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AAA offers advice on washing wildfire ash off your car


Thu, Jun 8th 2023 09:25 pm

Take gentle approach toward potentially corrosive ash and soot

By AAA of Western and Central New York

As wildfires continue to burn to our north, filling area skies with smoke and harmful soot, AAA is offering advice on preventing vehicle damage.

At the top of the list of steps to protect your vehicle – wash it, by hand, with a pH-balanced car wash soap. While the ash may appear soft and somewhat fluffy, it is a gritty and abrasive substance.

Once water makes contact with the ash, it could become corrosive. Be gentle when initially removing that layer of soot. Once you do that, you can take the vehicle through the car wash.

“If ash is to the point where you are starting to see it on your vehicle, you’ll want to take steps to clean it without causing damage,” said Bryan Jajkowski, battery and ERS external training specialist with AAA Western and Central New York. “If you’ve driven extensively through ash in areas with extremely low air quality, you many need to use a hose to spray down any exposed heat exchangers as well.”

Additional steps:

√ If possible, park washed vehicle under cover or use a car cover.

√ If washing the vehicle is not an option or it is between washes, gently wipe off ash with a soft car duster or cloth.

√ Resist the urge to clean a windshield by turning on the wipers and scratching the glass. Instead, replace or wipe down each blade and wet the windshield before adding in wiper fluid and using the wipers.

√ Using a leaf blower to clear dust off the vehicle may seem like a good idea, but area health officials warn against sending the ash back into the air.

√ Thoroughly vacuum vehicle floor mats and car surfaces.

√ While driving, run the air conditioner on re-circulate until the outside air quality significantly improves.

√ Use a hose to spray down any heat exchangers if your car engine compartment has been exposed to ash.

√ Depending on where and how much you have driven recently, the vehicle might need the air filters in the engine or passenger areas cleaned or replaced. Ask a trusted mechanic to check them the next time you visit the shop.

√ When the smoke clears, add an extra layer of protection to your paint by waxing your vehicle after washing it and letting it cool down.

Drivers can get more automotive tips at www.AAA.com/Automotive.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 862,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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