Escaping a fire can be one...
Escaping a fire can be one of the scariest moments of any driver's life. Proper installation of your fire bottle is essential to ensuring you can exit quickly and safely. Todd Ridgeway
As a driver, there's no greater fear that I have than trying to get out of the car while it's engulfed in flames. Every racer has seen those videos of drivers who panic while trying to get out of the car and then end up with second- or third-degree burns. I always find myself saying while watching those videos, Why aren't you pulling the fire extinguisher?
I would venture to say that most drivers don't give a second thought to how well their fire bottle is installed. Most people have the mindset that as long as it will pass through tech then it's fine with me. The problem with this type of thinking is when the worst happens and you go to rely on your fire extinguisher, it may or may not work. Take a few hours and make certain that your fire bottle is installed properly so you don't have to worry about whether or not it will extinguish a fire.
Choosing the right fire bottle is the first decision you have to make. To the naked eye, any fire bottle will do, but you need to choose the right one for your type of application. The system that is being installed in our Circle Track project car has a 5-pound bottle designed for two ports which we decided would be sufficient for our application. The two-port setup will allow us to have one port in the fuel cell area and one by the driver's seat.
First things first, make certain...
First things first, make certain that whatever fire bottle you are installing is reading in the green. If the bottle has dipped into the red at all, it will not pass tech and needs to be recharged.
If, however, we were running an 850hp, alcohol-burning, Outlaw-style Late Model, I'd feel more comfortable with three extinguisher ports. The third one would be placed in front of the firewall near the fuel pump to give maximum protection from the invisible fires associated with alcohol-based fuels.
If we had installed a three-port system, we would need a 10-pound bottle since the 5-pound one won't supply enough pressure to fire all three ports.
The placement of the fire bottle is crucial as well--I wanted to put it as low as we could and as far left as possible. Fire bottles can weigh up to 10 pounds and that's weight you can use to help with your setup.
Next, we're inspecting the...
Next, we're inspecting the firing mechanism. It's made up of two safety pins and a pull-style firing pin. Both safety pins will have to be pulled before the firing pin can be released. The safety pin showed here is the one attached to the bottle. We'll pull it before each race to "arm" the extinguisher and then replace it after the race so it doesn't get accidentally triggered while in the shop.
The installation is key to making certain that the bottle will work properly when the firing mechanism is pulled. Each fire bottle is made up of the bottle itself, a gauge, and the firing mechanism. We've already talked about the bottle, so let's discuss the gauge. The gauge tells you whether or not your fire extinguisher is properly charged. If the gauge is reading in the red at all, you need to have the fire bottle recharged. Don't take any chances.
The firing mechanism is made up of two safety pins and the firing pin. When that pin is pulled or activated, it will shove a sharp piece of steel through a thin sheet of metal allowing the fire extinguisher to release its chemicals.
Most fire extinguishers work to smother the fire by removing the oxygen out of the immediate area. This is why you don't want to point the extinguisher port at the driver's upper body. You won't be able to breathe when it goes off.
To avoid this situation, we placed the port in the driver's compartment where it will shoot my lower torso. This will protect my upper torso as well, but it will do so while still allowing me to escape the vehicle. Now follow along as we inspect and install our fire bottle the proper way.
The firing mechanism will...
The firing mechanism will screw onto the fire bottle and when the firing pin is pulled, a sharp piece of steel will puncture this thin piece of steel shown here.
The fire bottle is now in...
The fire bottle is now in place where the firing pin and gauge are both accessible from the driver's door. The brackets we used for the installation were purchased from Leavitt Racing Components out of Mooresville, N.C.
On most asphalt cars, the...
On most asphalt cars, the norm is to put the fire extinguisher behind the seat. There's no rule in our series that says it has to be behind the seat though. But the placement of the fire bottle should be a concern for your team. It could weigh up to 10 pounds and that's weight you can use to help with your setup. We tried to keep the fire bottle as low as we could and attached it as far left as possible.
Now we have to install the firing mechanism in a location that will be easily accessible to the driver. The easiest place to do so on most vehicles is the dash. But the leg braces on the seat will work as well. To do this, we unscrewed the firing mechanism and drilled a 3/8 inch hole into the dash.
This is a perfect location for the firing pin. Notice how we have taken a zip tie and wrapped it in duct tape. This allows the driver to pull the safety pin and the firing mechanism easily.
Now we need to install the rear and front extinguisher port. We'll use a splitter that will push the chemical to the driver's seat and the rear of the car. Here's everything that we will need. You might notice that we have two different types of splitters. The bottom splitter and fitting is a compression fitting. The top fitting is a flare-style fitting. Both have advantages, the compression fitting doesn't require you to flange the 1/4-inch pipe. As you tighten the nut on the pipe, the compression ring will seal to the extinguisher port. Whereas with the flare-style fitting, you'll have to flange the pipe, but it will seal extremely well to the port and splitter.
Next, we'll measure out how much line we'll need. Then we'll cut and flare it.
Once measured, we'll use a small pipe cutter to make a clean cut through the 1/4-inch pipe.
With the pipe cut, we need to bend it to keep it flush against the floorpan. We just follow the bender here and put the 90-degree bend in it that we need.
The bends came out perfect, and now we just need to drill through the rear sheetmetal to the fuel cell and then hook up the splitter.
We found a spot that will work perfect for the port. Once we drill through the sheetmetal, we'll measure our line again, cut and angle it, and then attach our flare fitting.
We need to put our nut and the flare in the right order so that we can flange our extinguisher line.
This tool will allow us to flare the pipe without damaging it.
Make certain that the flare tool is centered in the pipe and then tighten it up. As it tightens, it will expand the pipe.
The bend and the flare came out great. Now all we have to do is attach the pipe and then secure it to the sheetmetal.
Here's what the port looks like from the bottom of the fuel cell. It's pointed directly at the fuel cell in case the worst happens.
Finally, we'll take several small securing brackets and rivet them to the sheetmetal every 5 inches or so. This will ensure that the line doesn't break or move during an accident.