BMW E36 – Mounting a Halotron Fire Extinguisher in my Car

Time to think safety! With all the modifications that I’m making to my car (including an engine swap with external oil cooler) and the hard racing that I’m putting it through, I really want to keep the E36 from burning to the ground if something goes wrong. With that in mind, I’ve decided to mount a fire extinguisher in the passenger compartment of my car within close reach of the driver or passenger.

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After some research on a few different fire extinguisher manufacturer websites, I’ve come to the conclusion that a Halotron I based extinguisher is right for my situation. Here are the reasons why:

  • Halotron I is BC class rated
    • Class B: flammable liquids-gasoline, oil, grease, acetone
    • Class C: electrical fires, energized electrical equipment fires
  • Per the Amerex, leading fire extinguisher manufacturer, website: “Halotron I clean fire extinguishing agent discharges as a rapidly evaporating liquid, which is non-conductive, non-corrosive, and leaves behind no residue. “
  • Also: “Ideal applications for these extinguishers include: data centers, laboratories, manufacturing plants, general office areas, computer rooms, telecommunication facilities, clean rooms, control rooms, warehouses, military electronics, vehicles including classic autos, boats, engine compartments, aircraft ramps, onboard aircraft and in facilities that service aircraft and any facility where dry chemical extinguishers could cause unacceptable damage or contamination.”

If you’re not interested in the technical details about why I chose the Halotron I based fire extinguisher then feel free to skip ahead!

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H3R Aviation, the largest supplier of portable clean agent fire extinguishers to the aviation industry, describes why using a normal ABC fire extinguisher (like found in most people’s homes) is probably not the best idea in a confined space or around things that you don’t want to coat in a layer of chemicals:

“Three of the most common types of extinguishers are dry chemical, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Dry chemical extinguishers are typically marked with a letter rating (AB, BC, ABC) that denotes which classes of fire they are capable of extinguishing. These types use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant. The second type, a water extinguisher, uses water and compressed gas and should only be used on Class A (ordinary combustibles) fires. The third type is a carbon dioxide extinguisher. These are most effective on Class B and C (liquid and electrical) fires. While these common types of extinguishers are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, none of them are recommended for aircraft use.

One reason dry chemical extinguishers should not be used in an aircraft is because they’re highly corrosive on metals such as aluminum and tend to produce a blinding cloud of dust when used in a confined space.

The FAA and NFPA strongly recommend the use of portable Halon (Halotron I) fire extinguishers in all aircraft. Halon is a liquefied, compressed gas that stops the spread of fire through chemical combustion. It is recommended for aircraft use because it doesn’t emit a blinding cloud of dust upon use, and it won’t damage electrical equipment. Its low toxicity and chemically stable compounds make it safe for human exposure, and because it stops the spread of fire through chemical reaction, it doesn’t displace oxygen from the air surrounding the fire.

While Halon (Halotron I) fire extinguishers may be more expensive than other types of extinguishers, the safety benefits and non-corrosive nature make it worth the extra cost.”

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Alright, with the background of why I chose a Halotron I fire extinguisher out of the way, let’s get to what I specifically purchased and how I mounted it in my BMW E36. I chose the Amerex B385 2.5 lb Halotron I fire extinguisher with included mount:

  • The 2.5 lb size looks to be an easily mountable size in the passenger compartment
  • It has a 9 second discharge time for actually fighting the fire
  • It has a range of 6 – 10 feet
  • It includes a mount that appears to be very secure and would work well in the car
  • It includes a gauge to check pressure level
  • It costs about $100

The Amerex B385 appears to be very high quality and I’m happy with my purchase thus far.

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The mount included with the Amerex B385 is honestly better than I had even hoped:

  • It’s incredibly sturdy with solid mounting
  • Holds the fire extinguisher in place with zero perceptible movement in any direction
  • Allows for the fire extinguisher to be unstrapped and used within a couple seconds

I decided to secure the mount directly to the sheetmetal between the driver and passenger seat. Readily available sheetmetal screws should do the job.

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Here’s the area that I identified for the mount. It keeps the fire extinguisher within easy reach of the drive or passenget but doesn’t get in the way of actually driving. Once I decided exactly where to place it, I just marked all the mounting holes with a black marker.

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The next step was to drill all the individual holes in preparation for the sheetmetal screws.

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Here you can see the bracket held in place with all 9 sheet metal screws. It’s not going anywhere!

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It’s a tight fit but it works well!

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I now feel a lot safer with the Amerex B385 fire extinguisher mounted in my car. I saw a recent video of a friend’s V8 swapped BMW E30 catch fire in the engine compartment when oil got on the exhaust manifolds. They scrambled around their garage looking for a fire extinguisher to use, found one, and then blanketed the entire engine compartment in white dust. It stopped the fire but what a mess to clean up!

I was able to drive my E36 in one practice event and the fire extinguisher never budged a bit. It’s held in place very well and I see no chance that it’ll come loose when driving in events. This is crucial!

I think it’s critical to have a fire extinguisher always close at hand that will both work effectively as well as not cause further harm to the car. I now have that in place!

Links:

Amerex B385

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