Motorists in UAE warned against modifying vehicles amid rise in fires

Regular maintenance checks can help curb the risk of car blazes, expert says

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The number of vehicles catching fire in the UAE is on the rise, with mechanical failures, modified cars, fuel leaks and overheating engines among the main causes of the blazes.

Figures released by the Ministry of Interior showed Dubai had the highest number of vehicle fires last year with 327, followed by Abu Dhabi with 265. Sharjah reported 232 vehicle fires, while Al Ain recorded 196.

Ajman reported 109 vehicles blazes, while there were 103 in Ras Al Khaimah, 86 in Fujairah, 46 in Al Dhafra and 32 in Umm Al Quwain.

There were a total of 1,396 incidents across the country last year, marking a 23 per cent increase from the 1,134 reported in the previous year.

"Common causes include mechanical failures, such as faulty electrical systems, fuel leaks and overheating engines," said Sam Malins, chief executive of Reacton Fire Suppression, which specialises in protecting vehicles in the UAE. “Regular maintenance and prompt repairs are essential to mitigate these risks.”

The fires caused extensive damage to 965 cars, 154 lorries, 96 light transport vehicles, 35 motorbikes and 23 buses.

Other types of transport were also damaged by fires, including eight ships, three caravans, eight tankers and seven boats. Various items such as wood, kitchen appliances and cables were also included in the reports.

The incidents varied from month to month, with some peaks in May (139), June (138) and November (155).

Collision can also cause vehicles to catch fire – a significant risk on highly congested roads, Mr Malins said.

"Making sure vehicles are equipped with safety features and that drivers adhere to road safety rules can help reduce incidents," he added.

He referred to November's surge in accidents, when 155 were recorded, as evidence of the risks on congested roads. “During summer, there might be fewer fires because many people are on vacation, reducing the number of cars on the roads by 30 to 40 per cent," Mr Malins added.

"Modified cars are also more prone to fires due to changes outside the manufacturer’s specifications. This can lead to faulty wiring, short circuits, and improper installations."

Maintaining safety

Another expert spoke about his experience trying to repair fire-damaged vehicles. “Two main reasons were behind the fires in the cars that came to my shop: electrical problems and poor or non-existent routine checks and maintenance,” said Khaled Tahboub, owner of Off-Road RS Automotive, a car repair and maintenance shop in Dubai.

He explained how poor maintenance could include installing low-quality wires or electrical parts and neglecting oil leaks.

Regarding electrical problems, he said car owners often neglected regular checks, or if they did have them done, they might replace damaged or faulty parts with the cheapest option, rather than the parts required.

“If parts or wires used in maintenance do not match approved specifications, they can cause further issues that might lead to the car bursting into flames,” he said.

In cases of neglected oil leaks, he said, the oil can reach the exhaust pipe, and with high temperatures this can cause a fire. “Faulty wiring, short circuits, and improper installations can also lead to electrical fires," Mr Tahboub said.

Ensuring all electrical components are installed correctly and inspected regularly can prevent such occurrences, he added.

Authorities in the UAE issue regular warnings to urge vehicle owners to take precautions. These include conducting regular inspections and maintenance, addressing any mechanical or electrical issues promptly, and avoiding overloading a vehicle, which can strain mechanical components.

Owners are also told to ensure their vehicles have fire extinguishers and to learn how to use them.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 4:24 AM