By Jeff Walker, Chubb Collector Car Insurance
Fire–not collision–is the greatest threat to your classic car.
All it took was an overloaded circuit to spark a fire that damaged more than 20 classic cars in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, the fire was confined to the ceiling tiles and insulation, but nearly every car in the facility sustained damage.
Whether you keep one classic car in your home garage or several collectibles in a larger facility, they could be at risk. But you can take a few simple steps to reduce the danger to your four-wheeled treasures. Here are a few to consider:
- Clean up: Is your storage space well maintained or is it cluttered with flammable or combustible materials like lumber, cardboard, gasoline and oil?
- Fire Extinguishers: It seems like a no-brainer, but you should make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher in the garage. Make sure the extinguishers are rated for oil, grease, gasoline and electrical fires. Also ensure the extinguishers are easily accessible.
- Wiring: How old is the building and its wiring? Ensure there are no exposed wires and all electrical outlets/fixtures are in good working order. Extension cords and other electrical equipment should be unplugged and stored when not in use.
- Smoke Alarms: Your garage or facility should have them. It’s even better if the alarm is monitored by an alarm company. An independent smoke alarm is as good as none at all if it’s not heard.
- Fire Suppression: It may not be practical for your home garage, but if you’re looking for a storage facility, ask if it has sprinklers or an equivalent system.
- Battery Chargers: Keep an eye on these devices. Float chargers are meant to be left on a battery, but consider unplugging them when away from the car for a long period of time. Consider removing the battery and maintaining it somewhere else for long-term storage.
- Evacuation Plan: If the project car that doesn’t run is parked in front of the roll-up door, how are you getting the rest of the cars out of the building? Make an evacuation plan. Even if you only have one car in the home garage, make sure you can get it out quickly. Choose a smart, safe place to store the keys to your cars.
- Safe Maintenance: If you like to work on your car, consider disconnecting the battery before work begins, especially when changing fuel filters, fuel pumps or other components of the fuel system.
Your storage solution is unique, so your precautions will be unique. It’s a wise idea to speak with your insurance representative and see if they offer any loss control or storage advice. Certain insurance carriers offer free facility inspections which may include infrared thermography that can help locate hidden hazards like faulty wiring or leaking pipes.
[Source: Jeff Walker; photo: Tim Scott]
Just read your article entitled ‘Avoid a Classic Car Cook-Out’ on the sportscardigest.com siite.
I am editor of our Michigan Fiero Club newsletter and will include reference to it in the next edition.
Thank you for a well thought- out article.
I know a fellow who lost his prized historic racer when an old radio he’d had on while working on the car caught fire when he went to lunch. By the time he saw the smoke and flames coming from his garage it was too late to save the garage and car.