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Thread: FIRE DANGER

  1. #1
    Senior Member murcie-me's Avatar
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    FIRE DANGER

    I have heard that the Fiero's had a problem with engine compartment fires. Does anybody know what causes this? Is it just a matter of heat build-up, or is it a mechanical or electrical issue?
    On the build I'm doing now, I've installed 2 fans to vent the engine compartment when the engine is running. One is at the front of the engine, blowing the heat up through the louvered hatch, and the other is at the rear of the engine blowing the heat through the rear grill. They run the whole time the engine is running and shut off when you turn the ignition off.
    Does this sound like a good preventative measure, or is it pointless.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member EVM_Rob's Avatar
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    Re: FIRE DANGER

    It sounds like if a fire does break out it will have plenty of air But seriously, I have had 2 Fiero engine bay fires. Both were on 4cyl cars. One problem was they put the starter so close to the exhaust on the 4cyl cars the extreme heat coming off the header would burn all of the insulation off the starter wires. They mostly just burned off and get toasted but if they actually catch fire itís a bigger problem because they burn everything above. My other fire was in the wiring harness near the battery. Your best defense is good insulation between your wiring and heat sources. Another symptom that you may be have starter wire issues caused from exhaust heat is that on a hot day of driving when you park the car and turn it off it wont restart again until it has cooled off a little. And by not starting I mean it wont even turn over because there is no power. Thatís because that wire is getting roasted while you drive and it wont be long before it burns in two, or worse yet, starts an engine fire. Hope this sheds some light on the issue. After one wire burning in half on one car and the harness catching fire on another I tend to insulate things to excess. Better safe than burned to a crisp.

  3. #3

    Re: FIRE DANGER

    Most noteable cause and part of the recall way back when was leaves and such falling into the engine area from sliding off the engine deck. Heat the car up, leaves catch fire .. also dont park over top of combustables -- like a pile of leaves.
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  4. #4

    Re: FIRE DANGER

    as far as i know, the 84's had a defect that made them very prone to fires (a wire ran above the exhaust under the car and would sag and eventually melt off the insulation then short out) but other years also suffer from poor ventilation. here in CA ive run across a number of fieros where the wiring in the engine bay has loose or sagging insulation from constant heat buildup, which is kind of a disaster waiting to happen, and it's probably from hot weather combined with slow freeway driving / traffic leading to some hot engine bays. i'd highly recomend an engine lid fan or 2, and maybe other ones below as you can fit them. air flow in a fiero/mr2 is from under the cabin into the engine compartment and out the top through the lid (which is why the fiero glass will heat up alot sometimes).
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  5. #5

    Re: FIRE DANGER

    The "official answer" for the potential for the engine fires in the Fiero (mostly 1984's), at least concerning the NTSA and Dealer Recall Investigations are the following:

    <paste>

    Total production of the Pontiac Fiero over all 5 years was 370,168.[4] Regarding the number of cars which suffered an engine fire, we have the following two references, one from NHTSA and one from Pontiac Division.

    "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...said it has received 148 complaints regarding [Pontiac Fieros catching fire] including reports of six injuries...Low levels of engine oil may cause a connecting rod to break; allowing oil to escape and come into contact with engine parts. The oil would catch on fire when it contacted the exhaust manifold or hot exhaust components...David Hudgens, a GM spokesman in Detroit... said, 'If you ran out of oil, and then that coupled with some aggressive driving perhaps, and maybe not changing the oil very often, you end up with a broken rod, and that's where the connecting rod came in, it is still the owners responsibility to check the oil.' "[5]

    "GM tests have shown that running these 1984 cars with low engine oil level can cause connecting rod failure which may lead to an engine compartment fire...Pontiac is aware of 260 fires attributable to the condition, along with ten reported minor injuries."[6]

    The larger of the two reported numbers of cars with fires (260), amounts to 0.07% of Fieros produced. The fires affected almost exclusively the 2.5 L engine, and mostly 1984 models. (Note that there may have been additional occurrences after the above reports were published.) The primary cause of engine fires was a batch of poorly cast connecting rods which failed when the oil level became too low. The faulty connecting rods were produced in GM's Saginaw plant. The theory is that the sports car styling attracted buyers who would drive the car hard, most notedly over-revving the engine. Another factor was the three quart oil capacity, and perhaps a leaky valve cover gasket which would allow the oil level to decline over time to a dangerously low level. If the proper oil level was not maintained, the bearings could seize, snapping the porous castings of the connecting rods resulting in punched holes in the engine block, thus spraying oil onto hot exhaust components where it could ignite.

    Most vehicles existing today have been serviced by GM during one of the safety recalls on the car. On the fire-related recall, shields and drip-trays were added to prevent leaking fluids from contacting hot surfaces. The presence of drip shields between the engine block and the exhaust manifold are a good clue that the car was retrofitted. The addition of the longer AC Delco PF51 oil filter and a re calibrated dipstick added extra oil capacity to the oiling system, and enabled running 4 quarts of oil in the crankcase instead of 3 quarts to help prevent oil starvation to the rods. Certain vehicles had their connecting rods or entire block replaced.

    Another theory is that some fires may have been due to the engine wiring harness being located in the center of the engine bay above the exhaust manifold, where the heat could theoretically melt and ignite the wiring. Also, the 1984 model had a magnesium grille over this area. In later models, this was improved to some degree with much better heat shielding wrapped around the wiring harness.

    A third cause of fires was due to the method used to cast the engine block and possibly over-torqued head bolts. Some engines developed cracks in the block that would leak coolant and/or oil, sometimes accompanied by broken head bolts directly above the crack. The leak would spray coolant or oil onto the hot catalytic converter and exhaust manifold located at the front of the engine compartment resulting in fire. This was the cause in several cases.
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