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Re: Is brake fluid flammable (or: why did my car burn?)

To: MG Nuts <>
Subject: Re: Is brake fluid flammable (or: why did my car burn?)
From: Skye Poier <>
Date: Fri, 17 May 2002 10:34:09 -0700
Word on the street is Barney Gaylord said:
> The clue is that the paint is not badly singed in the carburetor side of 
> the engine bay, and the water and fuel hoses there appear to be in fairly 
> good condition (considering).  The fire was much more severe on the 
> distributor side of the engine bay, and the air cleaners appear to be 
> burned on the top but not much on the bottom.  This I take to indicate that 
> most of the fire was on the distrubutor side and was likely laping over the 
> top of the engine to burn the air cleaners and the one side of the plastic 
> brake fluid reservoir near the air cleaners more that the other side of the 
> reservoir.

I agree, definately the fire was mostly on the distrib side from the
pictures.  I'm thinking maybe it was an electrical fire though, they can
burn very hot, and if the brake fluid running through the lines near the
fire was boiling could that not also cause a soft pedal?

The thing is, usually you can HEAR electrical problems starting
(brrzzz-zap brrrzz-zap)... could you hear anything??  And you can
certainly SMELL electrical problems (bleah!!).  A short or arc would not
cause much smoke (burning insulation) but would cause plenty of heat
which could explain the lag time between the brake squishiness and

I would be curious as to the condition of the wires behind the dash, and
to the battery... although once the insulation started to melt it would
have caused a chain reaction with many shorts.

Suddenly I'm even more glad that I have a master battery cutoff switch

> a burst brake line that started some of the brake fluid on fire.  Someone 
> please tell me the physical location of the connection of the RF brake hose 
> to the steel line, if this in inside or outside of the inner fender, or 
> maybe below the bottom edge of the inner fender (I don't have an MGB handy 
> for inspection).

If its the same as my 66, the steel line extends all the way into the
wheel well, and the rubber hose connects just off the suspension, so
there's no way a burst rubber line could have got fluid into the engine
compartment.  If a brass brake line junction failed, or the steel line
cracked, maybe

> Otherwise it may also be possible that the steel brake 
> line to the RF wheel broke somewhere inside of the inner fender.  Brake 
> fluid under high pressure spraying around the engine bay from the right 
> side could reach across the engine bay to hit the exhaust system to get the 
> fire started.  I figure it had to hit the exhaust system as it takes a 
> pretty hot heat source to cause spontaneous combustion of brake 
> fluid.  After that the bulk of the fire would go to the location of the 
> bulk of the fuel, which may have been a continuing slow leakage of brake 
> fluid from a broken line near the RF inner fender.  So how's that for an 
> educated guess?

Sounds possible, but unlikely that the stream of fluid would be at just
the right angle to hit the exhaust!  My bet is on plain old electrical fire

There would probably be evidence of brake fluid all over the bottom of
the hood if it were spraying?  Its hard to tell


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