Burning Slingshot Owner Sheds Light On the Incident

If you missed the news yesterday, a Polaris Slingshot caught fire on a Californian highway and burned to the ground in a matter of minutes. The driver escaped unharmed, but his story tells Polaris should expand their fire-hazard recall.
Polaris Slingshot burning 15 photos
Photo: Bill Schaffer
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The initial story surfaced on a Reddit thread, where details were scarce, and we only found out the Slingshot was insured and wasn’t that old. However, the owner saw the article and contacted us to shed some light over the situation.

Bill Schaffer confirmed to us his Slingshot was almost new. The passionate rider (he seems to enjoy the good ol’ two-wheeled sport as well) and driver bought it in November 2015 and the model had just over 2,500 miles on the clock. It was looking pristine, and he took great care of it.

He also told us he didn’t do anything bad to push the Slingshot’s engine the day it caught fire. He went to a motorcycle meeting in the morning, left at around 3 p.m. and the three-wheeler started to act strange on his way home.

“I am driving on Hwy 80, almost to Fairfield, when the car starts running weird,” Bill said. “I slow down and pull to the slow lane. At the same time, a CHP officer on a bike passes me and pulls a car over in front of me. I decide to pull over behind him as the car was dying out.”

After he had pulled over, he noticed the footwell was unusually warmer, and as soon as he looked down, he saw flames coming out of that area. He quickly got out while the police officer up ahead radioed in for a firetruck to be dispatched at the site.

“I hop out quick and start running to the CHP officer. He puts up his hand, and I see him radioing it in, I turn around and take off my helmet and set it on the guard rail and see flames shooting out from under the drivers side of the car, I run back to get what I can. I was able to get my bag out from behind the passenger seat.”

The Slingshot was rapidly engulfed in flames after that, completely burning off in under 10 minutes according to Bill. Luckily, he wasn’t harmed in the process, and the vehicle was insured. But this could happen to any other Polaris owner, and a similar incident with a Slingshot involved in an accident ended up in flames, killing the driver. Other reports suggest several people got injured in similar stories.

Polaris issued three recalls in the past, but none of them addresses the new Slingshot. Around 133,000 vehicles made by Polaris are plagued by fire-starting issues. The RZR900 and RZR1000 side-by-side vehicles seem to be affected the most. But it looks like the problem spreads to new models too.

Details about what exactly causes Polaris vehicles to catch fire are scarce, but we ran some checks with VINs from the affected models, and the recall section of CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) returned results such as "ECU Reflash, Heat Shield Replacement, Voltage Regulator Replacement, Fuel Tank Vent Line Replacement, and Fuse Box Seal Replacement," in various combinations.

Bill admitted he drove to the city on his way home, getting through some stop-and-go traffic. But he then got on the highway, doing the speed limit, where the engine should have gotten cooler. This could only indicate the fire must have been started by bad fuel lines or an electric issue. Probably a combination of the two at most.

“That's definitely what I would go with, the way that the car was driving seemed as if it either was not getting fuel or the ignition was cutting out,” Bill explained.

Whatever the case, we’d like Polaris to look down into this problem, identify the cause and issue a recall. Until then, we advise owners avoid riding their Polaris machines, and in case they have to, keep them in low revs, avoid rush hour traffic and keep them parked in a shaded area.
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