Vehicular Fire in Hayfield

The photograph below shows what can happen when a vehicle is driven through a hayfield.  Although the owner of the truck didn’t believe it could happen to him, he is now a firm believer.  The fire grew so quickly that the driver was lucky to get out of the truck as the flames were growing alongside the driver’s side door.  The fire occurred even though the ground was saturated after recent rain made the ground so soft that the truck got stuck in the mud.  While trying to extricate himself, the engine was heating the grass beneath the engine compartment.  Since the grass was already dry, it didn’t take long to ignite.  The only thing that kept the fire from spreading to the rest of the hayfield was the quick response of the fire department.  The heat that ignited the fire could also have come form the transmission and exhaust piping, including the catalytic converter.  If you have to drive through a field with tall, dry grass, don’t stop until you can get off the grass.  Be aware that stopping your vehicle over dry grass and allowing the engine to continue running can be just as bad as shutting down the engine while positioned over a tall patch of dry grass.  If you get stuck, get out of your vehicle, get away and then get help.      

Vehicular Fire in Hayfield

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What Happened Here?

Recently, we have been investigating an incident that took place almost one year prior to our involvement. A two vehicle accident occurred in which one of the vehicles involved was a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt. The vehicle was subsequently repaired at a local body shop and returned to the owner. Approximately three to four days later, the engine overheated. According to the owner, the vehicle was returned to the shop where it was determined that the shop’s mechanic had forgotten to add coolant to the radiator before returning the vehicle to the owner. Once the coolant issue had been resolved and the vehicle returned to the owner, the owner began hearing a rumbling noise that turned out to be a damaged catalytic converter. A large crack developed in the expansion joint just below the flange that connects the converter to the exhaust manifold. It was also discovered that the exhaust manifold had cracked in four places (see attached photographs).

DSC09580 what happened 1 what happened 2

Based upon the owner’s description of the vehicle’s performance after the vehicle was initially returned, the rumbling noise was not present and did not occur until after coolant was added and the vehicle was returned for the second time.  It appeard that the damage to the catalytic converter and the exhaust manifold was caused when the engine overheated.

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