Wildfire smoke and the effects on your car.

Just as beaches, boats and breweries have become a known staple of the quintessential Okanagan summer, wildfire smoke has solidified its own unfortunate place on that list as well. Every time you step outside and feel that sting in your throat you are reminded of the effects it can have on your health. Of course the health of our families and ourselves must always come first, but something often forgotten is wildfire smoke and the effects on your car.

The ash you see on your car is a mixture of calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen an “Ash” setting at the car wash, it’s because it’s not very good for your paint. 

These elements in their dry form are harmless, but if there is any light rain or morning dew, there is a significant risk of chemical etching. As long as you clean it off regularly, you will not see any negative effects, but if a car is not driven often and has ash sitting on for days or weeks at a time, some damage can occur. Protective coatings like wax or ceramic coatings can help combat this, but your best bet is to wash it off with soap and water and give it a scrub with a wash mitt or sponge. Try to avoid brushing your car off dry, as the particulates in the ash will leave scratches behind. The best defense, of course, is to keep your car in a garage if you have that luxury.

When you feel the sting in your throat we mentioned before, it’s clear that there is something extra in the air that isn’t supposed to be there. Your car’s engine breathes the same air you do, so it’s more important than ever to keep your air filters fresh.

Your car has two points of filtration. Your engine air filter and your cabin air filter. Both of these filters work by allowing air to pass through a paper-based filter media. There are very tiny gaps between the fibers that allow air to pass through, while trapping and holding dust, dirt, and any other particles that may enter the intakes. With every particle that is trapped, that’s one less spot for air to pass through. A few here and there isn’t a big deal, but over time they stack up and can start to have a real effect on the airflow, and your car’s efficiency. During periods with severe wildfire smoke when ash and soot are constantly suspended in the air, this is going to happen significantly faster.

Hand holding two engine air filters

This affects your engine’s efficiency because less air going into your engine means the air flow sensor will tell the fuel system it doesn’t have enough air, so less fuel is injected into the engine to avoid running rich and increasing emissions. On the cabin air filter side, the volume of air passing through the filter is not as  important, but the smell is. A filter that is full of soot and ash is not going to freshen the air coming into your car nearly as well as a clean one. And when the air outside is smokey, it’s certainly nice to have your car as a smoke-free escape.

Some air filters are easy to access, some are not. Whatever the case, we can get to them all. As the wildfire season starts to wind down, now is the perfect time to have your car serviced and make sure your air filters are clean and fresh ahead of the winter season. Contact the team at Motor Werke or book an appointment online and we’ll alleviate any stress you have over wildfire smoke and the effects on your car.