When it comes to fire extinguishers, most people think of the dry chemical versions you find at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other home improvement stores. While those household extinguishers are effective in putting out or containing most common small fires, they aren’t ideal for a car fire.
First of all, they aren’t designed for fires that involve fuel or oil-based products (plastics, rubber, etc.) and therefore aren’t overly effective at putting them out. Another costly downside is that they’re made up of chemicals that are highly caustic, meaning that once you use one on your car, the dry chemical residue will likely wreak havoc to your electrical wiring, metal, and paint. Corrosion is the biggest issue, and it may not be evident right after use. So, anything that comes in contact with the chemical will likely need to be repaired or replaced.
A less-damaging alternative is the H3R Performance HG100C HalGuard, a clean-agent gas that will set you back less than $150. This is the replacement gas for Halon, which ceased production on January 1, 1994 under the Clean Air Act. (It is still legal to purchase recycled Halon and Halon fire extinguishers, however.)
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, your standard ABC dry chemical extinguisher is most certainly better than having nothing at all, and costs around $60. This one even comes with a vehicle mounting bracket.
No need to stop there. You can also spent up to several hundred dollars to have an automatic fire suppression system installed in your car. The system is heat-triggered and will put out a blaze almost immediately should something spark an engine fire when you’re not around your car.
One option you may have considered is aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). Although AFFF has been used in the fire service industry for decades, recent studies have shown it can contaminate drinking water and can lead to cancer. Like Halon, look for this to eventually disappear from shelves. If you’re already using it, you may want to consider an alternative.
Another valuable fire safety product for your car is a battery cut-off switch. Retailing for around $30 (not including installation), it can be mounted so that the switch is easily accessible from the driver’s seat. This will be very helpful in the event a fire sparks while you’re driving.