tdellaringa

So I started my engine on fire...now what?

21 posts in this topic

tdellaringa    0

Ok, I admit I did a stupid thing, but man it was seriously cold. I have a 1998 Chevy Lumina LTZ with 131,000 miles on it. The car has been really good to me for the most part and still runs well. Yesterday I went to get my weekly fillup. The car burns a bit of oil, and thus I get the "change oil" dummy light far more often than I think the car needs it. (I generally change oil every 6-8k). When the oil light starts coming on, I generally start adding a quart of oil here and there until I get in for an oil change.

So I pull in, start gassing up and get a quart of oil. I didn't turn the car off due to the cold (I know, bad idea). I open the hood, unscrew the cap and start pouring in the oil. Well, I have no funnel so some of it spills on to the front of the block - and a fire starts. :yikes:

It's 5:30 am and way too early for such hijinks! I quickly turn off the car, pull out the gas line (which had finished) and run inside the station to get a extinguisher (which turns out to be outside). Long story short, I got the extinguisher and with one quick burst put out the small fire.

So... now I'm wondering what damage I did to the car. The fire burned for maybe 2-3 minutes, and it was small. I'm fairly sure what was burning was the small amount of oil that spilled. It's dark and I can't see anything. I start the car and it seems to run fine. I drive to work, and it's fine. Drive home, fine, and no problems today.

However, when it got light out I took a look and I could see that the middle spark plug wire has a small section (say half the size of a dime) where the insulation is gone. I don't know if this is from the fire, or if this caused the fire (electrical current mixed with oil = stupid fire?) - maybe it was like that, I really don't know.

In any event, I assume I should at least replace the wire. Am I in any imminent danger driving with it slightly exposed like that? Should I tape it up until I can bring it in? The engine looks fine and seems to run fine other than that. Is there any other damage I should check for? Could I have been any more stupid? (Ignore that last question).

I do believe also that the car has synthetic oil in it, which I usually request but the gas station didn't have that so I was putting in regular, I assume that isn't too big a deal.

The LTZ has been a great car up to this point, I was hoping to drive this thing until the cows come home... if I can avoid burning it to the ground that is... :duh:

Any tips are appreciated!

Tom

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Wow.... never, ever run a car while you're gasing up, never mind adding

fluids & screwing around underhood. I am often the "wet blanket" when

I yell at people for not turning off thier motors. Engine fires are scary as

$hit. Good luck with your motor, have it steam cleaned and rewire any

and all loose/burned wires. Also, I'd get rid of the car if it was me.

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tdellaringa    0

You guys are just full of good news eh? Why would you get rid of the car? Wouldn't replacing the wires be enough? And honestly, I know you're supposed to turn off your car when you gas up, but let's be honest here. In the Midwest, in winter, 90% of the people in any given gas station are gassing up a car that is running. I guarantee you that morning there were some 12-15 cars gassing up there, and they were pretty much all running. Doesn't make it right, or smart, but hey that's life.

Doesn't make me any less stupid, either I guess. :hissyfit::cussing:

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scharmer05    0

Wow.... never, ever run a car while you're gasing up, never mind adding

fluids & screwing around underhood. I am often the "wet blanket" when

I yell at people for not turning off thier motors. Engine fires are scary as

$hit. Good luck with your motor, have it steam cleaned and rewire any

and all loose/burned wires. Also, I'd get rid of the car if it was me.

How many gas fires have you heard of at gas stations from people filling up with the car running? I've been on a volunteer fire department for 3 years now and have yet to respond to one, and this time of year almost everyone leaves their car running when they fill. Plus all you have to do is touch a metal portion of your car before you start filling to get rid of the static charge. So I don't worry about, I leave my car running 90% of the time. Especially this time of year. It has been 0-20 below for damn near 3 weeks now.

tdellaringa, I would say tape up the wire with electrical tape for now, but then put a whole new set on sometime in the near future. Should probably do that around that mileage anyway. Then you should be good. And I think what 68 meant by that comment is that your car is FWD, and because he hates FWD, he would get rid of it if it was his.

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this time of year almost everyone leaves their car running when they fill

Really?? Maybe that's an American thing? I've personally never seen anyone leave their engine running when filling, and I've certainly never done it myself.

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tdellaringa    0

How many gas fires have you heard of at gas stations from people filling up with the car running? I've been on a volunteer fire department for 3 years now and have yet to respond to one, and this time of year almost everyone leaves their car running when they fill. Plus all you have to do is touch a metal portion of your car before you start filling to get rid of the static charge. So I don't worry about, I leave my car running 90% of the time. Especially this time of year. It has been 0-20 below for damn near 3 weeks now.

tdellaringa, I would say tape up the wire with electrical tape for now, but then put a whole new set on sometime in the near future. Should probably do that around that mileage anyway. Then you should be good. And I think what 68 meant by that comment is that your car is FWD, and because he hates FWD, he would get rid of it if it was his.

Yeah, I concur just like I said - around here pretty much nobody shuts down the car this time of year. Putting the oil in while running, well that's a separate issue and I shouldn't have been so stupid. I'm taking the car in tomorrow to get new wires on it.

Well, I *used* to have a rear wheel drive car, my '77 Vette, but I had to sell it during the dot.com bust. :hissyfit:

But in all seriousness, this car has treated me real well. A real workhorse, and with 131,000 miles on it the engine still has a lot of punch.

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I'd toss in a set of plugs and wires and call it a day. Sounds like it didn't do anything serious. On the note of killing the engine while filling, I'll do it no matter what, now I do admit that I live in the south, therefore it doesn't get as cold as the midwest, but still, I do anyway just to be safe.

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Intrepidation    846

Well, I gotta agree with what you said...that was not smart at all to do. I never ever leave my car running when gassing up...even when it's 4 degrees outside. All it takes is a simple spark from static electricity near the gas and...boom. It does happen, hence the signs that say "shut the car off." It gets plenty cold in New England and even here most people shut their cars off. It does take that long to fill up. I don't think you're supposed to mix synthetic with fossil oil..plus synthetic leaks more than easily than the natural stuff. But by far the dumbest thing you did was to try and add oil with no funnel, while it was gassing up and while it was running. Anyway, good luck getting it fixed, and hopefully learn to keep it off while filling up :P

Edited by Dodgefan

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Intrepidation    846

Again, how many explosions have you heard of from people filling up while their car is running.

It doesn't matter how often it happens or not, it's still a safety hazard and it's just common sense. How hard is it to turn the key anyway?

Edited by Dodgefan

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daves87rs    327

Well, I gotta agree with what you said...that was not smart at all to do. I never ever leave my car running when gassing up...even when it's 4 degrees outside. All it takes is a simple spark from static electricity near the gas and...boom. It does happen, hence the signs that say "shut the car off." It gets plenty cold in New England and even here most people shut their cars off. It does take that long to fill up. I don't think you're supposed to mix synthetic with fossil oil..plus synthetic leaks more than easily than the natural stuff. But by far the dumbest thing you did was to try and add oil with no funnel, while it was gassing up and while it was running. Anyway, good luck getting it fixed, and hopefully learn to keep it off while filling up :P

DF-it's fine to mix the oils-it's not going to hurt it.....

Sadly, I've seen quite a few people not use a funnel while pouring...then you see the car smoke on the way out... :rolleyes:

Personally, I shut my car off-I've seen fires at gas stations before...thank god-nothing serious ever happened...

Though I have to laugh, all the stories I hear abour Lumina abuse and the fact that they keep running...this is the 3rd one in two

months...just crazy..

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Croc    268

Again, how many explosions have you heard of from people filling up while their car is running.

Yea and how many times do you hear about rollovers? Yea, they don't really happen :rolleyes:

Seriously, I don't care how cold it is...shut the damn car off! You've already been driving around in it, so it's warm inside. Leave the car, shut the door, and all the heat will still be there when you're done filling up.

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Bryan    0

that's not always true, croc, say you live 4 blocks down the street from your gas station like I do, and you wait until the morning to get your gas, and you get there and your car just starts to blow hot air and boom you gotta turn it off and sit in the freezing car, rather than letting the car warm up WHILE getting gas, that's called multitasking.

and by the way, I smoke and keep my engine running while I get my gas filled by other people cuz I live in Jersey.

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1. Yes... I've seen a fire resulting from a car running while it was filled up.

2. I've heard about #1. about a half dozen times

3. Most places around here have a LAW against gasing up with a car running.

4. If you break rule #3. you can get fined

5. Using regular oil when the car was switched to synthetic is VERY BAD!

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scharmer05    0

Yea and how many times do you hear about rollovers? Yea, they don't really happen :rolleyes:

Big difference. We respond to about 30 rollovers a year on the fire dept and quick response. Never once have we responded to a gas station fire. I even asked some guys around here who have been fire fighters for 15+ years and have never either. I'm not going to worry about shutting off my car, I would rather not freeze my ass off.

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mightymouse    1

1. Yes... I've seen a fire resulting from a car running while it was filled up.

2. I've heard about #1. about a half dozen times

3. Most places around here have a LAW against gasing up with a car running.

4. If you break rule #3. you can get fined

5. Using regular oil when the car was switched to synthetic is VERY BAD!

Agree with all...I usually yell at people with smokes....I see a lot of 'em.

5. not true

I've been blending synthetic and petrol based oils for many years with very good results.

I have disassembled and rebuilt many abused engines. Both have advantages and drawbacks...

You can buy SAE rated blends, and it's pointless to dump synthetic into a leaky oil burner anyway,

just a waste of money.

Edited by mightymouse

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Cremazie    11

You guys are just full of good news eh? Why would you get rid of the car? Wouldn't replacing the wires be enough? And honestly, I know you're supposed to turn off your car when you gas up, but let's be honest here. In the Midwest, in winter, 90% of the people in any given gas station are gassing up a car that is running. I guarantee you that morning there were some 12-15 cars gassing up there, and they were pretty much all running. Doesn't make it right, or smart, but hey that's life.

Ok, I work in Northern Alberta. The Temperature up there is normally around -30c and I tell you that some people do run their cars while filling but I have seen police officers talk to people doing it. I believe that it may be illegal, if it is not.. it should be!

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ocnblu    733

Yeah, and the cell phone thing again. All the gas stations around here have signs prohibiting cell phone use while filling up, but I see so many dipwads just gabbing away while they have the nozzle in their tank. It would be cool to see one of those immolations like we've seen in the security camera videos.

If you have no warning lights on in the dash, I would just replace the burned wire and keep on enjoying that Lumina. Is that the 3.4L DOHC, or the 3800 engine?

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tdellaringa    0

If you have no warning lights on in the dash, I would just replace the burned wire and keep on enjoying that Lumina. Is that the 3.4L DOHC, or the 3800 engine?

Just to follow up - no warning lights and I took the car in to get the wire (singular) replaced that was damaged. It ran fine for a few weeks, then I got the service engine light. Guy put it on the machine and said I simply needed a tuneup. So he tuned it up, complete new set of wires and plugs and it runs fine. There was more than one damaged wire, and both had pretty significant areas where the insulation had been worn or torn away. No idea how it got that way in the first place.

The guy also claimed I had Bosch platinum plugs in the car, which are the "worst plugs you can put in your car" for some reason. He said Bosch are normally fine except for those. I had never heard that. He said they simply don't perform well...

Ocnblu - this is the 3800 engine, not the 3.4. The engine at this point runs really strong, the only issues being at certain speeds (like around 50ish) it will hesitate at times. But in general the pickup is still good.

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ShadowDog    15

Give the bay a good once-over. You found a bad spark-plug cable, which is good; however, check all the lines and hoses (especially any vacuum lines).

People also don't think beyond their noses when it comes to other reasons why a vehicle should not be running while pumping fuel. Besides the common sense of explosive ignition, leaving a running vehicle unattended provides for un-insured theft, inadvertent entry of a drive-gear causing injury and property damage, the lovely aroma of death-inducing carbon monoxide...

Oh, there's more!

At our service stations, we provide full-service, and nothing annoys attendants more than the following when it comes to whiny-ass people wanting to keep their engine running:

1) the poor attendant has to suck on exhaust fumes all day;

2) when trying to wash the windows (lifting the wiper blades) the driver forgets to turn off the intermittent mode, and damage is caused as the attendant has a hold on the blade (it happens more often than you'd think). The odd thing is, the driver gets mad because they're ignorant enough to believe it's the attendants fault;

3) attendants have finished pumping, set the nozzle back on the pump island, but don't have time to screw the cap on and close the filler door because the stupid driver looks to see the nozzle being put back and thinks the attendant is done, then drives away. Then the driver phones all pissed off, wanting a new gas cap, because they believe the attendant forgot to put it back on;

4) drivers pull in and get mad when the attendant asks them to shut their vehicle off AFTER the driver has asked to have their oil checked;

I'm sorry, with as much as attendants have seen go wrong due to ignorant and stupid people, they deserve better than to be treated like $h! just because someone is more concerned about getting into a cold vehicle. Christ, stay at home then.

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