How does a motorcycle catch fire? Avoid these 6 reasons

By Arif

Motorcycle caught in fire

It is a common sight to see a bike backfire but how does a motorcycle catch fire out of nowhere? Is it technical, intentional, or occasional? Anything is possible.

Motorcycles catching fire is a rare scenario yet, they do get ignited due to some causes that could be hazardous and put your life in danger.

So, what are the causes of motorcycles catching fire? This is what I will answer in this post.

How does a motorcycle catch fire?

A motorcycle can catch fire mainly due to fuel leakage and playing with its exhaust system.

Some of the other causes include electrical shorts, accidental crashes or slips, lack of water in the radiator, and in some cases bad temperature or weather conditions.

We will explore the causes further and see what exactly happens to your mean machine before it starts to blow away.

Needless to say, we will also look at the measure and tips that can help you prevent fire and protect yourself.

Is your motorcycle leaking fuel?

If yes, that’s one of the main reasons you might get caught in a messy (fiery) situation. Fuel tanks in motorcycles as against a four-wheeler are more vulnerable to fire. This is because a fuel tank in a motorcycle sits right in front of you on top of the engine.

Leakages are bound to happen owing to small crashes, loose hoses and cables, extremely hot temperatures, and occasionally corroded conditions of a fuel tank.

Whatever the reason, a short spill from the tank is enough to activate the firing instincts of an engine, headers, or exhaust pipes. It’s a deadly combination that has the potential to turn your two-wheeler into ashes.

Barring the temperature which obviously you cannot control, periodic inspection and timely maintenance can prevent fuel leakage.

A fuel tank must be taken care of regularly to avoid spillage and make sure the wirings are well connected to avoid any sparks.

The exhaust system is too exhaustive

An exhaust pipe is many bike owners’ favorite. Thanks to the noise and scene it creates. You must have seen how an exhaust pipe backfires when somebody revs up the handle.

Motorcycle exhaust

It could be deliberate or due to technical glitches but such flames from the exhaust can damage your motorcycle.

A modified or faulty exhaust system with extremely hot gases has the tendency to enter the engine which combined with fuel can cause serious flames.

One act of prevention is to avoid using aftermarket exhausts mainly the ones that are not approved or designed for your bike model.

Secondly, keep a check on the existing exhaust and perform the repairs immediately in case of cracks or leakages are detected.

Electrical shorts

Electrical shorts are also responsible to ignite a fire in a motorcycle. This can happen when wires are exposed, short out, or become loose due to poor wiring, faulty electrical components, and wear & tear.

Wires are interconnected to vital parts such as engines, brakes, batteries, etc. Continuous usage, thrusting, and vibrations can loosen the wiring grips and even disconnect them.

This is quite common if you have a motorcycle that is very old or you are running it for a long time without any service.

When the wires are exposed to hot metal parts such as the engine they may create sparks that can engulf the whole motorcycle in minutes.

It is important to check the condition of your motorcycle’s wiring on a timely basis. Make sure to go through the wires and check for any loose ends, or frayed, worn, or torn connections. Unfused and over-fused circuits are another instance that generates sparks.

If you discover any issues fix them immediately. Take help from a professional technician in case you are not aware of the process. This will avoid wrong connections and even save you from getting hurt from short circuits.

Accidents and falls

Accidents and falling from the bike could be terrifying. If you escape unhurt from a fall or accident that means you are lucky. However, your motorcycle may not be that lucky.

There are many instances where bikes caught fire immediately after falling or sliding through. Why does it happen?

Motorcycle burned in accident

One of the main causes is leakage or spilling of fuel. In severe cases, the fuel tank is bound to take a hit during the fall which may spill and spread the fuel on your bike’s hot parts.

Sliding may rip the fuel line to the extent of flowing the fuel to the engine and making it burn in the process. The best thing to do in this situation is to get yourself away from the bike.

As a preventive measure, ride your bike smoothly. Take care of your surroundings, and keep the speed low as it helps you control the bike better in case you are going through bad roads, lots of traffic, or watery weather conditions.

Lack of water in the radiator

Do you keep your bike’s radiator thirsty? Well, you shouldn’t. Radiator’s coolness is very important as it helps your motorcycle engine remain cool from the excess heat.

An excess heat situation arises when the engine is exposed to high temperatures or continuous running. This leads to the accumulation of heat and waste energy resulting in the failure of vital engine components.

A radiator is responsible to dissipate the excess heat from the engine into the atmosphere. The only way to keep the radiator running is by filling it with sufficient water.

Lack of water reduces its capacity to simulate overheating scenarios which could result in a motorcycle engine catching fire.

Can bikes catch fire in sunlight? (Extreme weather conditions)

Yes, it is possible for bikes to catch fire in sunlight or extremely hot conditions. One of the many reasons is overheating. Now, overheating can take place in different sections of a bike.

Overheating can cause your bike’s engine oil to boil. Hot engine oil is extremely dangerous especially when it starts leaking. When the leakage spreads on the already heating parts, it spices up the situation to a bigger fire.           

Similarly, components that generate lots of heat can lead to a fire. For example, a worn-out chain generates excessive friction. Overheating can also take place due to blocked air intakes or an inadequate cooling system like a dry radiator.

Whatever reason you choose to ride a motorcycle in extremely hot weather conditions it is a best practice to come out well-prepared.

Some of the precautions include appropriate clothing, serviced and well-maintained bikes, properly planned journeys with clever stopping points, etc. Give yourself and your bike a break and avoid riding continuously in high temperatures.

Other miscellaneous reasons for a motorcycle to catch fire

Inappropriate shifting – Casual upshifting or downshifting gears is a common method used by a majority of riders. While it may not lead a motorcycle to fire directly there are mistakes adopted by the riders while shifting gears.

Shifting in the wrong mode during low speed and accelerating too high in the first gear are some of the instances that put the transmission under tremendous pressure.

Damaged transmission is also one of the reasons for overheating which extensively leads to motorcycle fires.

At a petrol pump – Why does a bike catch fire in a petrol pump? It could be your fault or something to do with the petrol pump.

Nothing mysterious here but, it’s a common understanding of how one should behave while filling the fuel at a petrol station.

Petrol is one of the most volatile and flammable liquids that should be received carefully.

Make sure to switch off the engine while filling the tank, don’t dare to smoke, avoid using mobile phones unless it’s really important, and be vigilant of your surroundings to safeguard yourself and your two-wheeler from devastation.

More importantly, fill the tank with sufficient fuel. Not too full and not too less. A balanced ratio of fuel is important to even the airflow that will avoid any combustible instances in the exhaust pipe.

An electric bike (EV battery issues) – Electric bikes have been at the receiving end of major fire issues, especially for their batteries.

In most cases, the fire occurred due to overheating of batteries. Some of the causes highlighted by the experts are overcharging. Users leave their two-wheelers on charging for the whole night in some cases overcharging them.

Overheating can also take place due to faulty battery installation, manufacturing defects, extremely hot conditions, etc.

So, if you have an electric bike ensure to read the guidelines on charging, monitor the malfunction sensors that also highlight any battery issues, and keep your bike up-to-date with timely and periodic maintenance.

Can a motorcycle explode?

Motorcycles do not explode as a whole but some of their parts like the fuel tank, battery, and exhaust system are vulnerable to explosions.

The causes of the explosion are very much similar to that of a motorcycle catching fire. Whenever you have an explosion the end result is fire. So, keeping a check on the causes of fire can avoid explosions.

Final thoughts

Motorcycles rarely catch fire but when they do it presents a situation that goes out of control. The end result is disheartening to watch your mean machine completely charred.

Fuel leakages, faulty exhaust systems, and accidental falls are the major reasons for concern. Proper maintenance, alertness, and smartness while riding a bike can reduce, avoid, and in some cases even prevent damage to your bike.

Knowing the causes and following the tips from this post will help you overcome the firing causes however if you still find yourself caught up in a bad situation the first thing to do is stay calm.

Keep yourself protected by staying away from the burning motorcycle. If the intensity of the fire is low to moderate try extinguishing it with a fire extinguisher (if available) or find nearby help to control it.

I hope you are now aware of the circumstances a motorcycle can catch fire. If you feel or faced any other incident of fire that should be included in this post feel free to leave them in the comments.

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I am the founder of TheCarPlus. As a passionate car owner and enthusiast, I offer practical solutions and insights from my own personal experiences combined with extensive online research.

The purpose of creating this website is to empower fellow car owners and motorcyclists like 'YOU' with knowledge and practical solutions to enhance your vehicle's performance and aesthetics.

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