Prius Caught on Fire

Discussion in 'Gen 4 Prius Main Forum' started by Kremtok, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. Kremtok

    Kremtok Smug Alert!

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    Greetings,

    I hope you've had a better day than I have!

    [​IMG]

    First off, there were no injuries and property damage is confined to my detached garage, so thankfully we still have a place to live.

    The car was parked in our garage overnight and plugged into a block heater on a plug- timer. We had no indication of a problem until I went to take my daughter to preschool and head off to work.

    For now, the preliminary cause has been determined to be electrical and the local fire department investigators have zeroed in on the block heater. A full investigation into the cause is ongoing; the insurance company is hiring a specialist to fly up from the Lower 48 and he / she / they will work with the local fire department to get answers. I'll be sure to share them with you all.

    My reason for posting this, however, is to ask a couple of questions. Any insight you all can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    • Are you aware of any incidents where a 2016 Prius has caught fire while parked?
    • What type of block heater is installed in the 2016 Prius?
    • Are block heaters typically installed by the dealership, at the port, or from the factory?
    • Have there been any recalls that affect the block heater or the electrical system?

    I think that I know the answers to all of these questions, but I also know that there are those of you out there who are a lot smarter than me and who follow these things a lot more closely. These were questions that I was asked today and couldn't definitively answer, so I'm looking to you all for insight.

    Thank you kindly for your time.
     

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  2. drysider

    drysider Active Member

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    I think a more important question is was yours installed at the factory or by a dealer?
     
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  3. Lucifer

    Lucifer Senior Member

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    The 16 Prius c has a block heater available from the factory, not the hatchback, where did you get it, is it aftermarket, was it installed by a dealer?
    Obviously,as the factory doesn't offer one...
     
  4. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    wow, glad you're okay!
     
  5. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    AFAIK they're never installed at factory. It would be much easier, for sure.

    A little late, but I believe if you measure resistance across the prongs it should be around 30~40 ohms. I'll check and update. And yeah, doesn't mean much now.

    Could've also been the extension cord or timer too.

    Was it parked outside, I'm guessing yes? One plus!

    That's terrible to see, still: good everyone's ok!
     
  6. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Are there exceptions for cars sold into the Alaska market?

    I guess sometimes the regional distributor will put in certain accessories, before passing the car on to dealers.

    -Chap
     
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  7. Zythryn

    Zythryn Senior Member

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    Very glad everyone is ok!
    Are you the original owner?
    If so, is that information should be in your paperwork?

    I have never heard of a factory installed block heater. However, I can't say for certain if yours was installed at the dealer.
    Can you contact the dealer and get the info from them?
     
  8. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    I'm glad that you and your house are OK!

    The rest?
    Insurance claim, obviously.
    It'll sting a little but it will heal, financially.


    ANSWERS

    • Are you aware of any incidents where a 2016 Prius has caught fire while parked?
    No, and I'm guessing that this isn't the G4s fault.
    • What type of block heater is installed in the 2016 Prius?
    Aftermarket.
    • Are block heaters typically installed by the dealership, at the port, or from the factory?
    For your sake I hope it was a dealer installed option. That way somebody can be on the hook for insurance deductibles and increased rates. You'll want to give the chance to make the dealer make it right before you hire a slimy, bed-wetting, bottom-feeding attorney.
    See what your state's small claims ceilings are and try to get the FD to render a "car caused fire" ruling.
    • Have there been any recalls that affect the block heater or the electrical system?
    Not OEM.....Not the factory's problem.
    You could threaten them with an NTSB beef, but I'm thinking that everybody's going to be thinking block heater.

    Sorry!

    See above:
    "I'm glad that you and your house are OK!"
     
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  9. MichelleStone

    MichelleStone Senior Member

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    Not a good day. That looks terrible! I'm glad no one was hurt.
     
  10. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    What do you mean by "aftermarket"? I do know the Toyota Prius block heater is very proprietary, a Toyota product with part number, shown on the Toyota Canada website. You can buy the part or specify it as an accessory when "building" a new car purchase. It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all item.
     
  11. Kremtok

    Kremtok Smug Alert!

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    As I said, I think I know the answer to this but I'm not certain. I have left a message for the service manager at the dealership where I bought the car and hope to hear back soon.

    It was on the window sticker and everything!

    Yes to your first question. I hope to hear back from the dealership soon, but part of asking the community here is to have some other perspective to compare it to. You know, kind of like a 'trust, but verify' situation.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

    You're right about the insurance and that kind of makes any legal action on my part unnecessary. My insurance company is going to make me whole, then they can fight whoever they need to in order to recoup their losses. I won't really be a part of that.
     
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  12. Zythryn

    Zythryn Senior Member

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    Did they determine where the fire stated?
    If it stated under the hood I would think block heater.
    If started at the outlet, wiring.

    I am not positive, but I believe the sticker may have a section for factory accessories and another section for dealer add one.
    It is, as I recall, in small print.
     
  13. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    It means that I might be wrong about the heater being a non-OEM item.
    It happens occasionally.

    People caught on to the old 2nd and third party sticker scams and so some car builders offer their customers (the dealers) the option of having non-optional options added to the "factory sticker."
    Our hardware stores don't do a brisk business in selling snow shovels, and so I was unaware that Toyota has a proprietary block heater.

    If we now think that the block heater IS an OEM item and it DID cause the fire, then you need to immediately contact the dealer, Toyota Care, and also file a report with the NHTSA.
    File a Vehicle Safety Complaint | Safercar.gov | NHTSA

    Unlike contacting Toyota Car
    e, which is about as effective as writing to the jolly old elf at the North Pole (a neighbor?) lodging a legitimate NHTSA report can actually accomplish something since many cars are parked in garages that are attached to houses that people SLEEP in.
    We've already demonstrated that I lack a proper understanding of block heaters, but I'm just guessing that they're used more often at night than during the day, and many people also sleep at night which is a bad time to not discover a fire.
    (Yeah, I know. It's ALWAYS night this time of the year in the frozen North.)

    Good Luck!
     
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  14. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    @Kremtok : how long approximately was the block heater plugged in? My aim is usually 2 hours. 1 to 1.5 hours is ok, anything over 3 hours I start getting nervous, would be inclined to unplug it. That said I believe it'll just plateau, but not sure about all the components. The one thing I've seen warm up a bit too much is the connection at the extension cord, and/or the extension cord itself.
     
  15. David Beale

    David Beale Senior Member

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    The block heater is a "Toyota Part". Developed for Canada as I understand so maybe you can sue us. ;) It's installed at the dealer from my understanding. It slides into a hole in the block with heat conductive grease on it. I won't use one because -I- think they overheat and damage the cord that is connected at the heater. In Alberta, they "come with the car". You can't delete it (but you WILL pay for it!). But Pearl S came from B.C. and the cooperative dealer I bought her from agreed to not install it and not charge me. GIII but probably the same deal with the G4.

    I haven't heard anything from Toyota Canada about a fire risk, and with every Prius in Alberta having one you'd think we would experience the problem before anyone else, but there aren't that many Prius in Alberta. PUs and SUVs rule here! BTW, most other "block heaters" these days are the same type. Don't see the "immersion" type that go into a frost plug anymore.

    Presuming your wiring is to code, the most likely thing is the cord melted and started the fire before the AC actually shorted, tripping the breaker.
     
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  16. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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    likely a "port installed" option. I know for the Prius v, apparently factory-installed Remote Start is less expensive than the port-installed version.
     
  17. Kremtok

    Kremtok Smug Alert!

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    The investigation is on hold until an expert from the Lower 48 arrives on Monday, but it was definitely at the front of the car, not the outlet.

    That's kinda the insurance company's job, is it not? Your point is fully valid and that's my primary motivator for cooperating with the investigation and sharing the results here, but we really don't know the exact cause as of yet so to contact any government agency would also be premature.

    Reality Check - Am I wrong on this one?

    Plugged in since 1300 Wednesday, timer set to turn on at 0500 and shut off at 0800. I didn't check when the timer turned off but I know that the fire investigators documented it.

    Is your experience with the warming connection just your own observation? Have you seen it documented elsewhere?
     
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  18. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    Just personal. The extension cord connection was starting to go bad, corroding, which in turn increased heat when in use.

    In your case, the cord was clear of the automatic grill shutters? Just thinking.
     
  19. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    Our Honda's over the years were often on a frost plug location, immersion style. The last one, an 06 Civic Hybrid, replaced the engine block coolant drain bolt with a similar bolt with heater element in it, so again immersion style.

    The Toyota Prius style is actually a first of that non-immersion style for me, had never heard of that method. What others are using the non-immerse style, do you know? Maybe some North American??
     
  20. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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    Of course not! The shutters closed, cutting the cord. :eek:
     
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