Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
July 18, 2013

We attend a lot of Mustang shows, and as we walk the rows of pristine show cars, weekend rides, and daily drivers, we usually see that a majority of the show attendees have a fire extinguisher either in their Mustang or alongside it (a popular spot seems to be in front of the left front tire, but we’ll discuss that a bit later). It’s nice to think that if something bad happens at the show, one of these Mustang owners will jump into action and help save the day. Or will they? Just because there’s a fire extinguisher at the ready it doesn’t mean the day (or your Mustang) will be saved.

There are a lot of variables to consider. How old is the extinguisher? Does it have the proper charge/pressure? What type of suppression agent is in the unit and is it right for the fire? Is there enough suppression agent to put out the typical fire? Is the fire extinguisher in proper working order? Is the fire extinguisher easily accessible? Lastly, does the person grabbing the fire extinguisher know how to use it? These are all good questions—ones we’ll help explain so you know what to look for in a quality fire extinguisher, where it should be located, how to test/service the unit, and most importantly, how to use it.

Our goal here is to help owners protect their Mustangs, shops, garages, and personal property—and prevent property loss and personal injury—from a fire. If we can save just one person from burns or save a single Mustang from becoming a “car-b-que,” we’ve done our job.

We know that regular show attendees and Mustang Club of America members are aware that most any show registration these days requires a fire extinguisher to be in the car on the show field. But what about readers who are more into cruise nights, or own a late-model daily driver and don’t go to shows at all? Yes, you. You should have a fire extinguisher in your Mustang as well. Frankly, that goes for every car in your driveway. We know that it can get expensive outfitting every car with a quality fire extinguisher, but what price can you put on preventing your pride and joy from burning to the ground or ensuring a fire is put out before it has a chance to hurt a loved one.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Data from the National Fire Protection Association states that in 2011 there were 219,000 vehicle fires causing 300 deaths and 1,190 injuries with a total property loss of $1.4 billion dollars. That’s a vehicle fire reported every 144 seconds in the U.S. In 75 percent of the recorded incidents, the fires were caused by mechanical failure or electrical malfunction. Now think about driving an older vehicle (and remember, Fox Mustangs are over 20 years old) with oil leaks and brittle, frayed wiring or poor aftermarket wiring add-ons. Quickly, one shorted out wire can turn into an under dash fire as you head down the road to a show. Having a fire extinguisher in the car could mean the difference between having your Mustang towed home and buying a replacement dash harness or sitting on the side of the road watching your Mustang go up in flames. Even if you call the fire department as soon as you’ve come to a stop and exited the vehicle (which you should ALWAYS do first), the response time paired with finding your exact location means all the difference between a small fire you can easily extinguish or a fully involved fire.

Hopefully, we’ve convinced you to get off your wallet to buy a fire extinguisher, but don’t run out the door just yet. We have some educating left to do. First and foremost is the type of extinguisher you’ll need, the capacity of the extinguisher, and the construction/quality of the unit. These factors aren’t just to get you to spend more money, but to invest in better equipment. When it comes to the actual suppression agents, there are two readily available types. The most common is a dry chemical powder. This is what you’ll find in your typical office fire extinguisher or possibly what you bought for your kitchen at home. Dry chemical extinguishers are good for typical Class B and C fires, which are flammable liquid and electrical fires respectively (more on fire classes in our sidebar). They put out the fire by smothering the flames. However, dry chemical extinguishers leave behind a powdery residue that is corrosive to surfaces, electrical wiring, and more, which is why they are not used in aviation and should not be used in your vehicle. If cleanup isn’t performed immediately, you’re looking at paint damage, wiring replacement, and more.

A better alternative is the aviation-style clean agent Halotron 1, which leaves no corrosive residue when used to extinguish a fire and does not damage paint surfaces or wiring. Halotron 1 is widely used in aviation, both onboard and for ground crew firefighting due to its effectiveness, no damaging residues, and its low ozone/global warming potential. Halotron 1 is what is now used in place of Halon, a product you might have heard of for its use in commercial fire safety systems in sensitive electronics/control rooms. One of the biggest proponents of Halotron 1 use is H3R Performance. Originally used in their aviation division, they’ve been promoting Halotron 1’s benefits through their line of HalGuard extinguishers for automotive use. HalGuard/Halotron 1 is perfect for automotive use as it is designed to extinguish flammable liquids and electrical fires and is non-conductive. HalGuard/Halotron 1 is a liquefied gas that turns into a gas vapor when discharged. This liquefied gas will reach hard-to-reach fires deep in engine compartments, through air vents, and so forth.

Photo courtesy Steve Turner Remember when we mentioned the fire extinguisher on display in front of the front tire at car shows? We’re not sure where this practice started (we suspect the AACA, but could find no evidence of such rule) but it is one we feel can cause problems. Displaying an extinguisher on the ground like this often leads to owners forgetting they are there and driving over them. At the least it ruptures and you’ve ruined your fire extinguisher. At the worst it breaks the valve off and 140 psi of pressure catapults the cylinder into the side of the car next to you. Our opinion: leave them in their mounting brackets.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery