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Carburetor Cleaner Fire

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Carburetor Cleaner Fire



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Michael Fox, PhD.



Carburetor Cleaner Fire

An automotive worker was using an aerosol carburetor cleaner to help clean part of an engine when the metal container somehow short-circuited. The resulting spark vaporized two holes in the aerosol container, one in the top and another in the sidewall. The holes released the highly flammable contents under pressure, which were ignited into a fireball that injured the worker.

Hole in the aerosol container

Chemaxx was asked to explore alternatives that would have prevented this unfortunate incident.

The Chemaxx research revealed three packaging alternatives that would prevent automotive short circuits. One of the alternatives would have cost less that the at-issue aerosol, another would have been about the same cost, and a third would have added some modest cost. However, the third alternative combined three levels of protection against automotive electrical short circuits and is readily available, off-the-shelf technology.

Chemaxx's research included live spark tests, using a 12-volt battery, on the at-issue container as well as the alternatives. The live spark tests recreated the fireball scenario seen in the accompanying photo and documented the safety of the alternatives.

Considering the risk inherent in the use of flammable aerosols around automobile engines, the use of safer, readily available packaging appears to be warranted.

Fireball during test. (Press Play Button)

Dr. Fox is a fire expert, explosion expert and chemical expert with extensive experience in OSHA, EPA and DOT chemical regulations and chemical safety.