Potential fire hazards exist with any product using electrical power; however, the risk is extremely low.
Although you are more likely to have speaker failure than fire, many are wondering if car speakers can really catch fire?
In general, car speakers can catch fire especially add-on components that are placed in tight spaces. Safety warnings indicate prolonged use at high power may result in the possibility of catching fire. Space and open ventilation will prevent the issue along with other preventative measures.
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While the threat is very minute, this article will explain circumstances in which a car speaker can start on fire. Keep on reading for additional information on preventative measures, insurance claims, and car fire extinguishers.
What Are the Causes of Car Speaker Fires?
Heed the safety warnings that are included with car speaker equipment, and you will avoid problems. Car speakers, especially the type that is factory installed by professionals and is thoroughly tested, should be perfectly fine for your car’s lifetime. Nevertheless, some circumstances may result in a car speaker fire, which are listed below.
- High volume prolonged use of speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers cause waveform distortion or clipping and a continuous push, past capacity, can cause the system to overheat.
- Not installing components with enough ventilation, as listed in the installation manual. Factory-installed components are already compliant but aftermarket products require attention to specifications:
- Amplifier recommendations are 4-inches (10 cm) space surrounding the element.
- Subwoofer recommendations are to mount with 1-inch (2.5 cm) space surrounding the element.
- Speaker wire can catch fire if a component shorts out. Although protection circuits will shut off the ampere if there is a short. The wire is inherently low voltage; therefore, this is a low-level threat.
- Not using the correct amperage rating to match the speakers as listed in the user manual, causing a blown fuse and possible fire.
- A flawed design in need of an engineering change to stabilize the amperage.
- By blasting the speakers for a prolonged amount of time, the voice coil may get hot enough to ignite the surrounding paper cone, especially if there is an amplifier failure. The direct current across the coil causes a spark. Dependent on the system design, the dust cap may also ignite.
- Incorrectly wiring an amplifier may cause a short. In this 1-minute video, the reporter specifically indicates the car catching on fire was due to audio wiring.
- Speakers with old parts may overheat more quickly. For example, cone material could be dry, brittle, and dusty. It is particularly important not to extend the duration of play, especially at high power.
Before seeing flames, be mindful of the following potential signs to save yourself from extensive damage:
- The smell of burning rubber or plastic
- A loud noise, crackling or sizzling
If you are on the road, pull over and turn off the engine. Grab the fire extinguisher if it is easily accessible; however, if it is not safe, exit as quickly as possible and help your passengers out.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it is recommended to stay 10 feet (3 meters) away from the car because debris may shoot distances, the heat is intense, and toxic gases may be produced. Call the police or firefighters and oncoming alert traffic if possible. After the fire is out, record the names and phone numbers of witnesses for the insurance company.
If interested in watching Sony speakers being blown up, watch this 5-minute video. Although the videographer purposely created the fire, he captured smoke and a nice burst of flames, proving that it can happen.
How to Prevent Your Car From Catching Fire
Effective safety and prevention will enhance your enjoyment of your car’s music system. Management and protection of components and particularly, electrical connections and power, is easy and will keep you worry-free. Here are some prevention tips:
- Avoid clipping by reducing the volume.
- Correctly install all components. For example, to correctly determine what size fuse is needed, get help from this 9-minute video for an aftermarket car stereo system.
- Use the correct wire and do not tangle or wrap wires around coils. For help, use this Speaker Wiring Calculator to assist in designing the proper wire setup.
- Use caution and carefully inspect old speakers for damage.
- Please do not attach the wire to the ground area of your vehicle because it becomes warmer when driving.
- Perform regular car maintenance, including a visual inspection.
- Test the speakers for short. While there are many resources for this, in an article entitled, How to Test for a Short in Speaker Wires, Maxfield Carroll does the job in four short steps.
- Be sure aftermarket component parts, for example, the amplifier and subwoofer, are correctly set within manufacturing recommendations.
Diligently learn how to install and fine-tune all of the speaker components properly in the book entitled, How to Design and Install High-Performance Car Stereo, by Joe Pettitt. Moreover, by including how to design a system, location, and the reasons for usage, the author ensures the parts work together properly to prevent system shortages, smoke, and fire.
A quick and easy solution is to buy a steel car fire extinguisher bracket, designed to fit most vehicles to be prepared for anything. Add a multipurpose extinguisher to become safe and ready.
At this point, if a fire occurs, be prepared by understanding your car insurance policy. Comprehensive coverage covers almost all fires, including mechanical damage, but liability insurance does not. If the claims adjuster determines the damage was due to your fault, insurance will not pay for the damage.
Negligence on your part, for instance, is if you are aware of the faulty electrical system but did not make any attempts to get it fixed. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends hiring a mechanic to assess that your installation was correctly performed since some fires can be traced back to incorrectly installed aftermarket audio parts. Also, it is advisable to let your insurance company when you have made modifications to your car.
In the event that insurance does not cover, and you have that fire extinguisher, use it to mitigate damage, therefore, be sure and store one or two in your vehicle. A common misunderstanding is that extinguishers explode if your car gets hot, but that is not true because they are designed to function even under the highest temperatures. Just be sure and buy a model covering the most common fires, Class A, B, and C.
- Class A includes wood, paper, and materials.
- Class B includes flammable liquids like acetone and oil.
- Class C contains gases.
There is no perfect location, but under the passenger’s seat is easy because you can mount it without having to drill holes. Or maybe there is room in the center console or on a door. Just make sure it is not rolling around and is properly mounted, only if you stop suddenly.
Speakers can catch on fire for multiple reasons related to installation and faulty equipment. Avoid those problems by consulting with an experienced professional and reading the user manual.
Also, if using an amplifier and subwoofer in particular, many issues could be avoided by not overextending the car audio system. Otherwise, keep a fire extinguisher around. Remember, if you smell or see smoke, turn off the system and run away. It is only a matter of time before a fire could erupt.