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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I will NOT get another Chrysler Pacifica. I had concerns with the 2017 model and traded up for the 2020 model. Every model year has had the lowest possible reliability rating. I've been advised that my van should not have burned that hot and that quickly.
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I hope everyone is OK. How much time between the impact, picture 1 and picture 3? The accident doesn't even look that bad...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I hope everyone is OK. How much time between the impact, picture 1 and picture 3? The accident doesn't even look that bad...
23 minutes. I was on 2lane highway 50mph. Truck pulling utility trailer pulled out from side road & I hit front end of trailer. Fire started immediately under front of engine. Bystanders with 10 or so fire extinguishers could not put out fire. Fire department from nearest city 23miles took 30minutes to arrive but van was toast by then.
 

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Sorry to hear that, Who said it burned down too fast?

I have seen many cars and trucks burn up in less then 10 mins.

Fires from hot engines, and hot brakes take tons of water, little hand held fire extinguishers will not even put a dent in the flames. Tractor trailers, and RV's are the worst.

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I will NOT get another Chrysler Pacifica. I had concerns with the 2017 model and traded up for the 2020 model. Every model year has had the lowest possible reliability rating. I've been advised that my van should not have burned that hot and that quickly.
Been "advised" by who? An expert in auto crashes? I doubt it. These vehicles have been on the road for several years. If there were an increased fire risk, there'd have been more evidence of it and/or a recall by now. Sorry your vehicle burned up in minor a crash, but stuff happens, and fire extinguishers are rated for specific types of fire, so no guarantee whatever bystanders had should have worked here. Curious how much fuel you had in the tank? 20 minutes from a fire starting to the cabin being engulfed sounds good to me.
 

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Been "advised" by who? An expert in auto crashes? I doubt it. These vehicles have been on the road for several years. If there were an increased fire risk, there'd have been more evidence of it and/or a recall by now. Sorry your vehicle burned up in minor a crash, but stuff happens, and fire extinguishers are rated for specific types of fire, so no guarantee whatever bystanders had should have worked here. Curious how much fuel you had in the tank? 20 minutes from a fire starting to the cabin being engulfed sounds good to me.
I think an increased fire risk is possible. I'm not a crash expert by any means, but I don't think that crash testing is performed with a hot running engine. In all the test videos I've seen, the propulsion of the vehicle is provided by a cable. As a result, it's very likely that this would never have been observed during normal crash testing in a lab environment.

I have a reasonable explanation for a most likely cause of the fire based on what I see in the first picture, and the OP's description of the fire starting immediately under the front of the engine. I'm guessing that transmission fluid was ignited when it splashed on the front, hot exhaust manifold. The catalytic converters are built into the exhaust manifolds on the Pacifica, so they're significantly hotter than regular exhaust manifolds that use a separate, downstream catalytic converter. The transmission cooler is located in front of the A/C condenser behind the upper grille, so I'm sure transmission fluid was splashed all over the front of the engine during the collision. Transmission fluid also probably pooled onto the belly pan which may explain why the fire spread so fast.

There are probably other makes & models on the road that are susceptible to a similar type of fire.

If I were the OP, I would definitely report the accident to the NHTSA to have them investigate this further.
 

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I think an increased fire risk is possible. I'm not a crash expert by any means, but I don't think that crash testing is performed with a hot running engine. In all the test videos I've seen, the propulsion of the vehicle is provided by a cable. As a result, it's very likely that this would never have been observed during normal crash testing.
Standard crash testing is always done without running engine and everything at a set temperature (I think it was about 70F). The vehicle is sitting at that temperature for long enough that essentially everything is at that temperature. Fluids are either just drained or replaced with non-/less flammable fluids. However any fluid leaks are noted and reported to assess fire risk.


Another interesting collection of vehicle fire data:


Here is some somewhat recent research of timing of vehicle fires, based on which I think 23min. is on the longer side of such events. My guess is that the fire extinguishers slowed it down.

 

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Just be glad everybody is okay but you may wa to to just give up driving because any frontal impact with a motor has potential for ignition . Anytime you have combustible fluids and a igniter the potential is there. Any vehicle you buy that has been impacted in a collision has potential from ice to electric , care in point below . Just be glad the vehicle did what it was supposed to do and everybody is okay .
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First off I glad that, after a 50 mph crash, you're able to post about it on here. I hope that everyone else involved is OK.

The tailgate on the Pacifica is made of magnesium and aluminum. Magnesium is known to burn hot.

As for the theory posted above on the catalytic converters, Honda has used that design on their J35 and J37 engines for at least 12 years. The first catalytic converters bolt directly to the engine. If it was a known risk, one would think we'd have heard about it on the Odyssey, Accord, Ridgeline & Pilot, as well as the Acura MDX, TLX and RDX.
 

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Been "advised" by who? An expert in auto crashes? I doubt it. These vehicles have been on the road for several years. If there were an increased fire risk, there'd have been more evidence of it and/or a recall by now. Sorry your vehicle burned up in minor a crash, but stuff happens, and fire extinguishers are rated for specific types of fire, so no guarantee whatever bystanders had should have worked here. Curious how much fuel you had in the tank? 20 minutes from a fire starting to the cabin being engulfed sounds good to me.
I agree.

If this is normally how this van responds to front end crashes, this would be much more well known by now.
 
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For ANY car, once the flames reach the interior, the fire will intensify rapidly and burn furiously due to all the plastic materials. I don't think the person who advised you that the Pacifica should not have burned that hot or that quickly knows what they are talking about.

Back in the 80's, I pulled over to help a stranded motorist. There was what appeared to be white steam coming out from under the hood. The white turned to black smoke and flames could be seen under the hood. I think the overheated engine resulted in a fuel leak that started a fire. I emptied a fire extinguisher to no effect. Once flames started coming through the defroster vents, the car was fully engulfed in fire in a matter of a couple minutes.
 

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There are 185,000 vehicle highway fires in the U.S. annually. It’s not actually all that rare an event. I’d say the OP is unlucky in that his car burned, but also misinformed that it is any riskier than any other car the road. Always consider the source when evaluating statements such as “it burned too fast.” Do they have the expertise and experience to state such a thing with authority? If not, then that opinion is worth what you paid for it.
 

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I'm not entirely comfortable that it took a relatively minor accident to set the van on fire. The burn time seems to be average, it gave you an ample opportunity to exit and get away. Cars go up in flames fast, only Teslas can smolder for hours.
 

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There are 185,000 vehicle highway fires in the U.S. annually. It’s not actually all that rare an event.
but how many vehicles are there in the US?

Do the math.

Wait a minute--how many vehicle miles per year do we travel? Do the math on that as well.

I'd say 185K vehicle fires is statistically a low number.

Now let's dig in and see how many of those fires are new cars vs, say, 5 or 10 year old cars. Well maintained vs never maintained. Etc, etc.

The pure number of 185,000 looks big. But it really isn't.
 

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but how many vehicles are there in the US?

Do the math.

Wait a minute--how many vehicle miles per year do we travel? Do the math on that as well.

I'd say 185K vehicle fires is statistically a low number.

Now let's dig in and see how many of those fires are new cars vs, say, 5 or 10 year old cars. Well maintained vs never maintained. Etc, etc.

The pure number of 185,000 looks big. But it really isn't.
I don't completely disagree with you, but I think you're looking at it with too wide of a scope. I think a more relevant analysis would be the to look at the fire to accident/collision ratio. In other words, look at only the vehicles involved in collisions, not at all vehicles on the road.

185,000 fires per year may be statistically low, but that doesn't necessarily make it a rare occurrence either. "Rare" in and of itself is a relative term that's subject to what each person considers to be rare. So there's that too.

Just so I'm clear, I wasn't trying to imply that the Pacifica is significantly more dangerous or more likely to incur a fire during a collision than other vehicles. Obviously, there are many other vehicles on the road that are designed and built similarly, and thus, have the same risks. The way I see it, there's always an inherent risk of an accident when driving. No degree of precautions, safety equipment, redesigns, etc. will ever completely eliminate the possibility of such an occurrence.
 

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I will NOT get another Chrysler Pacifica. I had concerns with the 2017 model and traded up for the 2020 model. Every model year has had the lowest possible reliability rating. I've been advised that my van should not have burned that hot and that quickly.
Thanks for your input. It is kind of hard to believe that you bought another one after the first when you knew it had a reliability rating of zero (which would be the lowest possible, right?). Maybe if you had been advised that it should have burned "that hot" (which was how hot exactly?) and that quickly, or maybe at a lower temperature and over a longer period of time?
 
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