducing harmful emissions that pollute the atmosphere and it has been a part of nearly every passenger vehicle built since the mid 1970s. Unfortunately, the catalytic converter can also run very hot and, at the same time, spark ignition of anything that it comes into contact with. In Bob’s case, it was his 2005 Volvo that was parked directly over a small leaf pile that started the fire that destroyed his XC90.
When parking your vehicle, take care to make sure that no debris is on the ground directly underneath your car. Even a small pile of dried out leaves can be just enough fodder for a fire. In the case of a high profile vehicle, such as the XC90, the clearance between the bottom of your vehicle and the ground is higher, meaning you many not notice anything underneath when backing into an empty parking space.
Hundreds of vehicle fires every year are attributed to motorists who park their cars over leaves; unfortunately this practice almost always results in the total loss of the vehicle due to excessive fire damage.
Play it safe when parking your car, truck, van, or SUV by examining the area underneath it to make sure that is completely free of all debris.