The safety benefits for having a car extinguisher were recognised 100 years ago when Pyrene introduced the first CTC (Carbon Tetrachloride) canister in 1912. The effectiveness of CTC in suppressing flammable liquid and electrical fires meant they were often fitted as standard to many vintage vehicles and are still sought after today by vintage car enthusiasts and vehicle restorers albeit now only strictly for show.
When you stop to think your car contains a host of materials, including flammable liquids like petrol and oil, solid combustibles such as hose lines, plastics and upholstery that provide a ready source of fuel for a fire. A car also has many potential sources of heat capable of igniting these materials including electrical equipment and evermore complex wiring with the potential to short circuit, hot exhaust systems, air bag detonators and batteries. Even the heat of the engine is sufficient to ignite fumes from leaking fuel lines.
Although most car fires originate in the engine compartment the passenger compartment is not immune. My daughter once had a close encounter with disaster when she left an empty coke bottle in the back seat on a clear sunny day. The bottle acted like a prism and the concentrated sunlight burnt a neat track in the roof lining of the cab. She was fortunate the concentrated rays were not directed at the newspaper and magazines adjacent the bottle.
There are many other practical safety reasons to carry a car fire extinguisher particularly if you are holidaying in a caravan, out for a picnic or camping when statistically the risks of accidental fires are at their greatest. Having a fire extinguisher to hand may prevent a minor fire from getting out of control.
The lethal gases produced as a consequence of using the Pyrene CTC extinguishers sealed their demise a long time ago and they were quickly superseded by modern versatile dry powder and foam fire extinguishers both of which are effective on flammable liquids and solid combustibles. The dry powder extinguishers have added advantages as they can be used safely on fires involving live electricity and also flammable gases like butane.
Extinguishers are available in convenient sizes to fit unobtrusively in your car. The compact 600g disposable aerosol extinguisher is small enough to fit in a glove compartment whilst the 1kg dry powder fire extinguisher with refillable canister can be mounted in a door tray, on a cabin side strut or out of sight in the car boot.