Fire Wire: Faulty wiring in winterization can cause vehicle fires

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:09 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With temperatures forecasted to dip down to 30 below and colder, having a winterized car is essential. Cars that aren’t plugged in often won’t start because of the cold. However, these winterizations can also cause car fires according to Fairbanks Firefighter Tony Naber.

“Most of the time car fires are caused by failure of the winterization of the vehicle,” Naber said.

He said that driving causes the cords to vibrate and rub against things which can expose the wires, “When you plug in the wire, plug in your winterization, it will short out and cause a fire and that will spread elsewhere.”

While any part of a winterization package can fail, he said it is most common on battery pad heaters, “The battery sitting on top of that pad will wear through it, it will short out that pad, and then when you plug in that car that pad will... short out, catch fire and then you have a battery fire.”

The easiest way to prevent this type of failure is to instead use a trickle charger. Naber said that a fully charged battery will not freeze so there is no need for a battery heater. He said that trickle chargers are much less likely to cause a fire.

The best way to ensure a cars winterization is safe is to check the wires.

“Go to your plug at the front of your car and start following all of those wire and start checking them, feeling them, making sure they aren’t rubbing up against anything. Zip ties are great to keep loose wires from rubbing up against stuff,” he said. If there is a loose worn wire he said any auto shop can replace it which can prevent a fire.

If there ever is a car fire Naber said to get away from the vehicle and call 911.

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