Saturday, June 14, 2014

The day we test drove a car and it caught on fire

So, for those of you who follow me on Twitter, you've probably already gotten the sense that Andrew and I had an interesting Saturday afternoon.

To start, we're planning to buy a new car. We love our Smart car, but it's 6 years old, and it only has 2 seats. It's great for parking around the Boston area, but crappy for giving people rides or transporting large objects (although we've tested the latter fairly thoroughly). We're looking at something small, preferable domestic made, the top choices are the Chevy Spark, and the Ford Fiesta.

Today, we test drove a Fiesta. It started out pretty well, Andrew was driving. Approximately 5 minutes into the drive we noticed something smelled a little smokey, nothing huge, but there was something in the air. We'd gone another 5 minutes and Andrew was thinking we should pull over so I could try the wheel when we noticed there was smoke coming from the front of the car. We ducked into the parking lot we happened to be passing and got out.

The smoke was still reasonably light. The sales person (who was with us), put his hand to the hood and since it wasn't too hot popped it open. The engine was covered in old leaves, twigs, etc...and flames--yes, seriously, flames.

A bystander had also pulled over (I don't know if he was wanting to help us from the start, or if he had only been planning to go shopping), and asked us if we had a fire extinguisher--we didn't. He then advised us to get away from the car saying 'car fires can go fast'. I quickly grabbed my purse which I'd left in the front seat, while the sales person headed into one of the shops to see if he could find an extinguisher.

In a matter of, I don't know, maybe 5 minutes, black smoke was billowing out from the hood, streaking up the windshield and flames flickered from underneath the car. The call had been made to 911, and all kinds of shoppers were whipping out their phones to take pictures and videos.

It was crazy.

The police arrived first, meanwhile another sales person from the dealership showed up to pick us up along with the guy we'd gone out with. The second guy seemed pretty intent on getting us out of there as fast as possible (maybe afraid we'd give the dealership bad PR?) and so we didn't get to see the fire department handle the growing blaze--which Andrew and I both would have loved to see.

And that was pretty much that. We left the dealership another 5 minutes later. We're not against the Fiesta, it's not Ford's fault that flammable material had gotten underneath the hood, but if we go back to that dealership Andrew will surreptitiously take a look at the engine before we head out for a test drive.