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How drivers can prevent car fires

Mechanic shares what makes vehicles a fire hazard

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are three warning signs that drivers should watch out for to prevent vehicle fires, mechanics said.

Drivers may have noticed lately a number of disabled vehicles, off the the side of the road with smoke coming from the hood, or even completely engulfed in flames.

Since last week, there's been a vehicle fire in Northeast Florida at least once a day, including Wednesday when crews responded to a car on fire along northbound Interstate 95 near County Road 206.

Various factors could have led to the fires, Aaron Nelson with Aaron's Car Care told News4Jax Wednesday. But he said there's three things drivers should be on the look out for to make sure their car is not a fire hazard: Odor, leaks and the car driving strangely. 

The first is odor. 

"If you notice, 'Man, I smell has all the time. When I get in the car it smells like fuel.' If you smell something like that, get it checked right away," Nelson said.

The second is checking for leaks. 

Nelson said a lot of cars that have a high number of miles on them tend to develop oil leaks, transmission or power steering leaks, which could lead to another sign.

The third sign is if the car is driving differently.

"Let's say the steering is stiff or the transmission doesn't want to shift right or something like that. All of those are indications that your car could be low on fluid," Nelson said. 

Nelson said car owners should go to a mechanic as soon as possible if they notice any of those signs to ensure they're not driving around in a ticking time bomb. 

Ignoring routine inspections, and neglecting the radiator, can also lead to an overheated engine, Nelson said. He recommended checking the radiator in the morning or after the car has been idle for a couple hours and cooled off. 

Nelson also pointed out that hot cars parked on the grass can also spark a fire, especially when the weather is extremely dry. 

"A lot of these newer cars sit so low to the ground to begin with and so you pull up, and if there's high grass and that grass comes in contact with the exhaust, absolutely, it can ignite," Nelson said. 

Cleaning out the car can also help. Nelson said clutter can fuel the flames if a car does catch on fire. 

And as soon as a driver notices smoke coming out of the car, Nelson said, pull over to err on the side of caution. 

"Don't think that I'll drive to the next exit or something like that. Get out of the car because if you have electric door locks and stuff like that, and the car catches on fire, it could cause a problem," Nelson said.