The end of the assembly line: Shifting patterns of automotive burns

Burns. 2021 May;47(3):728-732. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2020.08.014. Epub 2020 Sep 11.


Introduction: As recently as 2006, carburetor flash burns comprised as much as 27% of admissions for car-related burns, despite the fact carburetors were last installed in pre-1990 automobiles. The prevalence of this injury pattern is related to the estimated 14 million cars on the road today that were manufactured prior to that year. The aim of this study was to investigate modern sources of automotive burns and describe any new trends in automotive burn-related epidemiology.

Materials and methods: A retrospective review was conducted of all burn admissions from the years 2009-2013 to identify patients who suffered automotive-related burns. Pediatric patients (<18 years old) were excluded. Demographic information including age, gender, mechanism of injury, occupation, TBSA, number of operations, and length of hospital stay were recorded.

Results: From 2009-2013, the burn center saw 83 admissions for automotive-related burns. 14.5% of patients were mechanics. The most common injury pattern was from radiator burns (47%), followed by gasoline related burns (30%). There were only two carburetor burns (2.4%). 67.4% of patients were treated for less than two hospital days and there was one death (1.2% mortality).

Conclusion: Despite the removal of carburetors from engines and a decrease in this specific mechanism, a significant morbidity remains with gasoline-inflicted burns. More public awareness is needed for the safe removal of radiator caps and handling of chemicals in overheating engines.

Keywords: Automotive; Burns; Carburetor; Radiator.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Surface Area
  • Burn Units / organization & administration
  • Burn Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Burns / etiology*
  • Female
  • Gasoline / adverse effects
  • Gasoline / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Gasoline