Roaring Wildfires Can Damage Your Vehicle Even at a Distance

With the wildfires still spreading across California and new ones arising in areas of Colorado, the stress and evacuations are just one concern for many people. Homes and vehicles, businesses, and belongings are being engulfed in the tragic fires, and even at a distance, you are at risk. In the wind, ash and soot can travel for many miles, causing respiratory problems irritating asthma and allergies, and it can also damage your vehicle. While it is just one minor concern among the many, keeping your vehicle safe is one thing we can somewhat control, and basic maintenance can ensure that your car is ready to go when you need it, especially in an emergency.

How can soot and ash damage your vehicle?

A roaring wildfire burns on a hillside sending up a large plume of smoke
A roaring wildfire burns on a hillside sending up a large plume of smoke | Eric Lutzens, MediaNews Group, The Denver Post, Getty Images

Soot and ash can travel in the wind for miles, meaning that even if you aren’t within the dangerous evacuation zones of the fire, you aren’t out of the woods just yet. These compounds, when mixed with water from sprinklers or rain, become acidic and can etch into your vehicle’s clear coat causing permanent and irreversible damage. It isn’t any different than how bonfire ash and residue from 4th of July fireworks can cause damage to your paint. While this isn’t always avoidable, it’s best to keep your vehicle in a garage or covered area or invest in a tarp or vehicle cover. If you notice soot or ash on your vehicle, the best course of action is to wash it off completely and immediately to minimize damage.

If you are currently living even at several mile distances from the wildfires and are concerned about ash and soot, chances are you’ve realized that these airborne particulates can enter your vehicle, compromise your cabin air quality. Because of the additional pollution in the air around your car, it is important to spend the time to check your cabin air filter and air intake for your engine to ensure that it isn’t clogged with this soot and ash. If you’re concerned about allergies or asthma, there also isn’t a reason not to put an air purifier in your car.

Keep your vehicle in good condition and ready to go

In case of emergency, keeping your paint in good condition really isn’t all that important, but ensuring you keep your vehicle in overall good running condition is critical. If you’ve never experienced a wildfire, it is difficult to explain just how quickly it spreads, endangering anything and everything around it. Making sure your vehicle has enough gas, a charged battery and can get you out of your area in case of an emergency evacuation is critical, less important to your vehicle, and more importantly, for your personal safety and the safety of your family and pets.

If you or a loved one is in the Colorado area currently at risk for the spreading wildfire, please use the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for information and updates, and stay vigilant regarding news updates.

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