Fires destroy billions of dollars worth of property every year. Don’t let your car be one of those casualties, or worse, let your car be the start of another state destroying wildfire. Grab a fire extinguisher to keep in your vehicle and be the hero the world needs.
This guide will help you find and buy the best fire extinguisher to keep in your vehicle. We’ll start with a short guide, then hit you with our recommendations. We’ll finish this article with a big in-depth guide that includes tips and tricks to help keep you safe.
- Pulling the Pin on Extinguishers
- Top 10 Best Car Fire Extinguishers 2021
- 1. Best Overall: Amerex B417
- 2. Best Premium: H3R Performance HG100C
- 3. Best Budget: Kidde FX511
- 4. All-Purpose Backup: First Alert EZ Fire Spray
- 5. Most Powerful: H3R Performance HG250B
- 6. Best for RVs and Campers: Kidde 210
- 7. Best Basic Extinguisher: First Alert Auto5
- 8. Best Fire Suppression System: Lifeline Fire Marshal
- 9. Best Extinguisher Backup: AKSIPO Fire Blanket
- 10. Fire Extinguisher Alternative: AFG Fireball Mini-Fire Extinguisher Ball
- The Big Guide to Fire Extinguishers for Your Car
- Stay Safe
Pulling the Pin on Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are not complicated devices. They are pressurized containers that are full of stuff that can put out a fire. There is a lot of variety in how they work, the type of material they contain, and the container’s size.
Why You Need One in Your Car
Before we get to breaking down all the specifications, let’s talk about why you need one. It’s an emergency tool that most people are familiar with, but it can help motivate you to take the plunge and own one to see the reasons listed out.
- Your car is worth a lot of money; statistically, it’s the second most expensive thing you own if you own a house. If you don’t, it’s the most expensive thing. A fire extinguisher is a very cheap insurance policy.
- If you enjoy camping or overlanding, you should have an extinguisher on hand for cooking fires/stoves. This is especially important when camping in a rooftop tent.
- You can save someone else’s car or property if you are driving along and see a small fire.
- Keeping one in your car will ensure you always have a backup for your house, shop, or wherever you are.
- In some off-road parks, racetracks, and autocross events, they are required.
The Different Kinds of Fire Extinguishers
There are three main properties of a fire extinguisher. Those categories are the type of fires they fight, the amount of fire they can put out, and how they operate.
ABC vs. BC
The extinguisher’s rating determines what fires they can put out. We’ll go over the different types in greater detail in the in-depth guide after the reviews. There are only two types you should be considering for your car: type ABC and type BC.
Type ABC extinguishers are more general and can extinguish most fires. In contrast, type BC is specialized for electrical and liquid fires. BC extinguishers can extinguish most fires that can start in a car and tend to be smaller than ABC extinguishers.
There are a few different ways to measure the size of an extinguisher. The most straightforward way is simply to measure the physical dimensions. That will determine where they can fit into your car and how big of a fire they can put out. Typically, a bigger extinguisher can put out a bigger fire.
The other way is by expressing the amount of material that the extinguisher holds. This can be done with a number rating or by weight. We’ll go over that here, but the gist is the bigger the number, the bigger the fire that can be put out.
The typical fire extinguisher is a metal cylinder with a trigger on it. When you squeeze the trigger, it fires a chemical powder in whichever direction you point it. There are new innovations in fighting small fires, though, and that gives you some options. An aerosol fire extinguisher, like this one, works like a can of cooking spray. They are very compact and easy to use.
There has also been a rise in the popularity of extinguisher balls. They are slightly larger than a baseball, and all you have to do to put out the fire is to throw them into the flames. They trigger as soon as they heat up to a certain point, which causes them to explode into a cloud of fire retardant. We recommend this one if you are interested in this new technology.
How to Choose an Extinguisher
There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you are looking for an extinguisher to buy for your car.
- Price: Price shouldn’t be a primary factor, but we understand that budget is a major consideration for most people. Just remember that your car is worth a lot more than even the most expensive item on our recommendation list.
- Size: You will have to balance the amount of space you can dedicate to the fire extinguisher with how big a fire you can expect to put out. Keep in mind when mounting an extinguisher, the mount will also take up space.
- Ratings: An ABC extinguisher is better if you ever expect to put out fires that are outside your car; like a brush fire started by a hot exhaust or out of control campfire. However, if you are on a track or in a city, a type BC is likely a better choice.
- Rechargeability: Extinguishers expire over time. They also run out of juice after you use them once. Only some can be recharged, though. Many are one-time use only, which is fine as long as you remember to replace them after they expire or run out.
- Operation: A fire extinguisher should be easy to use. You don’t want to be fumbling with pins or complicated directions while a fire burns. The operation depends mostly on the quality of the extinguisher and the type of extinguisher.
With the basics out of the way, here’s our list of the best extinguishers you can get for your car. We outline what we think is good, what we think is bad, and give our thoughts on how they compare to others.
1. Best Overall: Amerex B417
This is your everyday standard fire extinguisher. It’s big enough that it can put out moderately sized fires, and the ABC rating means that you can rush in and put out everything from fuel fires to burning plastic.
This is an extinguisher that won’t let you down. It has all metal parts, has the tried and true “pull the pin and squeeze” firing mechanism, and holds enough suppressant that you can miss for a while as you work your way towards the fire. Plus, it’s one of the least expensive rechargeable extinguishers on our list, so it will last a lot longer than anything cheaper.
The downside is that it’s not car specific, so you have to get creative with the mounting. The easiest thing to do is to pick up a simple mount like this one. Although, if you are a hardcore off-roader or want a smaller extinguisher that looks great with your custom car, get the H3R HG100C instead. It comes with a fancy car mount.
If you are on a tighter budget and need something that will work in a ton of situations, then this is a great extinguisher to pick up.
- Good for most situations
- A bit on the large side
- Not specifically meant for mounting in a car
This is the extinguisher you buy if you want to mount it on your Jeep’s roll bar and have people stop and compliment your preparedness. It’s on the expensive side, but it looks great and is one of the most reliable fire extinguishers on this list.
The biggest selling point, though, is that the extinguishing agent inside the polished canister is specifically designed to be safe for paint and electronics. Unlike most extinguishers that are corrosive, you can put out a small fire with any H3R extinguisher without causing even more damage to your ride.
The first thing to note is that this thing is small. It’s only got a 1B rating, which is 1/10th the size of some of the other extinguishers we recommend.
The good news is that even though it’s tiny, it’s refillable. It’s the best extinguisher you can get if you only plan on ever needing it for your car. It’s not the best for solid fuel fires, but it absolutely will put out the electrical fire that starts when you pinch a cord and short your lightbar out.
Many off-roaders and track day hobbyists get around the size and lack of A rating because they also carry around something like the aforementioned Amerex ABC. You just take the Amerex out and leave it in the pits or at camp so it does not weigh you down on the track, and leave the smaller, more portable H3R attached in a convenient spot.
- Small and easy to mount
- Looks great
- Non-corrosive agent is safe for paint
- A bit expensive
- Not good for brush fires
3. Best Budget: Kidde FX511
This is a small, single-use fire extinguisher that comes with its own mount. You’ll probably want to replace the mount unless you have a spot on the floor for it because the straps aren’t the best, but for the price, it’s hard to complain.
That low price is what makes this a perfect extinguisher for new drivers, daily commuters, or anyone else that simply cannot justify spending a ton of money on an extinguisher. It’s small and cheap, but it’s only a BC, so you won’t be rushing into any burning buildings.
The Kidde fire extinguisher has a metal nozzle, a long handle and a gauge. That makes it easy to use and to tell when it needs replacing.
These single-use extinguishers are really more of an emergency tool than the bigger and more expensive extinguishers on our list. They are something you have and hope you don’t need, unlike units like the H3R extinguisher, which you take with you if you are sure something will catch fire. That means they are easy to forget about until you actually need them, so they have to be foolproof. This Kidde extinguisher fits the bill.
- Easy to use and understand
- Compact and lightweight
- Included mount isn’t very good
4. All-Purpose Backup: First Alert EZ Fire Spray
This list is for extinguishers to keep in your car, but really you should just have a few of these cans with you anywhere. They are so small and lightweight that you can even take one with you in a backpack and have an extinguisher available for your motorcycle.
They are perfect for anywhere that space is limited, like a dorm or a small car. They are also great as a backup to your primary extinguisher. They come as a two-pack, so throw one in your kitchen and one in your car, and you’ll always know that there is a way to put out a small fire.
These cans are really neat. They look and work just like a can of spray paint. You just point at the base of the fire and press down on the top. If you have children that might struggle with pulling a pin and hauling around a heavy extinguisher, they can absolutely use these to save your car if you are otherwise unable to.
The biggest downside is that they cannot replace a primary extinguisher. They are way better than nothing, especially as a car accessory, but they are more fragile and less effective than something like the Kidde Auto extinguisher.
You also have to get closer to the fire for them to work well. Plus, the initial blast of aerosol can make the flames bigger for a second before the extinguishing agent can work its magic. As we said, though, having one of these is still millions of times better than not having a fire extinguisher at all, and they are convenient enough that there’s no excuse. Between these cans, the general-purpose Amerex or the fancy H3R, there is something that fits your lifestyle.
- Incredibly easy to use
- Very compact and lightweight
- ABC rating makes them good for anywhere you could be
- Can be a little bit scarier to use compared to a traditional unit
- They do not have the same level of firefighting capabilities as a traditional unit
5. Most Powerful: H3R Performance HG250B
The HG250B is the extinguisher you buy if you expect something to go wrong. It’s the extinguisher you buy if you are about to go on an overlanding trip for weeks on end with your group of off-roading friends and you know that the new lights your best friend installed on his Land Cruiser are cheap junk lights that are a violent sneeze away from bursting into flames. It’s the extinguisher you buy if you are about to race in Gambler or Lemons, and it’s basically a requirement for anything that has Lucas Electrical components.
In short, you get this fire extinguisher because you know that you will probably have to use it, so you value the phenomenal build quality, rechargeability, and extra size more than you value saving a few dollars.
It’s easy to compare this H3R extinguisher to the other, smaller one on our list here. They are both great quality units that you can count on, and they both come with their own vehicle mounts that are fine for most applications. They also both have the same anti-corrosion material inside, so your electronics and paint are protected if you have to use them.
The HG250B is more expensive, but it holds almost twice as much material. You can also use it from further away; the extra pressure and material mean you can be much further back and still extinguish the flames. Oh, and it’s black instead of chrome, but that’s probably not a deciding factor. They both will look amazing bolted to your roll cage, especially in the eyes of the safety tech at the track.
- Non-corrosive agent is safe for paint
- Might be too big for small cabins
6. Best for RVs and Campers: Kidde 210
Physically, this is the biggest traditional fire extinguisher on our list, even though it does not hold the most fire extinguishing agent. It includes a long rubber hose for pointing the agent right at the base of a fire. It’s too big for small cars. You’d have to keep it in the trunk, and that adds minutes to a process where you only have seconds to take action.
However, if you have an RV, van, or other larger vehicle where you can safely mount and haul a larger extinguisher, it’s great. Especially in an RV or camper where you are a lot more likely to have wood or cloth burning, and an auto-specific BC rated extinguisher would be inadequate.
There are many good reasons to have a big extinguisher with you, but the most significant advantage is that you can put out bigger fires. If you go camping and your camp neighbor lights their tent on fire, you will be adequately equipped to prevent the forest from burning down. It’s also rechargeable and all-metal, so as long as you check on it once a year, you can just leave it in your RV at all times and know you can spring into action at any time.
The size is the biggest downside, though. It’s really just a bit too large for most vehicles to carry around. In addition to the size, it’s on the heavier side at 7lbs. That can make it a bit more intimidating to use, and it can be harder for many people to keep it directed at the source of the fire. The hose is meant to mitigate that issue, but you have to hold the entire weight one-handed.
- Big enough to put out larger fires
- Good for extinguishing most fire types
- Too big for many cars
- A little unwieldy
7. Best Basic Extinguisher: First Alert Auto5
This little extinguisher doesn’t have a gauge. It can’t be refilled, it’s only good for small fires, and it has a plastic pin.
It’s very cheap, though. If you were using cost as your primary excuse to not carry a fire extinguisher, now you don’t have an excuse. These First Alert extinguishers can be found anywhere and sometimes go on sale for less than $10. That’s cheap enough that even if you would rather your car burn to the ground than try to put out a fire, you can at least have this extinguisher to put out the embers and prevent a wildfire.
There’s really not much to say about this extinguisher. It is about as basic a unit as you can get. In fact, even the aerosol spray bottles here are more high-tech. The simplicity is the point with the First Alert, though, and anyone who is even passingly familiar with a fire extinguisher can pick it up and use it.
Just make sure to get some Velcro or something to reinforce the car mount it comes with.
- Very small
- Comes with a car mount
- Very inexpensive
- Mechanisms are plastic
- Not rechargeable
8. Best Fire Suppression System: Lifeline Fire Marshal
Type: AFFF (BC)
We will be honest; if you don’t know whether an entire suppression system is for you, it’s not for you. The H3R chrome extinguisher will add more street cred to your ride, costs a lot less, and is perfectly adequate for meeting track safety standards. Get that one if there’s any question in your mind.
The Lifeline Fire Marshal is a complete kit for AFFF that comes with two emergency chords. It’s not ethanol rated, and you’ll need to source more tubing. However, it will install easily on your bracket car and will allow you to pass spec at most events.
This is an entry-level professional racing system. It’s not the cheapest kit, but it’s far from the most expensive. The big reason to go with this kit over the cheaper kits is that it comes with a bottle that’s big enough to make sure you have time to get out of wrist restraints and a tethered Hans device. That’s all you NHRA types who have vehicles that are hard to get out of.
Like we said above, we just wish the kit came with a bit more. You’ll need more tubing for sure, and the straps that hold the bottle in place use bolts instead of clamps, which can be a pain. It’s a great price, though, and you’ll get everything you need to stay safe at your next event.
- 10lb bottle gives you plenty of fluid
- Complete kit with eight nozzles
- Inexpensive for a large system
- They don’t include enough tubing
- Requires a lot of skill and knowledge to install
9. Best Extinguisher Backup: AKSIPO Fire Blanket
Type: Fiberglass Blanket
A fire blanket has a few advantages over an extinguisher. First, they don’t expire. You can buy one today, and it will still be able to put out fires in twenty years. Second, they can work in situations where an extinguisher won’t. If you have a fire caused by something that can produce its own oxygen or the source is hidden from you, you can throw the blanket over it and at least stop the flames from spreading.
They really can’t replace the safety of an extinguisher, though. You have to get right up close to the fire and drape the blanket over the flames. That’s a tall order for anyone. What you should do is grab a fire blanket to have on hand as a backup. If you discharge the entire extinguisher and the fire is still going, or if your extinguisher is so old it expired, you’ll have the blanket on hand to mitigate the damage.
A fire blanket is just something that everyone should have on hand. This pack comes with two of them, so you can have one for your garage and one for under the seat of your car.
If you are not inspired to get a pretty chrome extinguisher, or you are just too intimidated to use a big pressurized container, get a fire blanket to keep in your car. It can buy you enough to get you and your family away from the burning car.
- Doesn’t expire
- More compact than any extinguisher
- Very straightforward to use
- You have to get very close to the fire to use it
- Not as effective at extinguishing fires as an extinguisher
10. Fire Extinguisher Alternative: AFG Fireball Mini-Fire Extinguisher Ball
The best way to use one of the ornaments is to hang them where you think fire might start. Hang one near your car’s battery just in case things short out, or hang it on your Christmas tree since burning trees is one of the most common ways people lose their homes during the holidays. They even look like nice ornaments; it’s a win-win.
You can also lob them at a fire like a grenade. That’s how you make the coolest YouTube videos.
These exploding extinguisher balls are some of the newest firefighting innovations on the market. They are ridiculously easy to use, ultra-compact, and can instantly stop small fires. This particular one from AFG is a little on the expensive side. There are some knockoffs that claim to function the same way and are much less expensive. However, AFG has a pedigree that we trust enough to recommend.
Just like any other non-extinguisher on our list, though, these are really better thought of as a backup. There are many situations where a typical extinguisher is a better tool. The biggest drawback to the exploding ball is that you get one shot to put the fire out. If the fire comes back at all, you will be out of ammo.
We would never blame anyone for wanting a cool new piece of technology, especially when it can prevent fires you wouldn’t see until they already did a ton of damage. If you do love new, innovative things like this, we have two suggestions. The first is to buy one of the knockoffs too. These ones from AFO cost a lot less, and you can experiment with it, so you know exactly how they work. The second thing is to buy a cheap extinguisher like the small Kidde we recommend when you experiment with the knock off and don’t get it quite right.
- Very easy to use
- Can be placed proactively
- They can put out fires much faster than a traditional extinguisher
- You only get one shot
- They are more expensive than many traditional systems
The Big Guide to Fire Extinguishers for Your Car
What Causes Automotive Fires?
The best way to avoid your car burning down isn’t to have a great extinguisher. It’s to prevent the fire from starting. These are the most common ways that cars can start fires and how to avoid them.
- Bad electrical connections or improperly sized wires can heat up quickly and catch fire. Make sure your fuses are correct, that your wire gauges are adequate, and that you use the right connectors for the amperage.
- Broken oil and fuel lines can drip flammable liquid onto hot surfaces and catch fire. Make sure your hoses and lines are in good condition and replace leaking fuel connectors as soon as possible.
- The components of your exhaust system get very, very hot. Many grass fires are started when people drive over dry plants that come in contact with the hot exhaust. Avoid driving over tall grass and other flora, especially if it’s dry.
- Dragging components like trailer chains and broken body pieces can cause sparks to fly everywhere. Make sure nothing on your vehicle is touching the ground except the tires.
How to Put the Fire Out
First, always be sure to read the instructions on whatever firefighting device you purchase. Make sure you are familiar with the device’s operation so you can focus on fighting the fire and not the extinguisher. Here is a really good article on how the fire extinguishers actually work. Knowing how they work can help you understand why you have to do things like aim at the base.
Once you understand the instructions, just remember PASS.
- Pull the pin
- Aim at the base of the fire
- Squeeze the trigger
- Sweep back and forth
Take a Class
The best thing you can do is take a class on using a fire extinguisher. Taking a class can get you hands-on experience and do a ton to build confidence. Many fire departments offer free classes, so it’s easy to spend a weekend learning how to keep your livelihood safe.
The Types of Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are rated by the amount of fire they can put out and the type of fires they are meant to put out. You can read about them in detail and see the more obscure types here. We’ll talk about the three most common ratings.
Type A fire extinguishers are for solid fuel fires. That just means stuff like paper, grass, wood, etc. The numeric rating for an A fire extinguisher represents the amount of fire that can be put out, with one “A” having the same fire stopping ability as 1¼ gallons of water. This means that a 4A extinguisher can put out the same size fire as a 5-gallon bucket of water.
Unfortunately, this is not a hugely useful measurement since most people don’t know how much of a fire you can put out with a gallon of water. Just know that a bigger number means it can put out a bigger fire.
Type B fire extinguishers are suitable for putting out burning liquids. This is probably the most important class for cars since cars contain many flammable liquids like gas and oil. Class B’s numeric rating makes a lot more sense than class A’s rating. It’s simply the amount, in square feet, of fire that it can put out. A 1B extinguisher, which is very common for in-car units, can put out 1 square foot of burning area.
Type C simply means that you use it to put out a fire that is caused by, or energized by, electricity. It’s a rating added to other types of extinguishers that means the contents are not conductive.
ABC and BC
Like we said in the quick guide, the two you want for cars are ABC and BC. That’s because cars have electrical components, and they have a lot of flammable liquids. Being able to stop a gas or electrical fire is the most important thing a car extinguisher has to do.
Rechargeability and Expiration
All fire extinguishers eventually expire. They will have a date printed on them, and once they are past the date, they need to be recharged or replaced. If your extinguisher is rechargeable, you can take it to a fire department or call the manufacturer to see where to go to get it recharged.
Some extinguishers, like the chrome H3R, include their own high-quality mount. Other extinguishers, like this First Act, include a car mount that is just ok. Many don’t include a mount, so you will have to get creative. Here are some very common mounting solutions.
- The most common car mount looks like this, and is usually attached with a few screws within arms reach of the driver. It can be installed using the seat bolts, so the most common place to install them is right under the passenger seat.
- A simple strap mount like this one is perfect for people who have roll bars or external mounts. The Velcro holds the extinguisher securely, so it’s a great option for anyone that doesn’t want to add holes or bolts to their car.
- A MOLLE panel can be installed in your car and used to attach all sorts of things. They are commonly used for attaching rifles and other hunting gear, so it’s easy to attach wall mounts or custom brackets for fire extinguishers. They come as open grid styles, like this one, or full of Velcro and nylon, like this one.
Car fires are incredibly dangerous, both for you and anyone in the area. We hope we have inspired you to carry a firefighting tool in your car. You can be the hero of the day when you jump out of your car and put out a smoldering fire on the side of the road, and you can save someone’s life when you extinguish the fire building under the hood of a car that was in an accident.
At the very least, you can put out the small electrical fire caused when your friend decided to plug 100 different battery chargers into the 12v outlet at once. Just make them pay for the replacement.