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Car Fire Extinguisher Requirements in the UK

Having a car fire extinguisher at hand can save lives in the event of a fire, so it’s always a good idea to have one available at all times. Although in the UK carrying a fire extinguisher in your vehicle is a legal requirement only for PSVs (Public Service Vehicles) and large trucks, it is advised that you have one in your private car too. This is especially true if you have a caravan, camper truck or a van, as you would spend long periods of time in this type of vehicle. 

What is the best car fire extinguisher? 

Choosing a car fire extinguisher can be confusing, even more so if you have never had to do it before. So, we decided to share a few expert tips to help you find the right fit: 

  • Remember dry powder fire extinguishers are best for vehicle fires
  • Look for a fire extinguisher with a BC or ABC rating
  • Check the certification: your car fire extinguisher should have a BSI Kitemark and a CE/UKCA Marks 

The most popular car fire extinguisher manufacturers include Kiddle who are famous for their compact options and Thomas Glover – a brand that sits at the lower end of the price range.

Also, a car fire extinguisher usually comes with a mounting bracket to prevent it from rolling around while you drive. 

What type should a vehicle fire extinguisher be able to extinguish?

According to the fire classification commonly used in the UK, there are six common fire classes.

  • Class A: Flammable solids (e.g. textile, wood, paper, etc.)
  • Class B: Flammable liquids (e.g. engine oil and greases (excluding cooking fats and oil), petrol, diesel)
  • Class C: Flammable gases (e.g. natural gas, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas))
  • Class D: Flammable metals (e.g. magnesium, sodium, potassium)
  • Electrical fires: Fires ignited by live electricity  
  • Class F: Cooking fats and oils (usually kitchen fires)

Three of those are more likely to happen in a car, caravan or similar vehicle. Those are:

  • Class A Fires – Flammable materials, such as paper, wood or plastic
  • Class B Fires – Flammable liquids, including car fuel and machine oil
  • Class C Fires – Flammable gases, commonly found in gas cylinders

The common type of fire extinguisher that is effective for extinguishing all of the above fire types is the dry powder variety. This makes it a perfect fit for any vehicle. 

What size fire extinguisher do I need for a car fire?

The main differences between car fire extinguishers and normal fire extinguishers is the size. Vehicle fire extinguishers are designed to be easier to store and carry, so they are more compact. Yet, in terms of fire fighting capabilities, they are as efficient as the normal ones. 

Car fire extinguishers have to be small enough to be easily transported in your vehicle at all times without taking an unreasonable amount of space. The size requirements and recommendations vary depending on the size and type of the vehicle. 

For small cars a 1kg or 2kg fire extinguisher is sufficient. Sometimes, even a smaller (600gr) option could be available. As for vans, caravans, camper vans, you should get at least a 2kg fire extinguisher as they are bigger vehicles and your fire extinguisher may potentially have to cover a larger area. 

If you are looking into getting a fire extinguisher for a truck or another delivery vehicle, special ADR regulations apply. You are legally required to comply with those ADR requirements, so please make sure you check them thoroughly before buying a car fire extinguisher. 

Where should I keep my car fire extinguisher and why? 

The best place to keep a fire extinguisher in your car is in the boot where it is held in place by a special mounting bracket. If your car fire extinguisher is left loose in the boot, it will roll around as the car moves, which could damage it and it could lead to an accidental discharge. That’s the kind of mess you don’t want to have to clean. 

It may sound counterintuitive to keep the fire extinguisher in the boot as opposed to in the car because it’s not as easily accessible. However, the fact that you have to get out of the vehicle to get to the fire extinguisher is actually one of the main benefits of keeping it there. Being out of the car is safer for you when you are dealing with a fire incident. Since being in a traumatic situation often can prevent people from thinking clearly, being forced to get out to get the fire extinguisher is actually a good thing. It could save your life. 

Furthermore, the majority of serious accidents are caused by a head-on collision, which means there is little danger of your fire extinguisher getting damaged in the process if it’s kept at the back. The only time when this could be inconvenient is if someone hits your car from behind. 

Are you legally required to have a car fire extinguisher in the UK? 

No, in the UK private motorists are not legally required to have a fire extinguisher in their car. Yet, you should always err on the side of safety when it comes to fire protection.

Also, if you are planning a road trip to mainland Europe, you should check the individual countries’ requirements because some EU countries, such as Bulgaria, Poland and Belgium, do require fire extinguishers to be carried in private vehicles at all times. 

Company Vehicles

If you are driving a company vehicle your employer might have to provide you with a fire extinguisher. There is no rule that says a company car must have a fire extinguisher but if a risk assessment has been carried out and it has indicated that your work duties expose you to a high risk of fire, then you may be given a vehicle fire extinguisher to ensure compliance with the relevant workplace health and safety regulations. 

Commercial Vehicles & Vans 

If you’re driving a small commercial vehicle or a van that does not carry dangerous goods, it’s recommended that you get a small 2kg ABC dry powder extinguisher. It should be safely fixed with a transport bracket in the cab.

If your job includes the carriage of dangerous goods (CDG), you will be required to have additional dry powder extinguishers depending on the mass of the commercial vehicle you’re driving. For example, if your vehicle has a capacity of up to 3.5 tonnes, you should have two 2kg  ABC extinguishers – one in the cab and one somewhere else in the vehicle. 

Large Goods Vehicles (LGVs) & Trucks

Trucks, as well as large vehicles carrying hazardous materials, are required by law to have a car fire extinguisher. The type of fire extinguisher required is determined by various industry regulations, which an employer is obliged to adhere to.

According to the Carriage of Dangerous Goods (CDG) and ADR regulations, a set minimum dry powder provision is required depending on the tonnage of the vehicle:  

  • Up to 3.5 tonnes: 2 kg for cab + 2 kg
  • 3.5 – 7.5 tonnes: 2 kg for cab + 8kg (6 kg + 2 kg)
  • Over 7.5 tonnes: 2 kg for cab + 12kg (at least one 6 kg required)

Any vehicle under 3.5 tonnes carrying goods or infectious substances also requires a 2kg fire extinguisher. 

Cabs and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV)

Cabs, as well as private hire vehicles, such as Ubers, are obliged by law to be equipped with a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit. The specific type and size of the required fire extinguisher is set out by each of the individual local vehicle licensing authorities, in line with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

If you’re driving a large PHV (9+ passengers), the general vehicle fire extinguisher requirements in the UK will require you to have a 2L AFFF foam fire extinguisher. However, it’s always best to check with your local authority for any additional fire safety requirements you need to follow. 

Caravans and Motorhomes

In the past, ABC dry powder extinguishers were recommended for caravans but that’s no longer the case since the use of dry powder in a confined space carries a danger of inhalation and impaired vision. The latest recommendation is to get a small, portable water mist fire extinguisher (1l) as it can tackle A, B and C fires without leaving a mess. 

When it comes to general caravan and motorhome safety, even though you’re not legally required to have fire safety equipment, it’s always a good idea to invest in a caravan fire extinguisher, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm and a smoke alarm. You could even look into fire-resistant upholstery.

To make sure you are always prepared to tackle a potential fire in your motorhome, you should check your fire extinguisher regularly and get basic training on how to use a fire extinguisher so you know what to do in the event of an emergency. 

Racing Cars

If you are using your vehicle for racing of any type, you are also required to have a fire extinguisher as the danger of accidents is higher. 

What’s the most common type of car fire and how to extinguish it? 

Between April 2019 and April 2020, the fire authorities in the UK reported over 20,000 vehicle fires, of which 52% were accidental and 61% were car fires. 

A car fire is most likely to start in your engine due to the highly combustible combo of electrics and hot oil. If you suspect an engine fire, don’t be tempted to open the bonnet fully because that would supply a huge amount of oxygen to the fire making it burn faster. All you have to do is calmly switch off the ignition, crack open the bonnet enough to put the nozzle of the fire extinguisher inside and spray generously. 

Maintaining Your Vehicle Fire Extinguisher 

Maintaining your fire extinguisher in good working condition is crucial. The first thing you need to do is conduct regular visual inspections to make sure the extinguisher shows no visible signs of damage and that all instructive labelling is intact. For vehicles carrying hazardous goods, the label should also display the next scheduled service date. 

Annual fire extinguisher servicing is also obligatory in line with the vehicle fire extinguisher requirements in the UK unless you buy a special P50 fire extinguisher which is service-free. It also has a 20-year life span unlike most fire extinguishers, which only last about 10 years.

Also, pay attention to the manufacturing date printed on your fire extinguisher, as most will need to be replaced or refilled after a certain period (every 5 – 10 years depending on the type).

To sum up, you can buy a car fire extinguisher for under 30 pounds and we’d say it’s well worth the investment, especially knowing that it could save you thousands in damages to your car, and even more importantly – save the lives of you and your passengers.

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