Tuning a car or moped ahead of the summer may seem like a carefree pastime. However, it can result in serious and life-threatening damage if not done safely. Bringing a friend along, planning ahead and staying safe when using a welder or angle grinder are the most important tips for car tuners. Last year in Finland, vehicle repairs were the cause of several dozen fires.

Henkilö ojentaa käden ulos auton ikkunasta ja näyttää peukkua ylöspäin.

– Many people do not know how dangerous it can be to operate a welder or angle grinder near a car. Petrol and other flammable substances and sparks are a violent combination, says Jarkko Sorjonen, Safety Advisor at SPEK.

Safety can be improved in many ways – and it’s worth doing so as the potential damage is significant. Sparks can fly up to tens of meters, and even a single spark can cause a fire. At worst, a car fire can threaten your and others’ lives and destroy the car you’ve been working on so hard or even burn down the building.

Five reasons why you should observe safety when tuning a car

SPEK reminds that there are at least five reasons why safety should be observed when tuning a car. A fire that breaks out while welding the car can also spread to the house or other buildings. A spark can also cause a forest fire. The fire can spread quickly if fuel is accidentally left in the tank. The resulting property damage can be significant. Insurance may not cover the damage if the tuning has been done in violation of the insurance company’s safety regulations. In addition, it is entirely possible to tune a vehicle safely.

– Planning ahead may not sound exciting, but it helps keep the car, property and your life safe. It pays off to really give some thought to safety, Sorjonen says.

Planning ahead includes removing any flammable material from the car and its surroundings, having fire extinguishers on hand and learning how to use them, and asking a friend to come along.

– When the other is busy under the car, for example, it’s the friend’s job to be on the lookout for fires. And if something happens, it’s that person’s job to try to put out the fire instead of waiting for the other to get out from under the car, Sorjonen says.

Keeping a fire watch after the work is also easier with a friend. If hot work is performed, a watch should be kept for at least an hour after the work is completed in case of a fire.

Most fires are avoidable

In many cases, a fire breaking out while tuning a car is caused by inadequate fireproofing and cleaning of the area.

When using an angle grinder, the surrounding area must be protected from sparks with a spark protection tarpaulin or cover made from sheet metal. If necessary, the protection must also be above and below the working area by covering any gaps between the floor and walls with a tarpaulin or mineral wool. When working with an angle grinder, aim the tool so that sparks cannot fly far.

It is a good idea to inspect the environment before starting work. Fires have been caused by welding sparks or splatters setting fire to oil or debris on the floor.

Also, the car’s upholstery should be removed and any petrol in the fuel tank replaced with water. The alternative is to remove the fuel tank entirely. For example, there have been cases where heat conduction in the car’s structure caused by welding has set the upholstery on fire.

Choosing the right place to work on a car is also important. In Finland, insurance companies’ terms and conditions usually ban the use of garages and carports for repairing vehicles. Hot work may not be done outside in windy weather or during grass and forest fire warnings.

– The worst offenders are car tuners who follow all the safety instructions but then leave immediately once the work is completed. This risks all the hard work going to waste. Embers can remain smouldering, only to ignite later, says Sorjonen.