AAA is urging drivers to get a comprehensive vehicle maintenance inspection if they have not had one in the past year, and to be especially alert to damaged wiring and loose electrical connections, worn or blistered fluid lines, leaking connections, severely worn brake components and damaged heat shields.
"Although drivers may believe fires occur mostly from collisions, this is not true. Many more are caused by failed vehicle components that could have been maintained or repaired prior to causing or accelerating a fire," said AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet.
To reduce the risk of a vehicle fire, AAA recommends the following:
* Have your vehicle inspected at least annually by a professional technician. As a public service, AAA inspects and approves thousands of repair facilities in the U.S. and Canada as part of the AAA Approved Auto Repair program. Names and locations of AAA-approved repair businesses can be found at www.aaa.com.
* Check for wear and tear. Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation. Have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
* Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle. Have vehicles inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected.
If your vehicle catches fire, firefighters recommend that you stop, pull to the side of the road and turn off the ignition. Do not open the hood because more oxygen can make the fire larger and exposes you to a sudden flare-up.
Make sure everyone gets out of the vehicle, move at least 100 feet away and call for help. Never return to the vehicle to fight the fire yourself.
For more information, visit www.nfpa.org or www.aaa.com.