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Old 24th April 2011, 15:21   #1
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Default FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Hi,
A neighbour of ours purchased a Ford Figo about six months ago. Last week they went on on a trip to Goa from Pune, where my chum works (oh yes, that neighbour is a good friend too...unsual you say ?).

On their return to Pune, somewhere near Sawantwadi or beyond people on the road started wildly gesticulating at the car. My neighbour grandly thought people on the road were admiring the new car and that they were quite excited.

But when the drama on the road grew rather wild after about 3 KMs he stopped to see a great deal of smoke coming out from the front left wheel well. Actually behind the wheel. The well liner was all melted and the paint too was crumbling. He immediately got the family out. Had them to get a few glasses of water and more and put out the fire. A few bystanders reportedly saw flames shoot out from the wheel well.

Quite petrified he just didn't want to start the car. His 2 children simply refused to sit in the car. He called a nearby relative who came after sometime with a mechanic who certified the car safe to drive and drove with them till Satara.

Poor chap , the neighbour n friend I mean, had no clue of what had happened and how the vehicle became a pyrotechnique show for the bystanders.

By and by, it was driven to Planet Ford, Pune. Everything was checked. Electricals found OK and declared not a cause of the fire. Nothing else found as a cause of the fire. It was mysterious. And then a preposterous theory of someone from inside the car having smoked a cigarette and thrown it etc etc surfaced from the ASC. My friend a non smoker looked suspiciously at his wife, who in turn looked suspiciously at their children a girl aged 16 who swore she never smoked and a little tyke of a son of 9 years who swore he'd take up to smoking at 18...the preposterous theory was someone smoked as the car was being driven, threw the butt out and mysteriously the butt came back into the wheel well etc !

All this time our neighbour was on the phone with me. All I asked him to do was to do the best he could do to get the vehicle safely running and take it in writing from the ASC that the vehicle was safe to drive to Thane etc. as they were not able to give a satisfactory reason for the fire. Which they first refused and then they gave in, when my friend threatened to hand over the phone to me. Now what I would have spoken to the WM of the ASC or what my friend had told them about me, I have absolutely no clue ! But whatever was said seemed to have worked.

The wheel well's plastic liner and all 4 mud flaps were changed. The mud flaps are sold in sets.

Finally the Figo trundled in yesterday to Thane and our colony without any further scares.

This morning my friend asked me to play the role of an NTSB (National Transport Safety Board, USA) Investigator on his Figo. Now this was early morning when I was performing my weekly chores on my vehicle.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...ife-sails.html

Fair enough (he is a neighbour and a friend after all, thought I), got my camera out.

And this is what I saw:
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Opened the bonnet. Asked him to start the engine. And like a bloodhound smelt around. No out of the ordinary smells assailed my olfactory senses from the engine bay. Electricals fine. Checked the left indicator lamp connections. All well. Noticed high air intake point.
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Elsewhere...
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Started all over again. Looked around everything looked fine. Except for the spot where the fire was reported.

Asked him to piece together his return journey right from the previous days activities. Asked him to keep the gory details of the family bonding out and stick only to the vehicle related details - lest he got carried away.

What finally emerged was that on the previous day while driving around the Goan country side the front left mud flap assembly had been damaged after the left wheel went into a ditch with stones. It was torn apart and left a gaping gap between the metal body and the well liner.

Inside this is a hard sponge insert which was found completely burnt.

And then asked him about the route etc on the day of the return. Transpired that he had travelled on small village roads near brick kilns where there could have been careless wood/coal embers left around. And later on travelled on to a section where heavy tarring and general road repairs were on.

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Also noticed, between the front left open door and front left panel - where there is a gap, a lot of detritus and dry leaves. Partly burnt.

And I surmised as follows:

1. Previous day the bloke damages his mud flap. Leaving a large gap between the body and the plastic liner of the front left wheel well.

2. Next day morning while returning to Pune he goes over a couple of spots where there could have been burning embers left behind by the road tarring crew or the brick kiln workers and one of the pieces is thrown up by the tyre and into the gap where it lodges securely between the metal body and the hard sponge insert. The sponge (which should have been of a fire retardant variety or was it ?) slowly starts to smoulder and soon enough the well's plastic liner catches fire.

(Examined the tyres - they seemed to be free of damage which should have been caused by the embers when they went over them.)

3. Luckily for him the onlookers saw the smoke n fire and alerted him.

Next week in Pune the Ford Techies are inspecting the car after he wrote to Ford Chennai at my insistence.

Q's for you :

1. Are my conclusions correct ? Please ask Q's and I shall endeavour to answer them in a bid to come to a satisfactory conclusion to this query.

2. Have there been any other such instances among Figo owners here or any other known instances reported elsewhere ?

3. Would this be a case of design cock up ? Poor type of mud flap design and sponge inserts and panel gaps etc ?

4. What can be sought from the boffins at Ford ?

5. What other remedies ?

6. Any technical or general views on the matter ?

While I am making light of the incident, heart of hearts - I shudder to think of what could have happened if the fire would have progressed further. The fuel lines were just near by on the same side and what not...

Await your responses eagerly !

Last edited by Guderian : 24th April 2011 at 15:29.
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Old 24th April 2011, 15:42   #2
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

It was quite risky of them to have driven the car after the smoke.

And funny, despite everyone being in the car, they suspected each other for smoking!

That apart, since you say there are no other signs of a fire; I think the most likely cause of flames must have been the mud flap.

It is possible the mud flap lost a screw or 2 and was dangling; it must have been constantly brushing against the tyre which itself must've been hot. And prolonged friction must've caused the flap to catch fire.

That is the simplest explanation I can think of. If it is not this, the cars needs a thorough examination from a better A.S.S. than the one who thought only a cigarette could have caused it!
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Old 24th April 2011, 15:46   #3
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Seems to be a chain of bad luck. your analysis seems to be correct to my rather simple mind, others will probably give better feedback. However here are some comments:
  1. If the fire started from a cigarette that cigarette came from somebody outside the car - the front wheels lead the passengers.
  2. Tire will not usually get damaged just by going over ambers - for damage to happen tire's own temperature must rise, and that takes time which the ambers do not have on a fast (or even slow) moving tire.
  3. Road tarring guys a lot of times use tar with thinners. If any such material got lodged into wheel well it may also have caught fire - much more easily than other things (car's plastic would require very high temperature to catch fire). Also if any oil was lying around in a pool and your friend splashed through it - that is another place where fuel to start the fire might have come.
  4. Depending on the time difference between when your friend passed the kiln and when he passed the road repairs, kiln may not even be the one to blame - coal and wood after partial burning get covered in ash and their temperature reduces (that's how all the babas keep them in hand) as well as mechanical adhesion reduces. so your friend might have lost those pretty quickly.
If sponge is to blame then Figo is a dangerous vehicle.
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Old 24th April 2011, 16:18   #4
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
It was quite risky of them to have driven the car after the smoke.

And funny, despite everyone being in the car, they suspected each other for smoking!

That apart, since you say there are no other signs of a fire; I think the most likely cause of flames must have been the mud flap.

It is possible the mud flap lost a screw or 2 and was dangling; it must have been constantly brushing against the tyre which itself must've been hot. And prolonged friction must've caused the flap to catch fire.

That is the simplest explanation I can think of. If it is not this, the cars needs a thorough examination from a better A.S.S. than the one who thought only a cigarette could have caused it!

Sorry but there is no way the mudflap could have caused the fire even if it were dangling. There was not adequate friction for a fire to start. Most importantly, rubber against rubber, would not cause fire even if one was doused in diesel - which was not the case.


Quote:
Originally Posted by vina View Post
Seems to be a chain of bad luck. your analysis seems to be correct to my rather simple mind, others will probably give better feedback. However here are some comments:
  1. If the fire started from a cigarette that cigarette came from somebody outside the car - the front wheels lead the passengers.
  2. Tire will not usually get damaged just by going over ambers - for damage to happen tire's own temperature must rise, and that takes time which the ambers do not have on a fast (or even slow) moving tire.
  3. Road tarring guys a lot of times use tar with thinners. If any such material got lodged into wheel well it may also have caught fire - much more easily than other things (car's plastic would require very high temperature to catch fire). Also if any oil was lying around in a pool and your friend splashed through it - that is another place where fuel to start the fire might have come.
  4. Depending on the time difference between when your friend passed the kiln and when he passed the road repairs, kiln may not even be the one to blame - coal and wood after partial burning get covered in ash and their temperature reduces (that's how all the babas keep them in hand) as well as mechanical adhesion reduces. so your friend might have lost those pretty quickly.
If sponge is to blame then Figo is a dangerous vehicle.

Agree totally, simply driving over embers will not cause a fire, nor will the tyre burn, it has to be dipped in inflameable stuff to catch fire.

The only plausible explaination is the gap between the panel had dried leaves, which came in contact with flying embers, and due to the fact the car was driving fast (I assume) there was enough oxygen rushing to the embers & dry leaves to cause ignition.

Most importantly - thanks to the by-standers who warned your friend, had the car driven another 10 minutes, I shudder to think what could have happened.

IMHO - In such a scenario there is nothing the car company can do

Thanks for sharing this. One would be cautious of peeling plastic linings in future. Or atleast try to ensure no dry leaves are anywhere where they should not be.
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Old 24th April 2011, 16:33   #5
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

wow freak incident. Can we please get pics if possible with the fender removed. The Ford guys will do this first.

The mud flaps are prone to breaking off very easily.
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Old 24th April 2011, 16:38   #6
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Guderian View Post
Hi,
Inside this is a hard sponge insert which was found completely burnt.

The sponge (which should have been of a fire retardant variety or was it ?) slowly starts to smoulder and soon enough the well's plastic liner catches fire.
As some folks have pointed out, I feel that the hot substance might have serendipitously got lodged on the sponge element. Any idea what is the sponge material? PU or Polystyrene or polyolefin?

The plastic liner is most likely filled polypropylene. It should not catch fire by coming in contact with hot tar or random flying burning leaves within a short period.

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
And funny, despite everyone being in the car, they suspected each other for smoking!
Are you subscribed to channel Togo? Perhaps not, judging by this statement.

Edit: Even if someone inside the car was smoking, how the heck a cigarette butt gets lodged on the front tyre inner well when the car is in forward motion? Do butts posses self propelling vectors? Or the person has superior carrom skills.

Last edited by dot : 24th April 2011 at 16:46.
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Old 24th April 2011, 17:12   #7
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Guderian View Post
...my friend asked me to play the role of an NTSB (National Transport Safety Board, USA) Investigator on his Figo.

What finally emerged was that on the previous day while driving around the Goan country side the front left mud flap assembly had been damaged after the left wheel went into a ditch with stones. It was torn apart and left a gaping gap between the metal body and the well liner.

Inside this is a hard sponge insert which was found completely burnt.

And then asked him about the route etc on the day of the return. Transpired that he had travelled on small village roads near brick kilns where there could have been careless wood/coal embers left around. And later on travelled on to a section where heavy tarring and general road repairs were on.

Also noticed, between the front left open door and front left panel - where there is a gap, a lot of detritus and dry leaves. Partly burnt.

And I surmised as follows:

1. Previous day the bloke damages his mud flap. Leaving a large gap between the body and the plastic liner of the front left wheel well.

2. Next day...he goes over a couple of spots where there could have been burning embers left behind ...one of the pieces is thrown up by the tyre and into the gap where it lodges securely between the metal body and the hard sponge insert.
(Examined the tyres - they seemed to be free of damage which should have been caused by the embers when they went over them.)
Very interesting whodunit - perhaps a one-in-a-million situation, where dry leaves collected in the gap of a damaged mudguard/wheel-well core, had hot tar kicked up by the tyre fall on it, and starts smoldering with the fanning effect while the car is driven at speed. Add spongy filler to it and the effect is more spectacular.

Your inference is probably perfect. Tyres are quite immune to being melted when run over hot tar - much higher temperatures are achieved in a tyre that skids a few feet with over a tonne of load on it.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 24th April 2011 at 17:16.
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Old 24th April 2011, 17:37   #8
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

@Guderian

the more I think of it the less convinced I am that is was the leaves - first of all if you blow air hard over smoldering leaves, the fire extinguishes (because air not only adds more oxygen, it also takes away heat and if there is too much air flow then the second effect dominates).
Second leaves do not give out strong flames and your friend passed over the kiln first and the road-repair site second. So if any embers from the kiln caused the leaves to burn and so on, the leaves would not have resulted in flames (or large enough temperatures to burn anything else)

I'm more and more convinced that either your friend went over some pool of highly inflammable liquid that splashed the wheel well giving some starting low-flash point fuel for the fire to start OR he might have had a leak somewhere in his fuel system (you mentioned that the fuel lines are close by - a leak somewhere else might drip fuel near this area).

Ask your friend if the liquid pool theory could be correct and get him to get the car thoroughly inspected in some good workshop ASAP
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Old 24th April 2011, 17:44   #9
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Hi All, Seeing responses here. Shall respond to all posts by tomorrow. Meanwhile do keep posting in your observations.
Thank you !
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Old 24th April 2011, 18:46   #10
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

I guess it is the dry leaves that are at fault here. They pretty easily catch fire. They could have caught fire because of the embers. Its also advisable to never park on dry leaves as even the heat that is radiated through the engine bay. So I am guessing the cause are the dry leaves.

It does not seem like an issue with the car as this is one of the last places where one could even wildly think a fire would start. No issue with the electricals though.

Can you also check for dry leaves in the engine bay etc.?
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Old 24th April 2011, 20:17   #11
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Oh man what an unusual incident. Thankfully this turned out to be harmless.

One incident was reported by some TV channel (INDIA TV) in which people observed smoke from the rear tyre of a Maruti Omni and it was due to the reason that the driver was driving the car with hand brakes ON.

But since this is not the case with your friend's car, I think this could have happened in the way as mustang101 mentioned. Will be interesting to know the reason for the fire.

Last edited by bluevolt : 24th April 2011 at 20:19.
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Old 25th April 2011, 06:40   #12
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Hopefully this might help, something similar happend to me many-many years ago on my Indica. Let me try and rake my brains a lil to get sequence of events that led to Mud Flap having burnt holes in it.

It so happend that i had to drive on a hot summer through newly laid road, on which the tar has been freshly laid and is still semi-liquid and HOT. It so happens when you drive through such roads the small stones (Gitti) which is used along with the TAR gets stuck to the tyre and when you speed up later again it falls off and makes a sound of small stones hitting under body area near the tyre. So few of such stones must have been very-very hot and got stuck on the Mud Flap and burnt it (Not like fire but enough to smoke them and make holes on them).

I only realised this once i had my regular stop and saw little smoke and some holes on the Mud Flaps. Put some water on them to cool it down and then drove off.

Do check if the senerio is similar, Cheers

Last edited by mayankjha1806 : 25th April 2011 at 06:42. Reason: Grammer
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Old 25th April 2011, 14:28   #13
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
1. It was quite risky of them to have driven the car after the smoke.

2. And funny, despite everyone being in the car, they suspected each other for smoking!

3. That apart, since you say there are no other signs of a fire; I think the most likely cause of flames must have been the mud flap.
Hi Libran, Thanks for the response.
1. They had it checked out with a mechanic and then moved on.
2. Well, that was supposed to be a...like dot later explained...!
3. Going by the overall evidence it wasn't likely as the mud flap was only broken and a gap created. If you see the design of the Figo mud flaps you'll see there are no conventional screws etc. only clips. which are covered by plastic envelopes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vina View Post
Seems to be a chain of bad luck. your analysis seems to be correct to my rather simple mind, others will probably give better feedback. However here are some comments:
  1. If the fire started from a cigarette that cigarette came from somebody outside the car - the front wheels lead the passengers.
  2. Tire will not usually get damaged just by going over ambers - for damage to happen tire's own temperature must rise, and that takes time which the ambers do not have on a fast (or even slow) moving tire.
  3. Road tarring guys a lot of times use tar with thinners. If any such material got lodged into wheel well it may also have caught fire - much more easily than other things (car's plastic would require very high temperature to catch fire). Also if any oil was lying around in a pool and your friend splashed through it - that is another place where fuel to start the fire might have come.
  4. Depending on the time difference between when your friend passed the kiln and when he passed the road repairs, kiln may not even be the one to blame - coal and wood after partial burning get covered in ash and their temperature reduces (that's how all the babas keep them in hand) as well as mechanical adhesion reduces. so your friend might have lost those pretty quickly.
If sponge is to blame then Figo is a dangerous vehicle.
Thanks for the response Vina. Actually if the Figo had gone through some flamable liquid then the results would have been more disastrous as a larger area would have been covered by the flames. Appears it was a single entry and smouldering by a piece of offending ember. Even the cigarette butt theory seems far fetched as the tyre would have crushed the butt completely or the trajectory would have hit elsewhere. And there was no evidence of a unburnt viscose butt end in the sponge remains which would have been a dead giveaway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricky_63 View Post
Sorry but there is no way the mudflap could have caused the fire even if it were dangling. There was not adequate friction for a fire to start. Most importantly, rubber against rubber, would not cause fire even if one was doused in diesel - which was not the case.

Agree totally, simply driving over embers will not cause a fire, nor will the tyre burn, it has to be dipped in inflameable stuff to catch fire.

1. The only plausible explaination is the gap between the panel had dried leaves, which came in contact with flying embers, and due to the fact the car was driving fast (I assume) there was enough oxygen rushing to the embers & dry leaves to cause ignition.

2. Most importantly - thanks to the by-standers who warned your friend, had the car driven another 10 minutes, I shudder to think what could have happened.

IMHO - In such a scenario there is nothing the car company can do

Thanks for sharing this. One would be cautious of peeling plastic linings in future. Or atleast try to ensure no dry leaves are anywhere where they should not be.
Hi Ricky, Thanks.
1. Most likely cause along with the ember embedding in the filler sponge.
2. Phew !

Quote:
Originally Posted by vid6639 View Post
wow freak incident. Can we please get pics if possible with the fender removed. The Ford guys will do this first.

The mud flaps are prone to breaking off very easily.
Hi Vid, Thanks. The car drove back to Pune last night. Have asked my friend to take a snap of the gap when the fender/liners are removed and if he gets one - shall post it here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dot View Post
As some folks have pointed out, I feel that the hot substance might have serendipitously got lodged on the sponge element. 1. Any idea what is the sponge material? PU or Polystyrene or polyolefin?
2. The plastic liner is most likely filled polypropylene. It should not catch fire by coming in contact with hot tar or random flying burning leaves within a short period.



3. Are you subscribed to channel Togo? Perhaps not, judging by this statement.

4. Edit: Even if someone inside the car was smoking, how the heck a cigarette butt gets lodged on the front tyre inner well when the car is in forward motion? Do butts posses self propelling vectors? Or the person has superior carrom skills.
Hi Dot, Thanks.
1. The material was described as a filler and a synthetic item like very heavy thick sponge. Going by that I think it would be a PU foam pad for insulation.

2. Agree. It caught fire as a result of the material inside smouldering due an ember or hot piece of tar coated stone which flew in and lodged itself in the insulation pad.
3. Ha ha !

4. You should hear ASC theories in many other instances. Will put this one to shame !

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Very interesting whodunit - perhaps a one-in-a-million situation, where dry leaves collected in the gap of a damaged mudguard/wheel-well core, had hot tar kicked up by the tyre fall on it, and starts smoldering with the fanning effect while the car is driven at speed. Add spongy filler to it and the effect is more spectacular.

Your inference is probably perfect. Tyres are quite immune to being melted when run over hot tar - much higher temperatures are achieved in a tyre that skids a few feet with over a tonne of load on it.
Hi Doc, Thanks. Yes agree with you on both counts - as you agreed with me in the first place !!!
Yes, there was no tyre damage at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vina View Post
I'm more and more convinced that either your friend went over some pool of highly inflammable liquid that splashed the wheel well giving some starting low-flash point fuel for the fire to start OR he might have had a leak somewhere in his fuel system (you mentioned that the fuel lines are close by - a leak somewhere else might drip fuel near this area).
Hi Vina, As mentioned earlier the liquid splash would have lead to disastrous consequence as there would have been a greater area of combustion. None of the other or external area/s showed any evidence of fire except the spots on the metal where the paint which peeled and cracked due to hear - as in the snaps. I checked that thoroughly.

First thing I checked before I asked him to start the engine is to check for leaking fuel lines and then after the start of the engine - smelt around for leakages. If the vehicle had caught fire due to leaking fuel it possibly could have lead to a fire ball. And it wouldn't have been only smouldering insulation and minor flames.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustang.101 View Post
I guess it is the dry leaves that are at fault here. They pretty easily catch fire. They could have caught fire because of the embers. Its also advisable to never park on dry leaves as even the heat that is radiated through the engine bay. So I am guessing the cause are the dry leaves.

It does not seem like an issue with the car as this is one of the last places where one could even wildly think a fire would start. No issue with the electricals though.

Can you also check for dry leaves in the engine bay etc.?
Hi Mustang, Thanks.
Engine bay was fairly clean. Evidence of leaves was only in the gap. Combination of dry leaves, ember/s and the insulation hard sponge may have led to the fire.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mayankjha1806 View Post
Hopefully this might help, something similar happend to me many-many years ago on my Indica. Let me try and rake my brains a lil to get sequence of events that led to Mud Flap having burnt holes in it.

It so happend that i had to drive on a hot summer through newly laid road, on which the tar has been freshly laid and is still semi-liquid and HOT. It so happens when you drive through such roads the small stones (Gitti) which is used along with the TAR gets stuck to the tyre and when you speed up later again it falls off and makes a sound of small stones hitting under body area near the tyre. So few of such stones must have been very-very hot and got stuck on the Mud Flap and burnt it (Not like fire but enough to smoke them and make holes on them).

I only realised this once i had my regular stop and saw little smoke and some holes on the Mud Flaps. Put some water on them to cool it down and then drove off.

Do check if the senerio is similar, Cheers
Hi Mayank, Thanks.
I wasn't able to check the mud flap as it was discarded. What the bloke told me was the mud flap was broken and melted in some portions because of the fire. Yes, the fire could have been triggered off due to the hot tarred bits sticking anywhere. As they say one can't totally rule out anything ! But then other vehicles also should be reporting such fires.

Any such situations (tar leading to mud flap fire) elsewhere reported ? Does anyone knows about it ?

Last edited by Guderian : 25th April 2011 at 14:40.
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Old 25th April 2011, 15:37   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guderian View Post
Any such situations (tar leading to mud flap fire) elsewhere reported ? Does anyone knows about it ?
I guess its a combination of multiple factors, even in my case it never happend again, and i am sure i went through HOT tar many times in my Indica and my current car Baleno. It could be heat (as in Summer heat), the Tar being hot as its freshly laid, and last but not the least inferior quality mud flaps.
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Old 25th April 2011, 15:50   #15
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Default Re: FFoF ! Or Ford Figo on Fire...

Quote:
Originally Posted by vid6639 View Post
The mud flaps are prone to breaking off very easily.
Specially the figo ones! I've been driving with broken mudflaps for atleast 3-4 months now! I see many people in the figo community reporting the same too. Ford had informed that they will be releasing a softer mud flaps, but they are still not available! If the current ones are replaced, it wud anyway break sometime soon while negotiating the freaky road humps!

Scary incident though good to know that everybody, including the figo is safe!
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