Walters Forensic Logo  Publications Contact Us Home 


Now that the warm weather is finally upon us, we can all expect to see a rise in the number of vehicle failures and fires corresponding to the rise in outside temperature. Hot weather places additional stresses on any vehicle, often overpowering the cooling and lubrication systems of the car. As the underhood temperatures soar, so do related driveability problems which can lead to further problems and even possibly collisions. Connectors, both electrical and mechanical, that have been exposed to another winter of severe corrosion conditions are more prone to failure while the constant cycles of uneven heating and cooling that a vehicle experiences in the colder months can lead to the loosening of fasteners and components.

All of these factors, coupled with the increased usage that most vehicles see over the summer months and holidays, can spell trouble and the potential for loss.

The most likely problem to be encountered by any vehicle in summer is overheating, particularly if heavily loaded with camping gear or stuck in bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic. This is not as benign as it may sound because if not caught early and addressed, the vehicle's engine could be severely damaged or destroyed. Engine and automatic transmission overheating/overloading are two prime factors in many fire related vehicle Recalls. Driveability and hot restart problems can also appear due to premature vapourization of fuel and high levels of engine load. Performance difficulties of these types could leave the driver stranded or even involve them in an accident.

Specific component failures, in particular electronic modules, are also instigated by the higher temperatures including the "greenhouse" temperatures approaching 200 degree Fahrenheit (94 degree Celsius) in the interior of the vehicle.

Aside from these problems, vehicle fires also tend to increase in the summer months. This is due to the generally increased operating temperatures of all components including exhaust and fuel system parts. Hot exhaust manifolds can ignite debris in the engine area while exhaust pipes and catalytic converters may ignite dry grass and garbage under the vehicle. The higher temperatures also lead to a general increase in flammable vapours around the vehicle just waiting for a competent ignition source to start a fire.

The most likely times for an engine compartment fire to occur are while the vehicle is being driven or shortly after a vehicle has been parked and the components have had a chance to "hot soak" and reach a maximum temperature. This can be especially worrisome as this is when vehicles may be parked inside an attached garage of a $300,000 home.

Most of these problems can be prevented by having any vehicle serviced regularly and checked if it is subjected to any severe usage. In the event that this is not done and a vehicle fire/failure does occur, it is important that any subsequent investigation be conducted by a qualified expert with current vehicle and engineering and investigative experience. Walters Consulting Corporation is the best independent company suited to conduct any of your vehicle related investigations in the country.

The information contained in this web site is intended for marketing purposes only. It is not all-inclusive, and does not fully describe the many and varied services that the company provides, nor does it completely describe the education, training, skills, or expertise of our staff.


Walters Forensic Engineering | 277 Wellington Street West, Suite 800 | Toronto, ON M5V 3H2
Information contact: