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Dealing With The Aftermath Of A Fire-Damaged Car

Firefighters train on a staged car fire in Union Vale, N.Y.

Fire is an all-consuming substance that can rapidly wreak havoc on motor vehicles. Faulty wiring is a crucial contributor to car fires, as are certain mechanical failures, malfunctions and collisions, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

If your vehicle has undergone a fire, don’t lose hope just yet: A fire-damaged car can sometimes be repaired and returned to service. Here’s a look at how to evaluate your vehicle and the steps to follow to get it back on the road.

Firefighters train on a staged car fire in Union Vale, New York Notify Your Insurance Company

Before you consider repairability, contact your insurance carrier to begin the claims process. If the damage is the result of a car accident, then it should be handled under collision coverage.

If the fire was the result of a noncollision loss, such as a wiring defect, then comprehensive coverage may protect you. In some situations, another party’s insurer may cover the cost of repairs, especially if that party was at fault.

Once the claims agent makes a determination, you’ll know whether the car is salvageable. If it isn’t, there is no need to consider the following steps.

2. Make a Repair Assessment

Once your insurance company determines that the vehicle is repairable, you’ll have to decide whether to make the repairs yourself or go to a body shop. If the damage is light, you may be able to handle the work yourself.

Keep in mind that the chemicals from fire extinguishers are corrosive to the vehicle and irritating to your skin. At a minimum, vacuuming the interior and washing seats, surfaces and carpets is in order. Further, smoke damage requires the use of an odor remover. In some cases, you may have to gut the interior or at least replace specific parts. If the wiring was a factor, a certified technician should handle the work, especially if your vehicle is under warranty. The electrical system powers everything, including your audio, navigation and telematics systems, so it’s best left in the hands of a trusted professional.

3. Estimate Your Costs

Repair costs may very well determine how you’ll proceed next. Your insurance check represents the payout minus your deductible — funds you’ll use to fix your fire-damaged car. If there are other repairs, such as to your garage where the fire started, you must also take their cost into consideration. Here, you may find it more effective to handle at least some of the work yourself, such as using a pressure washer on the garage and applying a fresh coat of paint to it. Then, you can turn the major car repair work over to an expert at your local NAPA AutoCare.

4. Start the Repairs

If your fire-damaged car is fixable, then initiate the repairs. That said, you may discover that your costs are higher than estimated. Here, you should reach out to your insurance agent for a claims adjustment. Sometimes, the insurer will reevaluate your claim and pay you more. In this situation, having estimates in hand is always important to support your request.

Once the repairs are complete, ensure that your vehicle is road-ready before signing off on the repairs. You should also know that such damage becomes part of your car’s history report and could affect its value when it comes time to sell.

Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on repairing a fire-damaged car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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