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Discussion Starter #1
Not the best day I've ever had. My '91 Spider has been at my (former) mechanics for the winter to get it sorted out for the spring. Well, spring sprung yesterday so I picked her up, paid a fairly large bill and received a long list of labor and new parts. She was a looker, body, paint top and interior were all excellent. Until it went kaboom. 12 miles from the mechanics and a half mile from my house, I heard a pop. She lost power, smoke came out the vents, then flames out of the hood. All I could do was get the heck out, stand back and watch the fire department do their best. I still have my '94 CE, but still a sad day.
 

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I am very sorry for your loss. I know what that experience is like. I lost my first 75 Potenziata when the main fuel line leaked onto the exhaust. I also nearly lost its replacement as a result of my mechanic being sold the wrong size fuel injector hose by the Gates rep. They should have been 7.5 mm in diameter but were 8 mm, resulting in them all bursting off the fittings. Is it possible that that is what has happened in your case? Can you get compensation from the mechanic?
 

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That a real shame but, as the others have said, it's good that you got out OK. It could have been a lot worse.

I guess your insurance company will help to investigate the cause and assist with any claims against the mechanic. It's pretty poor that it happened just after a major overhaul.
 

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Thank you. I know it's not a living thing and it could have been much worse - it happened on a country road instead of the interstate. I've used this shop for a long time and they've been good but they had a younger guy work on it this time and he may have been over his head. The pop and stall sounds makes me think fuel line or carburetor but they replaced the instrument cluster while it was there and on the way home I noticed the turn signals weren't working and the airbag light was on so maybe electrical. I had a flatbed tow it to my house and the mechanic wants to come look at it but the insurance adjuster wants to look first. The entire engine bay is toast so it will be difficult to find the source. I'll be out thousands on this one but it's still the loss that hurts worse.
 

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engine bay

The tool in the foreground was one the firefighters used. No fun watching them take a saw to the hood and fender to get to the plastic bits that didn't want to stop burning.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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Man, that hurts to look at. Very sorry about the car and glad you're okay.

Usually this sort of thing is a fuel leak: either one of the short hoses from the injector rail to the injectors, or the hose at the rear of the rail that connects it to the hard fuel line from the tank.
 

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..... they replaced the instrument cluster while it was there and on the way home I noticed the turn signals weren't working and the airbag light was on so maybe electrical.
I'm not an expert, I haven't seen the car personally, etc. etc. But, if I had to guess, I would agree with previous posts that suggested a fuel leak. Yes, an electrical short can start a fire that burns electrical insulation. An electrical fire can do significant economic damage, but there just isn't enough fuel to create the amount of flame shown in your first picture. Also, if the shop worked on the dash wiring, that's where the short would be likely to occur; not underhood.

Let me add my sympathies. Glad you are OK.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'm thinking the fuel suggestions sounds likely. As I think about it, there was no smell of the kind I'd associate with electrical fire and the flames burned for quite a while which could have been gas spewing onto the hot engine. I was quite suprised how long the fire continued, there was a point when it went to mostly smoke but the flames started back up again. Thanks again all, time to accept what I can't change, put the top down on the '94 and go for a nice long cruise.
 

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interesting related story:

one time, i had just garaged my 90 spider, and was about to go upstairs (3 flights to my apartment) but was putting away some tools first. suddenly i was hearing what clearly sounded like a small cat meowing , as if in distress. It sounded so close though. as if it were in my car!

So i went back over to the car, and saw smoke coming out of the dash cluster. flames started to spill out! and i realized that the sound was actually, (miraculously?? maybe she was calling to me??) the shorting of the lights-on ringer that makes its little bing-bing sound when you leave the keys in the car and the lights on! the slow shorting had made it into these long 'meeeyeew meeeyeew irratic sounds! i immediatly opened the trunk and pulled the battery cable off and had it towed in.

fortunately the repair was simply a replacement of my key-ignition which had shorted out and has a direct current from the battery.

the car has since travelled 200k miles without ever letting me down. i sometimes almost feel like she has a soul and loves me back as much as i love her. but i will always think that she was calling to me to alert me to the crisis. i lucked out.

Im really sorry that your experience was different. This makes me want to take a good close look at the quality of my injector lines and see how theyre holding up.

good luck --Guido
 

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That is exactly what happened with my car. My daughter and I heard a pop, followed by smoke and by the time I pulled over, flames were coming out from under the bonnet and licking round my door by the time I got out. My daughter got out quicker than I did. A fire truck just happened to be not far behind me at the time and even then it took two trucks to put the fire out. The engine compartment looked exactly like yours and they destroyed the bonnet getting it open with their jaws of life tool. Surprisingly the 3 litre V6 S engine survived to power my friend's GTV race car, fitted with Weber carbs.
 

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While everyone is checking their fuel lines be sure they are fuel injection pressure hose and they have the FI clamp, not the worm drive type. I just had one of the Maeratis dump gas all over from a regular fuel hose with a worm clamp on the output of the fuel pump. Fortunately it is just forward of the rear axle on the opposite side from the tailpipe.
Bob
 

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Discussion Starter #15
With a little shock and anger subsiding, I looked through the invoice again. Long list: window motor, brakes, universal joints, a/c freon, charge, transmission and differential fluids, changed, etc. Lots of little stuff but a few possibly related items:
- cleaned carburetor, carburetor spray ($4.58)
- Performed induction cleaning of air flow meter, intake manifold, fuel injectors and oxygen sensors. (induction cleaner: $19.98)
- drained fuel tank and replaced fuel tank with new tank - old was leaking, (tank $260, hose clamp $.98 and gasket $6.96)
plus labor
I'm wondering if while replacing the gas tank, the connections weren't done correctly. No mention of replacing any hoses in the engine compartment or along hard rail but the $.98 hose clamp had to connect somewhere - I was about 12 miles from the garage which could have been enough time to work it loose? I'll climb there in tomorrow with good lighting and see what I can find but the hoses, and anything else plastic or rubber, were melted beyond recognition. Bottom line is this sucks.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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LOL...you don't have a carburetor, so not sure what they charged you for there!

The fuel tank connects to the fuel pump in the rear with rubber hose, but then it's hard lines into the engine compartment. So any leaks/issues there would not cause an engine fire.

"Performed induction cleaning of air flow meter, intake manifold, fuel injectors and oxygen sensors." I'm *guessing* this means they threw a bottle of injector cleaner into the tank? Or sprayed Seafoam cleaner into the intake?

If they removed the injector rail for anything, that's what could cause problems. The metal rail connects to the metal hard line from the tank at the rear of the engine bay with about 8" of rubber hose. Wrong hose, poor hose clamp use, or not reattaching the rail properly would all be bad.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
This shop has worked on several of my cars for years, fiats, saabs, and alfas, and has been solid which is one reason I stupidly left without going over the invoice in detail (the other being the sun was shining for first time in months!). If I had read it carefully before I left, the flames may have been coming out of my head instead of my hood. Can't wait to hear what they did with the "carburetor spray" and the explanation of "bead blasted circuit board in rear taillamp assembly and replaced bulb - 1.6 hours." I assume he means the bayonet sockets for the bulbs which I usually clean with a wire brush in 1.6 minutes. The insurance company is sending an "engineer" here Monday, should be interesting.
 

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If I was the mechanic I would be feeling a bit nervous. Due to the pressures involved, you can't afford to have any sources of leaks in FI systems and they have to be inspected and double checked very carefully. I certainly learned the hard way. In my case I got a full insurance payout of $7,000 and bought the wreck back for $200. I made about $1,000 selling the engine, wheels, tail lights and the drive train and body. I bought another Potenziata which ended up requiring a full engine rebuild and other work. I have since sold that one, so I lost money in the end, but you nearly always do with cars as we all know.
 
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