While most people hope they won’t have to use one, fire extinguishers are essential safety tools that should be easy to access in emergency fire situations. Our vehicles are one such place that dangerous fires can occur, whether it is because of collisions, electrical and fuel-related problems, or keeping flammable items in the car. Having a fire extinguisher in your vehicle is advantageous in these situations.
Is it safe to keep a fire extinguisher in a car? Yes, it is very safe to keep a fire extinguisher in a car and is often recommended in the event of a car fire or emergency. While high temperatures are a concern for extinguisher explosion in a hot car, they can withstand up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Car fire extinguishers should be ABC rated, compact, and use dry chemicals.
Fire extinguishers are safe to keep in your car and should be done so for overall car safety preparedness. This article will dive into the four best fire extinguishers for your vehicle, what you should consider when choosing an extinguisher, and the ideal conditions for keeping the safety equipment safe and accessible for emergencies.
Can a Fire Extinguisher Be Kept in a Car?
While vehicle fires have continued to decrease in the past 30 years, they still account for 16% of all fires responded to by United States fire departments. Keeping a fire extinguisher in the car helps to lower this number as you can assist in putting out the fire before fire departments are needed. These safety devices can also help save lives in the process.
Fire extinguishers can and should be kept in cars as long as they are secured and easily accessible. As long as these important factors are met, fire extinguishers can be safely kept in a car:
- No direct sunlight: Extreme temperatures may limit the effectiveness of a fire extinguisher, and direct sunlight can contribute to this. This includes the retardant’s capabilities as well as construction strength and durability.
- Secured or mounted: If the extinguisher can roll in a car, the device may accidentally discharge or become damaged. Make sure it is secured or mounted in the car to limit movement.
- Easily accessible: Place the extinguisher somewhere you can get to quickly and safely during a fire. This could be under a seat, in the glove compartment, or in the trunk.
- Regular maintenance: Fire extinguishers should be maintained to make sure they will have enough dry chemicals or clean gas in them to discharge appropriately when needed. Make sure this occurs after every use and inspect at least yearly.
The U.S. Fire Administration recommends using fire extinguishers to help control small fires, such as one created by a car (call the fire department immediately for large fires as fire extinguishers will not always be sufficient). Keeping an extinguisher in a car has a wide range of benefits that can help to keep you and others safe in the event of an emergency.
Here are some of the key benefits of keeping a fire extinguisher in a car:
- Containing fires: Fire extinguishers are designed to combat small fires from becoming worse. Even if you cannot fully put the fire out before a fire truck can get there, containing it will prevent more massive fires and greater damage from occurring.
- Versatility: Even if your car is not on fire, having a fire extinguisher ready can be helpful if there is a need for one nearby. You can help assist others if their car is on fire or use it for non-vehicle related fires. This is easiest when using an ABC class extinguisher that will combat almost all fires.
- Limit damage: The more extensive a fire gets, the more damage it will cause to your vehicle. Acting quickly with an effective extinguisher not only contains the fire, but it prevents your car from taking more damage (which gets very expensive).
- Safety: Taking action with an accessible extinguisher may prevent car explosions that could be incredibly dangerous to both you and others around you.
Fire extinguishers can and should be kept in a car as an essential step in preparing yourself for emergencies.
Can You Leave a Fire Extinguisher in a Hot Car?
One of the most significant concerns about keeping a fire extinguisher in a car is how hot the interior can get. Most people are aware of the dangers associated with internal car temperatures, as they can reach upwards of 150 degrees Fahrenheit on hot and cool days. Cars can heat up to 40 degrees higher than outdoor temperatures in only an hour’s time.
These oven-like conditions may be concerning to those who want to leave a highly pressurized device in their car. Fire extinguisher manufacturers do not recommend storing fire extinguishers below -40 degrees or above 120 degrees Fahrenheit for absolute effectiveness and operation.
A fire extinguisher will still operate above 120 degrees, but the overall lifetime of the extinguisher could be disrupted. Discharge times may be shorter than set standards, and waterproof seals may weaken but will still function. It is not guaranteed that these discharge times will change, but it becomes much less predictable in higher temperature zones.
Fire extinguishers must be designed to withstand upwards of 175 degrees without rupturing for optimal safety. Even in hot summer weather conditions, it is unlikely the internal temperature of your car will exceed these levels. With that knowledge, you don’t have to worry about a canister exploding because of temperature fluctuations.
Because ideal storage temperatures for fire extinguishers are below 120 degrees, these are some ways you can help to regulate the temperature of your car for the extinguisher’s sake:
- Park in the shade: When out and about, try to park in the shade as often as possible. This will limit direct sunlight that contributes to heating the car faster. You should be storing the extinguisher out of the sunlight, too.
- Window visors: Using a visor on your windows and windshield will limit contact with the sun and keep the interior shaded.
- Garage parking: Garages are much cooler than outside temperatures, especially in the summer. If you can park inside a garage, this will keep your internal car temperature regulated.
- Tinted windows: Darker windows will prevent many of the sun’s rays from entering your car, which can limit some of the heat coming through. Check local laws for window tint regulations.
- Window cracking: Rolling down the windows slightly can help to keep the car cooler, but often with very little significance. The windows would need to be rolled down a good bit to have a major impact on your car temperature.
The coolest parts of a car are under the seats or in the trunk, so it is recommended to keep your car fire extinguisher in one of those two locations to avoid hitting temperature storage limitations.
4 Best Fire Extinguishers for Cars
The best fire extinguishers for cars are ones that can tackle a wide range of fire types and will be easy to access and use if your car catches on fire. When choosing the best fire extinguishers for a car, there are a few key elements that should be considered:
- Size: Compact and lightweight extinguishers are preferred in cars because they are easy to store, and they don’t take up lots of room. In the event of an emergency, you can easily grab them.
- Extinguisher classes: Different extinguishers are designed to put out specific types of fires. In a car, you may run into a variety of fires, so it is best to prepare for all of them. Look for an extinguisher that satisfies multiple fire classes, such as ABC.
- Fire retardant: Fire extinguishers are separated not only by the type of fire they put out but also the material they use to put it out. These are typically broken down into pressurized water, dry chemical, carbon dioxide, and Halotron. Dry chemical is best to handle all types of fires (ABC type), and Halotron is recommended for flammable liquids and electrical fires (BC type).
- Safety features: Look for additional safety features such as mounting brackets, discharge time (the distance of projection), valve design, and the material used in constructing the canister (typically different types of metal).
Based on these metrics and the best technology on the market, we have gathered the best fire extinguishers for cars so that you can have some backup in the event of a fire emergency.
Amerex B385TS Halotron Fire Extinguisher
The Amerex B385TS is a BC class fire extinguisher that is designed for putting out flammable chemicals and fires related to electrical problems. The canister, as well as the valve mechanism, are made of metal (aluminum valve), increasing the durability and functionality of the extinguisher. The canister is reusable, so you don’t have to purchase a new device after use.
Using Halotron gas, this extinguisher will not leave any residue after use, requiring no car clean up after a fire. It is best for B and C class fires but will also work in smaller A-class fires. We recommend this extinguisher for electric vehicles as they target electrical fires effectively. This is a high-quality extinguisher that can be refilled by a Halotron distributor.
What We Like
- All metal components prevent easy breaking that is commonly found on less expensive devices that use plastic valve design
- Quick discharge time can put a fire out in less than 10 seconds to prevent spread and increased destruction
- Using Halotron gas is a clean alternative that does not cause additional damage to items on fire
What We Don’t
- While justified in quality and effectiveness, this is an expensive extinguisher compared to others on the market
- It is not recommended to use on all Class A fires (burning of non-metal matter)
Kidde Pro 210 Fire Extinguisher
Kidde has long been a leader in the fire safety industry, making their products reliable in the event of an emergency. The Kidde Pro 210 uses a dry chemical to combat ABC fire classes, and it can discharge up to 15 seconds and has a range of 10 to 15 feet. The cylinder weighs only four pounds so it is easy to maneuver when in use.
The metal valve mechanism is more durable than plastic competitors, making it useful over a longer lifetime. Durable products like this one will be intact and ready to use when you need them most. We recommend this extinguisher for your car and many other locations because it is reliable and trusted to be effective while in use.
What We Like
- Pressure gauges and clear instructions give you all the necessary information to use safely and effectively
- Rechargeable canister makes the extinguisher a solid investment for reuse
- Heavy-duty construction will keep it intact for a long time
What We Don’t
- Shipping methods may impact the product discharging before use, which is frustrating when purchasing a new product
- 4 lb. extinguisher may not be large enough for more significant fires as 15 seconds of discharge time can be short in many emergencies
Amerex B402 Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher
Similar to the Kidde model, the Amerex B402 is a Class ABC fire extinguisher that includes all-metal construction and is rated among the top for effectiveness. This extinguisher separates itself in that it is a bit bigger and is more suitable for handling larger fires. We recommend this extinguisher for larger vehicles and trucks.
The extinguisher has a 14 second discharge time and is powerful enough to put out most car fires (as well as fires around a house or other location). You can recharge the fire extinguisher as well, making it a worthwhile investment for a larger canister. While it is bigger than alternatives, the extra dry chemical may be worth it for additional power during fires, and it is more economical.
What We Like
- Well-designed and durable construction compared to many plastic and cheaper alternatives
- Reliable and trusted among consumers to effectively discharge when needed and contain more massive fires
What We Don’t
- Any dry chemical product can be somewhat messy to clean up and can cause damage to surfaces if not addressed soon after the fire
First Alert Tundra Fire Extinguishing Aerosol Spray
The First Alert Tundra Spray is an excellent budget-friendly fire extinguisher option if you are looking for something small and easy to use in emergencies. Most useful for A and C class fires, you can store it in your car, and it weighs less than a pound.
The spray discharges for up to 32 seconds, so you have ample foam for managing fires. It will discharge the foam in a wide range so that you can cover more of the fire at once. You won’t have to get too close to the fire to put it out, either.
What We Like
- The aerosol spray is among the most convenient and easy to access extinguishers available
- Easy spray nozzle is intuitive to use so you can put out fires without hassle
- The spray is biodegradable so it will not damage contacted surfaces (you should still wipe it off after the fire is out)
What We Don’t
- Cans like these are designed for smaller growing fires and may not be as effective in taming large ones
- The aerosol can is not reusable and must be entirely replaced after use, contributing to additional waste and expenses
- Limitations exist on states it can be sold in (not for sale in C.A., NV, and N.Y.)
Keeping a fire extinguisher in your car is not only safe but recommended to prepare you for fires on the go. Whether your car catches on fire or you see one nearby, always make sure the device is easy to grab and ready to use (pressurized and full of fire retardant). Don’t forget these quick tips to operate your fire extinguisher safely:
- Use the PASS technique: (1) Pull the pin. (2) Aim at the base of the fire. (3) Squeeze fire extinguisher handle as this will release retardant. (4) Sweep side to side to put out the fire from multiple angles. Be sure to ready instructions beforehand so you will be prepared and calm in an emergency.
- Call backup: While you can help manage the fire, if it is too big or getting out of hand, you should call the local fire department to prevent escalation.
- Proper extinguisher type: Make sure you are using the proper fire extinguisher on the fire. ABC extinguishers should be able to put out almost any fire, but more specific ones may not. In some situations, using the wrong fire extinguisher can exacerbate the problem. For example, a carbon dioxide extinguisher may ignite flames further.
- Create an escape route: Make sure you can exit the area if the fire gets worse. Keep others away from fire when attempting to put it out.
Fire extinguishers are very useful tools that could prevent excess car damage as well as save someone’s life. Following safety guidelines is crucial to properly operating the device.