Troubleshooters: What caused car to suddenly burst into flames?

Nydia Han Image
Saturday, April 30, 2016
VIDEO: Troubleshooters
A vehicle bursting into flames is, of course, alarming. Until the Troubleshooters got involved, no one was taking action to figure out why the car exploded.

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. (WPVI) -- A vehicle bursting into flames is, of course, alarming. What's even more troubling is until the Troubleshooters got involved, no one was taking action to figure out why the car exploded.

My neighbor's like, 'Your car's on fire. Get out.' " said Joshua Frantz-McIntyre. "And I looked out the window and I said, 'Oh My God. My whole front of my car's on fire. Oh my God.

"First the front exploded, then the two side windows, then the two back-side windows exploded," said Frantz-McIntyre.

Frantz- McIntyre recalls what happened to the very first car he has ever owned. And it happened only two weeks after he got it.

"My first thought was just to to get everyone out of the house," said Frantz-McIntyre.

Getting out wasn't easy.

Frantz McIntyre lives with his grandparents, and his grandfather has a prosthetic leg.

"I mean people could have been killed, including us," said Frank Frantz.

The fire was so hot, it damaged the Lexus that had been parked next to it.

"I mean there's no warning or anything. It just sat there and took off," said Frantz-McIntyre.

"I just couldn't believe it was happening," said Frantz.

With a quick check of the a 2007 Mini Cooper S on, the Action News Troubleshooters found it had been the subject of a recall.

"Most of them they caught, and they took in and they did some repairs on them," said Frantz.

BMW is the parent company of Mini Cooper.

In 2012, it reported a circuit board can malfunction. It may smolder, which could result in a vehicle fire.

"(You called the dealership where you got the car from?) And I didn't hear anything," said Frantz-McIntyre.

The used car dealer claims Frantz-McIntyre didn't leave a voicemail, but it did still reach out to Frantz-McIntyre the day after the fire- shortly after we interviewed him..

"I went over to that dealership as well, and they acted like they had never heard of the incident," said Frantz-McIntyre.

The Action News Troubleshooters got both Mini Cooper and the used car dealer to talk..

Joe Ballangee says he checks the vehicle history of every used car he sells, and has a certified mechanic perform a 151-point inspection.

"If there's any kind of red flags, we generally just get rid of the car," said Ballangee.

Ballangee says in this case, the recall issue would not have been visible during his mechanic's inspection.

When we check the VIN number on, it shows "0 Open Recalls," and the automaker claims the recall fix was, in fact, implemented back in March of 2013 - more than a year after the recall was announced.

So Ballangee's hunch as to what happened?

"I would say the recall was not done correctly or it wasn't done at all," said Ballangee.

Since the Troubleshooters reached out to Mini Cooper, it has now agreed to "schedule a full investigation and inspection of the car to determine what might have happened."

"I just don't want it to happen to other people really," said Frantz-McIntyre.

If you have serious car trouble, call the corporate office for your automaker directly and immediately.

You should also file an official complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration here.

Important information directly from NHTSA:

Please urge all of your viewers to check to see if their car has an open recall on It's really quick, easy and simple. All they need is their vehicle identification number - VIN for short. Consumer can find it by looking on the lower left of their car's windshield; vehicle registration cards; and it may also be shown on insurance cards. We recommend consumers check twice a year as part of our Safe Cars Save Lives campaign. Click here for details.

This message is especially important for used car owners. There is no federal requirement for fixing recalled used cars by previous owners/dealers before resale and the U.S. DOT doesn't have the authority to require it. Used car owners/buyers should never assume that the previous owner addressed a previous recall.

Another important point is that 25% of recalled vehicles are never repaired. It's important to know if your car is recalled, but the next step is acting on it. Consumers with open recalls should pick up the phone, call the dealer. If parts are available, go ahead and make an appointment, and get their car repaired. An informed consumer is the best defense against the potential consequences of ignoring an open recall.

When checking your vehicle's VIN, if you see the words "open resume," that means NHTSA is in the process of conducting an investigation.

Also, don't just check your vehicle's VIN. Check for past recalls by also putting in your vehicle's model year, make, and model. Then call the automaker to confirm when and where the repair was made. Also have your own independent mechanic check the vehicle, including the repair issue.

You should also check a vehicle's history. You can do it online using a paid website like AutoCheck or CarFax. You can also ask the automaker or an affiliated dealer for service records.

But one word of caution, if a vehicle isn't serviced by an authorized dealer, the automaker may not have records. For instance, Mini Coopers tells us regarding Frantz McIntyre's vehicle:

"The vehicle was part of that recall campaign and had the fix implemented back in March of 2013. Our internal records indicate that this was also the last repair order performed by an authorized MINI dealer. As such, I can't comment on what type of service the car has received over the past three years or its condition when it was sold to the current customer. (It was sold through an external third party or by a private seller)."

Also know that while New Jersey has a lemon law specifically for used vehicles, Pennsylvania does not.

New Jersey's law is here.