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    Dec 1998
    Plano, Texas

    Default Our new 'Unguided Missile"

    Received a question about energy absorbing bumper pistons from a California-based firefighter. This might be a good time to see if we have any interesting new case studies to discuss.

    Original question:
    Years ago there was a concern over car fires and exploding bumpers. Is that as much of a concern now that car construction has changed ? I realize we still need to be wary of gas struts".

    To answer this question, the concern over car fires and exploding bumpers is not as much of a concern as it has been in the past. The “heyday” of energy absorbing bumpers was in the late 70s’ and early 80s’ due to government mandates requiring the 5 mile-per-hour energy absorbing bumper systems. We all know from our car fire experiences during that period of time that it was these larger energy-absorbing, sealed and pressurized bumper pistons that could fail violently during fire incidents.

    Once the regulations changed to reduce bumper requirements effective with the 1983 model year vehicles, a 2&1/2-mile Standard went into effect. This is currently where we are today. Now, the large majority of bumpers designed for the reduced Standard do not have any of the piston-type units. Instead, the bumper is typically plastic and the backing behind it a mix of Styrofoam, plastic egg crate designs, or lightweight metal.

    What has raised its ugly head however as our new concern at car fires is the smaller, sealed and pressurized struts used to hold hoods, hatchbacks, or liftgates open. These familiar components have failed violently when heated and in several cases have rocketed off the vehicle and impaled in firefighters or objects within the ‘strike zone’.

    What I think we could discuss is if anyone has any of these new strut failure incidents to share with us. I know they are happening; it's just that maybe we aren't aware of the magnitude or the frequency that this is happening.

    Anything you know of that you can document and share with us?
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator

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