When Your Car Catches On Fire


May 24, 2024
Team Pineapple

Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here? And no, we’re not referring to global warming or the popular 2000s song.

Hearing the words “Your car’s on fire” could mean one of two things: 1) you’ve got a super hot ride (a.k.a nice car–for those not fluent in slang). 2) your vehicle has been engulfed in flames.

The former can be handled with a smile and a nod of acknowledgement. But what happens when it’s the latter?

Of all vehicle-related perils, car fires are a bit of a rarity (not counting special cases like certain vehicle models like Ford’s infamous Kuga–clients reported multiple cases of spontaneous combustion). Still, as an insurance provider, we’re well-versed in considering uncommon scenarios for the protection and well-being of our clients. 

So, we decided to share this information with you. 

Many reasons can trigger a vehicle fire, from faulty electrical systems to fluid leaks and mechanical malfunctions. 

In some cases, the fire is not even due to the car’s fault but may begin due to cross-fire from a peaceful protest turned violent. Protesters may choose to demonstrate their anger and frustration by torching anything in their vicinity, including your car!

Luckily, SASRIA will cover you against such perils. 

Not sure what that is? It’s a short-term insurer providing unique cover against risks such as civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots, and terrorism.

Read more about SASRIA here.

Thankfully, Pineapple’s here to guide you on what steps to take in the event of a vehicle ignition. Again, we’re not referring to starting your car with a key. 

Checklist for Handling A Car Fire:

  1. Stay Calm and Act Quickly.
  2. Safely Pull Over.
  3. Switch Off Your Car's Engine.
  4. Evacuate the Car.
  5. Contact Emergency Services.
  6. Don't Extinguish the Fire Yourself.
  7. Don't Open the Bonnet or Boot.
  8. Get in Touch with Pineapple Car Insurance.
  9. Document the Incident and Safety Inspection.

Stay Calm and Act Quickly

The first step is to keep your composure while moving swiftly and decisively. We know, we know… Easier said than done, right? 

For many of us, panic is our natural and immediate response to any disaster, particularly one that can turn fatal. However, if there’s ever a time to channel your inner guru and practice zen to the nth degree, it would be now.

Losing your cool can hinder how effectively you respond to the situation. It can cloud your judgment and impede swift, resulting in ineffective action.

Meanwhile, staying calm allows for clearer thinking and quicker decision-making. You can better assess the situation and take decisive steps to ensure safety.

And if you have passengers, maintaining composure helps to reduce the spread of fear and anxiety among them. This helps to foster a sense of control and reassurance during such a chaotic event. 

Safely Pull Over

After you’ve (swiftly) taken a few calming breaths, you need to take decisive action by safely pulling over.

Don’t let the billowing smoke or growing flames distract you; you should focus on finding a wide shoulder on the side of the road or the nearest parking lot to pull into.

Should the only place available be a petrol station, we of course don’t need to warn you against how much of a bad idea that is… right?

Blazing vehicle 🚘🔥 + Flammable liquid ⛽= KABOOM! 🧨💣💥

Capisce (capeesh)?

If none of these safe locations are within the vicinity, the subsequent alternatives are any nearby areas away from traffic where you can safely pull over.

For example:

  • A side street or residential road.

  • A nearby driveway or business parking area (like a convenience store).

  • An emergency pull-off area or rest area (if one’s available).

  • A sandy plain where you’re safely away from traffic flow and visible to other drivers (to minimise the risk of collisions).

  • If you’re on a highway, pull over well within the emergency lane.

While doing so, watch for potential hazards, like pedestrians or obstacles, and proceed cautiously until you reach a secure stopping point. 

Switch Off Your Car's Engine

The first priority should be for you and your passengers to exit the car as quickly and safely as possible. However, before you jump ship (vehicle), you’ll need to turn the car’s engine off.

This action cuts off the fuel supply to the fire, helping to contain its spread. 

Turning off the engine also reduces the risk of further damage to your vehicle's electrical systems. So, while you can’t undo the damage already done, you can still salvage the remaining unblemished parts of your car.

Evacuate the Car

What’s the name of that one 2017 psychological Black horror movie? Oh yeah, Get Out… Which is the next step you need to take.

If they’re still not aware, calmly alert all the vehicle’s occupants to the presence of smoke or flames. Then, exit as quickly and calmly as possible, ensuring everyone moves in an orderly way. 

If you have passengers needing extra help and guidance help, like children or individuals with mobility limitations, pick one person to assist them. Otherwise, prioritise their safety yourself.

As for luggage and other packed goods, rather leave those in the car, especially if it’s too dangerous to go back for them. 

Your belongings are probably very valuable, but your life? That’s priceless. 

So, while it might be sad to say goodbye to your designer items or sentimental treasures, there are worse things to lose.

When you’ve successfully exited, remember to keep a safe distance from the car. The reason for this is to minimise the risk of injury from flames, smoke inhalation, or potential explosions.

Contact Emergency Services

After ensuring everyone’s safety, you should immediately call emergency services for assistance. Be sure you provide clear instructions about your location and describe the situation to the operator effectively.

Thanks to educational shows like Takalani Sesame, most of us know the contact numbers of emergency services. But it’s been a while since then, and your memory might be rusty, so here you go. 

  1. 10111 (Nationwide Emergency Response number)
  2. 112 (dial to be routed through to your network provider's emergency call centre)
  3. 10177 (ambulance)
  4. 084124 (ER24 National 24-hour Emergency Contact Centre based in Sandton)

For even more helpful contact numbers, click here to visit Expatica’s extensive and impressive list of emergency numbers.

Don't Extinguish the Fire Yourself

Whatever happens, don’t be a hero! There are qualified professionals who are equipped to handle a fiery blaze on your behalf.

Without the necessary expertise and equipment, like fire extinguishers designed for specific types of fires, amateur firefighting efforts can quickly escalate and lead to unintended consequences. 

So, please resist the temptation to intervene. 

Attempting to control the flames as an untrained individual means potentially worsening the situation and endangering yourself.

Don't Open the Bonnet or Boot

Remember how we said to keep a safe distance between yourself and the burning car? Yeah, we meant that.

Avoid opening the bonnet and boot, primarily if they’re known to contain highly flammable materials (e.g., fuel, oil, or other combustible substances). The reason is there’s a sudden ignition or explosion risk when oxygen comes into contact with the heated surfaces or flammable materials inside the compartments.

Minimising oxygen supply is crucial for controlling its spread and reducing its intensity.

So, opening smoking bonnets or boots during a fire can exacerbate the situation, increase the risk of injury, and hinder firefighting efforts.

Get in Touch with Pineapple

While the firefighters are doing their thing, yours is to contact your insurance provider (a.k.a. Pineapple–that’s us!) and alert them of the situation so they can come to your rescue.

In times of emergency, having reliable support can make all the difference.

So, call us on our Emergency Roadside Assistance line at 087 365 8626.  Pineapple offers you round-the-clock assistance to provide immediate support when you need it most.

That’s right, our service is available for you 24/7.

Other comprehensive car insurance benefits that may be useful for you during this time include:

  • Emergency accommodation*.
  • Car hire (an optional add-on).

Document the Incident and Safety Inspection

As previously mentioned, a car can go up in smoke for many reasons. Typically, these are car accident or collision-related damage, electrical wiring faults, fuel system malfunctions, breakage of fuel pipes and leaving lit cigarettes inside the car. 

Some of these perils are covered and included in your insurance coverage. Others are not.

Still, stay on the safe side and document the scene for your insurance records.

Take photos of the scene, including the car, plus any damages and the surrounding area. These pics can serve as valuable evidence for insurance claims and investigations.  


A flaming vehicle is nothing to giggle at (unless you’re a pyromaniac). It’s a devastating sight to see. But what’s even worse is the unnecessary loss of life, which is why you need to put your well-being above all else. 

While unforeseen emergencies can happen anytime, being informed and prepared can significantly affect how you respond. 

Ultimately, it can also help the outcome of the situation. 

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, your insurer will not cover you for deliberate acts of arson. So if you’re considering scoring a new vehicle by setting your old one on fire, you might want to think again.

Additionally, if it’s found that the fire started due to neglecting routine maintenance, your insurance provider may also deny you coverage.

Being equipped with the right stuff (knowledge and resources to respond effectively) can help minimise risks, whether a car fire, a breakdown, or any other unexpected situation.

While we’re on the topic of raging hot stuff, surely, by now, we’ve ignited your curiosity. So much so you probably want to get a quote for comprehensive car insurance with Pineapple right now!

Take our word for it, our coverage is super lit.

So, if ever your vehicle unfortunately goes up in flames, we’ll be there to lend a helping hand.  

Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

Pineapple (FSP 48650) is underwritten by Old Mutual Alternative Risk Transfer Insure Limited, a licensed Non-Life Insurer and authorised FSP. T&Cs apply.

Team Pineapple

Team Pineapple comprises our company’s top talents, who are dedicated to creating clear, high-quality content on essential vehicle insurance topics. This diverse group, including actuaries, accountants, data scientists, and insurance professionals across South Africa, collaborates to produce enlightening and empowering articles.

Each piece is thoroughly researched, factually accurate, and rigorously reviewed to ensure quality.

*We say they’re the finest because we want them to keep writing for us!

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Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

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