Blaze of glory (almost)

The short version of this story is that I was driving on the freeway on Thursday and my car’s battery caught on fire. It stayed contained and there was minimal damage to my car. Nobody was hurt. And now for the longer version:

So I was driving down the freeway in the Miata when it started acting a little bit strange. The engine would cut out for a split second and then keep going on normally. At first I figured it was just a clogged fuel filter and didn’t think much of it and kept going on my way.

It happened a few more times. Once, I could have sworn I saw the ABS warning light come on. I started wondering if the ABS system was malfunctioning and slamming on the brakes, rather than a fuel problem. The engine cuts out again and this time all of the idiot lights flash on for a split second, and then everything returned back to normal. Now I dreaded it was some kind of electrical problem.

It seemed to be a more serious problem so I decided to get off at the next exit. Just as I got into the exit lane, I lost all electrical power including ignition. I managed to coast my car all the way up the cloverleaf-style offramp on to the street, which turned out to be very fortunate for me later on.

As my car coasted to a stop, I noticed smoke coming out of trunk. At this point I thought I had a short circuit somewhere. I hopped out of the car and popped open the trunk and a cloud of smoke poured out and that’s when I saw the battery sitting there, half melted, and on fire… it was just about the last thing I expected to see at that moment.

The aftermath

The aftermath (sorry about the crappy camera phone pic)

The fire was rather small so I thought I’d try to smother it out with my car cover which was in the trunk. I managed to knock it down to about half the size and then I burned my finger either on something hot or with acid but I decided this wasn’t worth it and I dialed 911 on my cell phone and was directed to the fire department.

About a minute after I got off the phone, an unmarked police car with a couple of guys in it got off the freeway at the exit and the guy in the passenger seat happened to notice the fire. They stopped and pulled out a fire extinguisher and put out the fire. About a minute after that, the fire department arrived. Although I’m very grateful to the policemen that stopped, I’m also very glad that the fire department got there very quickly.

And that’s when I was also very glad that I managedĀ  to coast all the way up to the street — who knows how long it would have taken the fire truck to get to me if I was stuck half way up the offramp! Thank God everything happened the way it did. If any number of things happened differently I’m sure chances are my whole car would have gone up in flames. If the battery kept giving power for just a few more minutes… if those cops didn’t happen to pass by… if the fire department couldn’t get to me in time…

The cops took off while the fire fighters actually called AAA for me so I could get a tow, as my phone’s battery had pretty much died by that point. Everyone was real nice. For as big of an inconvenience as it all was, it couldn’t have been easier, haha. And I have another car anyway, so it’s not like I’m stranded now.

So that’s my exciting story for the week.

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