It is time to plug in the vehicle for many of us when it gets really cold at night.
A Calgary man warns to check electrical cords before plugging-in.
On Nov. 14 around 11 p.m., someone knocked on Andrew Newton’s door and said his garage was on fire.
Newton ran outside to find his 2003 Ford Winstar on fire inside.
“There was some flame and there was quite a bit of smoke coming out from the undercarriage on the driver’s side because the tires were already starting to burn,” said Newton.
He called 911, and the fire department put out the fire before the garage burned down.
They traced the fire to the block heater cord in the vehicle.
“We had some maintenance done about a month, or month-and-a-half, ago and we actually called the guy that did some work on it, and he said he hadn’t looked at the block heater at all,” said Newton.
“But he said he has heard of block heaters causing issues like that before.”
There are not any statistics on block heater fires in Calgary, but according to investigators, exposed or frayed electrical cords cause most fires.
Many auto shops include them on a winter inspection checklist, but mechanics say beyond that, they’re ignored.
Over time, salt, water and heat from the engine can damage the connections, and the older the vehicle, the greater the potential for damage.
“Just over time and continual use plugging in, the cord becomes frail and brittle over time and they can break,” said Dave Dansereau from Lad’s Auto.
“They get closed in hoods and the cord gets broken. We’ve seen them pulled out from somebody forgetting to unplug them, and they get yanked on and then they get pinched.”
Newton is still waiting for the insurance company to settle his claim.
He said when he gets a new vehicle, he will check the block heater connections regularly.
According to the fire department, drivers should only use extension cords designed for outdoor use when plugging-in their cars outside.