Don't Yell Fire!

   Road trips can be the most memorable times in our lives, punctuated by days of basking in the great outdoors with family and friends. So some careful planning goes a long way in ensuring that we enjoy the scenery no matter what we drive — from vans and motorhomes to tow rigs. 

    While flat tires and cooling issues are often the most common problems cited, occasionally catastrophic engine failures do happen on the road. Unfortunately, mishaps like these can lead to devastating engine fires.

    All it takes in a leaky fuel or oil line above a red-hot exhaust and an engine can ignite like a match. Even a sudden backfire in your combustion chamber can spark a fire. This year a freshly restored, million-dollar Ferrari F40 once featured on the Internet, burnt to the ground seconds after its maiden voyage, and the story went viral. For decades, some old-school Volkswagens seemed plagued by engine fires. The truth is it’s not just old VWs, fires can happen to any vehicle without much notice. That’s why it’s important to regularly check your fuel and oil lines to ensure they aren’t cracked, broken or leaking. Better yet, always have your vehicle serviced and inspected before leaving home.  

    It’s much cheaper and smarter to replace critical parts than dealing with the aftermath of a vehicle fire, besides you are putting the lives of those around you at risk.

Fire Suppression Systems

    Hand-held fire extinguishers are great to carry on-board, but they only do so much, and you have to be quick to react should an engine fire start. Often times, an engine fire is already out-of-control by the time you are able to lift the hood to beat the flames. Once the hood is lifted, you also allow more oxygen into the fire, which can cause even more trouble. 

    Automatic fire suppression systems located in the engine compartment are the way to go. Luckily for us, we discovered an affordable new alternative called BlazeCut and it’s seeing lots of positive comments on online automotive forums. 

    BlazeCut uses the next generation of Halon called HFC-236fa clean agent, which leaves no residue like typical hand-held chemical fire extinguishers, making it safe for electronics. There’s no need to pull a lever, or to wire it to your electrical system like some fire suppression systems on the market. Just install it and go.

    It is maintenance-free and non-toxic, and detects a fire when sustained temperatures reach above 248 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the tube melts and it releases the agent. Moreover, it is rated for Class A, B and C fires. 

    BlazeCut is not a replacement for a typical hand-held fire extinguisher, rather it compliments it by giving you time to react to an engine fire. Ideally you should always have both types of fire suppression systems, and never get to a point where fuel or oil lines leak.

The Installation Process

    We placed an order and our BlazeCut arrived days later well packaged and ready to install. We decided to install BlazeCut on a mid-1980’s VW Vanagon Westfalia. Because its fuel lines are positioned directly over an open exhaust system, the Westfalia was the right choice.

    The idea is to position BlazeCut directly over the most susceptible area of your engine (i.e., carburetor, headers, fuel and oil lines). We decided to attach it directly to the underside of the fiberglass engine cover on the Westfalia using hose clamps, nuts and lock-washers, although nyloc-nuts are another good choice. It’s up to you. 

    BlazeCut recommends using durable mounts such as rubber insulated metal clamps to prevent detachment of the tube, although even zip ties work fine, and they are included in each kit. 

    While BlazeCut is not refillable, it does feature a gauge that shows you that it is active and under pressure. According to the manufacturer, “The system is under pressure and functional when the pressure indicator is above the value of 0 bar.” The system cannot leak down or lose pressure like a conventional fire extinguisher, but depending on the ambient temperature the pressure level indicator can fluctuate. 

    You should install it so that you can see the gauge whenever you want, should you want to know the status of your fire suppression system. Starting at just over $100 (plus shipping and handling) you can’t beat the retail price of the system. BlazeCut comes in three different lengths ( 2 meters, 3 meters and 4 meters), and is equipped with mounting hardware and instructions. You can use multiple BlazeCuts for backup protection if you desire. For our application installation time was under 30 minutes, although that time may vary for you. 

    It can be mounted anywhere under the hood as long as there is clearance between the tube and the engine components. Simply attach it for effectiveness, rather than aesthetics. 

    The notion of it accidentally releasing inside the engine bay is very remote, and BlazeCut has never encountered that happening. If your engine bay’s ambient temperature is getting 248 degrees Fahrenheit you’ve got bigger problems than some heat. 

    If you’ve ever experienced or seen a vehicle fire, you will quickly understand the value of an affordable fire suppression system like BlazeCut, which gives you a chance to extinguish the flames before your investment goes up in smoke, or anyone gets injured.  

    To see for yourself what happens when BlazeCut detects an engine fire, here’s a link to an actual video test provided by BlazeCut (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kswau1mGBE8).

Larry Saavedra