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TV vs. Reality: Are cars really exploding as fast as it is known from movies and television?

Question by Wal Pool | 09/06/2013 at 21:40

When watching films in TV, on DVD or in the cinema, you can get scared of getting into any car once again in your whole life! A single shot from a small gun seems to be enough that the whole car explodes and is ablaze! The same seems to apply to cases of little collisions or if the car is gone head over heels or the car is falling down the cliffs. 

Of course, all of this is dangerous and I really do not want to sit in such a car, but I cannot imagine that a car is able to catch fire that quickly and that it immediately comes to an explosion! If that was realistic, cars would permanently burn and explode in case of accidents, but I have never seen that in reality.

Can someone tell me more about that? How realistic are the story tables of a crime film or an action movie?


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Actually, you cannot believe in all the things you can see on TV. I have seen a test where some people tried to let a car explode like it can usually be seen in movies: it was much more difficult than expected, finally it has never worked properly in the whole experiment.

The shots into the fuel tank only led to a leakage of gasoline, but not to an explosion. If fire was involved, indeed, the petrol starts burning, but again, no explosion. For this, an ideal mixture of air and fuel has to be present and ideally, the petrol has to splash in all directions when coming into contact with the fire or a spark, so that an explosion is possible. That is because for an explosion, you need a large surface, so that much flammable material meets the air simultaneously. Of course, this is not fully unthinkable in reality, but quite unrealistic.

Also the typical turning over is only possible in the movies with help from outside and bringing the car with force into this movement. This has also be done in the experiment, but also during this procedure, the car has not caught fire, even less exploded.

All in all, such an explosion is more than unlikely -even if certainly, unfavorable conditions are making an explosion not entirely impossible in the real world. Nevertheless, I would not provoke it, but you do not have to have any fear.
12/06/2013 at 11:43

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