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Where Is Magnesium Used Anymore??

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  • Where Is Magnesium Used Anymore??

    A member of the HazMat team for a large city here in Texas wrote with a question that I need help answering.

    "Ron, to your knowledge does any of the car makers still use magnesium in the engine blocks or frames? I know the older VW's did but don't know if the newer ones do.

    Reason asking, we had a magnesium fire several weeks ago here in Dallas at a scrap metal yard. Only 220,000 pounds of magnesium on fire. Firemen couldn't understand why it would not go out with all the water they were dumping on it.

    We as hazmat, told them to stop putting water on it and it would quit exploding. It worked.

    Trying to work up a school on magnesium fire and was curious about enging blocks or any other engine parts on newer cars. Thanks"

    Any Message Forum readers have any further information?????
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator
    www.universityofextrication.com

  • #2
    Magnesium is still one of the materials used in modern cars, especially because it is lighter than steel. I know that its used in some parts of the engine and also as a part of doors etc. Because I'm from germany I could not give you special examples where it is used in US-cars.
    Jorg Heck
    Moditech Rescue Solutions B.V.
    http://www.moditech.com

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    • #3
      Many cars use it for things such as transmission cases, ford explorers and everything that uses that same transmission as well. I'm not positive, but I believe the cases used ont he GM 6 speed manuals are as well. There was an old volvo that had the entire engine block made of magnesium if I remember right too. It's not super common but it's being used more and more often, our rescue carries a class D extinguisher for magnesium just in case that happens.

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      • #4
        If memory serves, Chevy CK pick ups have/had a magnesium bar along the firewall, under the dash for strength.
        My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
        "I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
        George Mason
        Co-author of the Second Amendment
        during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788
        Elevator Rescue Information

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        • #5
          Question about magnesium, I know it burns extremely hot, but what's the flashpoint of the metal? I was under the impression it was insanely high, almost high enough you wouldn't really reach it with a car fire, at least not a normal one.
          Last edited by FYRHWK1; 09-06-2003, 11:00 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by FYRHWK1
            what's the flashpoint of the metal?
            The flashpoint for Magnesium is 1173 degrees F. I don't believe the car fire temperatures get that high since most of them occur in open areas. I do believe the only time you need to consider the magnesium flashpoint is when you have an overabundance of fuel (eg. car crashes into a gasoline tanker or something like that).

            Then again, I've heard the same thing about the older VW bugs.. they were deathtraps because they used so much magneisum in the engine. THe only thing I can think of is that they used a magneisum alloy with a metal that has a lower flashpoint which in turn, ignited the magnesium?

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            • #7
              magnesium fires

              Your right it does have a high flashpoint but if you get burning tires on a car, is that not enough heat to ignite the magnesium. The specific fire we had was at a scrap metal yard. The magensium was ignited by wooden pallets which were on fire. I believe the magnesium has some alloy in it because it burned with a yellow and bright white flame instead of just a bright white flame. It did make some pretty inpressive pictures of a nice mushroom cloud explosion.

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              • #8
                Ron,

                To answer your question about magnesium being used in Vehicles now adays. YES it is used quite a bit still in both European and US cars. I have not seen it much in the Asian cars but it may be there as well. We won't find in as large of quanities as we use to on cars/truck but scattered throughout the vehicle in smaller sizes. Refer to this link ( http://www.magnesium.com/w3/uses/ ) to find out more uses not only in the automotive industry but in several other fields.

                Be safe Bro's
                Fraternally, Jordan
                "Making Sense with Common Sense"
                Motor Vehicle Rescue Consultants
                ( [email protected]) Jordan Sr.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by NeilMcD


                  The flashpoint for Magnesium is 1173 degrees F. I don't believe the car fire temperatures get that high since most of them occur in open areas. I do believe the only time you need to consider the magnesium flashpoint is when you have an overabundance of fuel (eg. car crashes into a gasoline tanker or something like that).

                  Then again, I've heard the same thing about the older VW bugs.. they were deathtraps because they used so much magneisum in the engine. THe only thing I can think of is that they used a magneisum alloy with a metal that has a lower flashpoint which in turn, ignited the magnesium?
                  http://msds.pdc.cornell.edu/msds/msd...0.htm#Section5

                  This gives no flashpoint for zinc (I couldn't find it anywhere actually) however an autoignition temp of 860* F. Zinc is from my searches, a pretty common element in magnesium alloys, so it could be the zinc igniting the magnesium. Seems my terminology is wrong though, flashpoint refers to the vapors of a liquid, though I suppose the gasses put out by heating magnesium should be the same as if it were liquid vapor. Autoignition seems to be the point at which heat will ignite it without an open flame acting on it, I wonder if it's any different with open flame on it or if it jsut reaches that ignition temperature faster.

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                  • #10
                    company vehicles used for plumbing can carry magnesium rods and can carry oxy acetlene tanks which can make these vehicles pretty dangerous.
                    NREMT-P\ Reserve Volunteer Firefighter\Reserve Police Officer
                    IACOJ Attack

                    Experts built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

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                    • #11
                      We also encountered what I assume was magnesium in a storage shed fire. The source appeared to be a couple of chain saw engines. It scared the stew out of me when I hit it with a 1 3/4 and got a minature reenactment of a war movie scene!

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                      • #12
                        BMW still use magnesium components in their vehicles engines. As with all things, there is'nt much to tell you about it until you get water on the engine compartment during a fire. We have a "safety flash" about this at work, will see if I can dig out the rest of the info.
                        United Kingdom branch, IACOJ.

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                        • #13
                          I have never heard of Class D fires until recently, but I know there are Class D extinghushers, but can you fight Magnesium fires with a CO2 or ABC extinghushers?
                          No longer an explorer, but I didn't wanna lose my posts.

                          IACOJ 2003

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                          • #14
                            Magnesium is used for wheels on many aircraft. Hard stops causing hot brakes are sufficient to cause ignition. Knock down flames with dry chem and cool with water, it will pop and sparkle but without cooling you'll get re-ignition.
                            "Experience is the name everyone gives their mistakes." Oscar Wilde

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                            • #15
                              Well I know my Oakley Sunglasses are made of magnesium...Also I believe VW uses it as well...First hand expierence on that one..
                              Jonesy
                              Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

                              FL EMT-B
                              FL State Firefighter
                              Pro Board Firefighter
                              Career Firefighter
                              Local 2103

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