ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The St. Paul Fire Marshall blames dozens of vehicle fires on the snowstorm this weekend and last December. Apparently, it all has to do with the way you try to get your vehicle out of those snow piles.

“Now cars are so low-profile that it doesn’t take very much snow before the car’s actually sitting on top of the snow and the tires aren’t doing you any good at all. They’re just spinning,” said Dan Burns, owner of Lloyd’s Automotive in St. Paul.

Burns said an engine can start on fire when you’re revving it and overheated transmission fluid overflows onto a hot catalytic converter.

“Once you get the fire burning under there, then there’s lots of things, a lot of plastic petroleum type things, to burn,” said Burns.

These winter storms have caused dozens of car fires in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The bottom line is that rocking a vehicle to get out of snow piles is a bad idea.

“If you get stuck, do your best to shovel out underneath the car as much as you can,” said Burns. “Really what you need to do is get some help, someone to push you or pull you. To just spin your tires in vain is just going to wreck your car.”

Drivers can total their car even without a fire. If the transmission fluid overflows, the engine is toast. There is a noticeable problem with shifting when the fluid is low.

Drivers can get answers to all their car problems from Dan Burns on WCCO Radio every Saturday morning at 7 o’clock.

Joan Gilbertson, Producer
Contact Joan

Comments (5)
  1. Backyard Mechanic says:

    “If the the transmission fluid overflows, the engine is toast.” Does that mean that if the engine itself runs out of oil, that the transmission is toast?

  2. Backyard Mechanic says:

    So, your’e telling me that that the transmission will overflow if I rev my engine?

  3. Master Certified Technician says:

    Sounds like they misinterpreted their information. The part about spinning your tire too much and over-heating the transmission is true, and yes it can blow fluid out of the vent tube(actually fairly common). The part about your engine being toast is wrong. It wont necessarily do any damage to the engine if the transmission over heats and vent on to it. If it starts on fire of course it will do major damage but the damage you will more likely cause from overheating the transmission and spinning your tires like that is to the internal transmission parts (clutches, bands, gear sets, electronics differential etc… possible torque converter damage which is a unit that transfers power from the engine to the transmission)

  4. Michele says:

    I wish people would also take the time to brush the snow off the TOPS of their cars. If I were an employer, I’d take note in my parking lot of all the employees who didn’t bother. If they’re too lazy to clean their cars and prevent a possible hazard of flying ice, they’re probably not going to be too proactive in the work place.

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