I have heard that cars with fabric upholstery will catch on fire readily, and in fact have experienced that first hand. My girlfriend had a Jetta and some guy stole it, left a newspaper in the front seat and lit it and that was enough to torch the whole car.

Now, however, I have a car with leather seats, so I assume that just lighting a newspaper and leaving it on the seat won't work because leather doesn't burn very well. Is that right, or is my car vulnerable to fire even though it has leather seats?

  • 2
    Lots of other bits are flammable...
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 26, 2018 at 20:27
  • 2
    Exactly, @Solar Mike. You could take the seats out and probably still create an impressive car-b-que. Carpet, headliner, hard plastic, vinyl, etc. Every time I see a burnt car on the road, I'm amazed at how thoroughly they burn.
    – Tim Nevins
    Apr 26, 2018 at 21:29
  • I've seen a completely torched car and can not understand how you would know, based on just a burned out body shell, that a news paper on the seat was used to ignite the vehicle. Apr 27, 2018 at 13:01
  • They caught the guy and that's what he said?
    – Nelson
    Apr 28, 2018 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


To start with, the most frequent cause for cars bursting into flames is not burning newspapers being left on the seats. In reality, the source of fire in most cases comes from inside the engine in an accident, a fuel leakage, a badly sealed engine gasket, etc. Hot gasoline in open exposure to oxygen can explode, starting a blaze.

Edit: As @SolarMike rightly mentioned, another very frequent cause of fire is electrical shorts sparking.

Also, like @TimNevins said, it's not just the seats that burn. The carpet, vinyl, insulating materials, hoses, etc, can all burn. Having leather seats won't protect much at all against fires coming from inside the engine.

That said, if a robber does try setting your car with leather seats ablaze by sticking a burning newspaper on them, leather is a fire retardant, though it will burn eventually. That said, if the arsonist sees that the seats are leather, likely he will simply put the newspaper in the engine.

  • 1
    Most common outside of serious accidents are electrical faults - shorts etc
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:53
  • Oops, forgot that one. Good point!
    – anonymous2
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:55
  • I repaired enough wiring on cars / trucks... :)
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:56

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