Know the rules, and take the fear factor out of scrutineering!
In this post I explain the changes in the MSA Fire Extinguisher rules for 2018. I did this research in order to give the best advice I could and hope it helps others to make an informed decision.
1. What has changed?
In previous years it was only recommended to service Fire Extinguishers, now it is mandatory. From the 2018 Blue Book, “All Extinguishers must be serviced in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines, or every 24 months, whichever is sooner” (Rule K.3)
2. Why the confusion?
Firstly, the new rule was to be implemented from 2019, but this has been brought forward and is mandatory with immediate effect. Secondly, rule K3 states “May comply with the following”. The MSA have stated this is to give the option of meeting the current rules (K3 – K3.5), or the rules that will be in effect from 2022 (Appendix 3). One set of rules must be followed.
3. Can I get anyone to service my extinguishers?
The blue book states is “All Extinguishers must be serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines”. However, the MSA Clarified this to state, an FIA system must be serviced by the manufacturer (Or their agent) to maintain it's FIA homologation. If you have it serviced by someone else, it effectively looses it's FIA homologation - but if you are only competing on MSA events, this is not a problem as long as it meets the minimum current requirements. (If it was legal last year, the only thing that should have changed is it needs to have been serviced in the last 2 years)
4. So can I get my extinguisher serviced by the manufacturer?
Lifeline, who claim 80% of competitors in the UK have their products, state a bottle will only be serviced if: 1. It has not more than 6 years since last service. 2. It is less than 10 years old. 3. It has not been serviced an unapproved agent. 4. It has not suffered damage / corrosion. Most manufacturers appear to have similar rules in order to ensure the quality of their products.
Linked in with point 3 above, if you choose to have a bottle serviced by an unapproved agent you may fail scrutineering and then find you are unable to have the bottle serviced.
Mechanical extinguishers are relatively easy to service, electric ones are a lot harder...
5. If I can’t get my bottle serviced, shall I just replace it?
It is possible to just buy a replacement bottle, which may be the cheapest option for some. However, this is unlikely to be possible for most competitors because the pipework has changed. It is cheaper to buy a full kit than buy the 8 nozzles that would be needed for a new 2022 compliant lifeline kit, for example.
If your installation does not meet the 2022 requirements, I suggest you consider buying a complete kit. (See point 6 below) Many competitors have a 2.25litre bottle, these are still available but the manufacturers are no longer producing them. This size of bottle will not be acceptable from 2022.
6. So what happens in 2022? (And new build cars from 2019)
All systems will need to comply with Appendix 3. The key parts of that are: 1 – All systems must be FIA approved and installed to specification. 2 – It must have straps meeting the required standard, and “Anti-torpedo” tabs. 3 – Plastic Pipes are generally prohibited. Generally, the minimum capacities of extinguishers from 2022 will be larger (E.g. AFFF plumbed-in all appear to be over 4 litres, and the smallest handheld AFFF will increase from 1.5 litres to 2.4 litres.)
7. So what about Dry Powder?
In the existing rules, Dry powder is prohibited (K3.1). If you follow the existing rules you cannot even have it in the car.
However, if you follow the Appendix 3 rules completely, Dry Powder is allowed as your handheld.
If you are competing in the next couple of weeks and you do not comply with the new rules, you may struggle to get a replacement due to the current high demand. In this case, I would contact the event organisers / scrutineers - I understand they can use discretion on this because the implementation has been poorly communicated.
If you have a bottle which is due and can be serviced, I would recommend a service by an official agent. For Lifeline, I have had good dealings with Competition Supplies at Silverstone, or Lifeline themselves in Coventry. (For clarity, I cannot service extinguishers – my advice is impartial, just I have personally had good dealings and advice from both)
If you need to replace your existing setup, I would suggest considering upgrading to the new rules which will come into force from 2022. Personally I would avoid Dry Powder, they were prohibited for a reason, which is that the powder settles and compacts with age and the motion of the car.
If you do need to replace your entire kit, I would recommend the rally-pack offered by Lifeline as I was impressed with its quality. The set comprises a complete plumbed-in kit and a handheld unit which meets the new requirements. The RSP on these kits is £337 (inc VAT).
I am also planning to put a spare kit on the Slick’s truck – so if anyone fails scrutineering, or has an extinguisher activate on an event, there could be a spare available.
Thanks for reading – hope you found it useful.
MS UK Licenced Clerk of the Course & Competitor