A few simple precautions and techniques can protect your vehicle from
wildfire-related damage

BURNABY, BC, Aug. 6 /CNW/ - As nearly 400 wildfires burn across B.C., smoke and debris hover in the skies over many areas of the province. These mists of fine pieces of debris can blanket vehicles with soft, yet potentially damaging soot and ash. The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) suggests vehicle owners take precautions to protect their cars, campers and trailers from costly repairs or permanent damage caused by wildfire smoke and accumulated soot and embers.

"Next to a home, a vehicle is probably the second most expensive item most of us will purchase," says Allen Holmes, BCAA Auto Approved Repair Shop (AARS) supervisor. "You want your vehicle to appear well-kept for as long as possible so it maintains its resale or trade-in value."

Ash and soot sitting on your car may look like a layer of soft dust, but they are actually quite gritty and can be acidic, which can damage your vehicle's paint finish, says Holmes. "If not removed quickly and properly, your vehicle's finish can end up looking dull and scratched. Accumulated dirt and soot can also stick to electrical components, u-joints and windows."

According to BCAA's AARS partner Boyd Auto Body & Glass, the cost of re-painting a vehicle can reach the thousands of dollars range depending on the size and type of vehicle. Re-painting a three-year old medium-sized car can cost up to $4,500 for a long-lasting quality paint job.

"If vehicle windows are left open, smoke from nearby wildfires can also cause major interior damage and leave an irritating odour embedded in the upholstery," adds Holmes. "Car owners may not realize how difficult it is to clean the car's interior from smoke damage." The cost to have an automobile detailing company shampoo and de-fumigate the interior of a car can reach up to $400-$500 depending on the make of the vehicle and the amount of time exposed to smoke.

Vehicle owners are cautioned against using regular household cleaners on the interior or exterior of a vehicle. Many household cleaning products are meant to clean grease and may contain harsh chemicals that can cause further damage to the fabric, vinyl and metal finishes of an automobile.

Vehicle owners are advised to remove ash and soot from vehicles as soon as possible, and being mindful of water use restrictions, carefully and thoroughly wash their vehicles. They may have to repeat the process of washing their cars until the risk of damage from ash and soot has passed.

BCAA also advises motorists in wildfire areas to drive with extra caution and keep an eye out for emergency vehicles and first responders. "Driving in areas where there are forest fires is like driving in fog," warns Ken Cousin, BCAA's associate vice president of road assist. "Headlights should be on during times of reduced visibility and drivers should drive as little as possible in fire areas, as roads may be busy with emergency crews."

    Tips when removing soot and ash off car

    -   Avoid rubbing the car while soot and ash sit on its surface.
        Thoroughly rinse the car off first.

    -   If washing the vehicle at home (abiding by local water use
        restrictions), wet a soft mitt, towel or sponge and wash the car with
        warm water and detergent made for washing cars. Start at the roof and
        work your way down. Rinse thoroughly. Dry with a soft clean towel or

    -   Let the car cool down from the warm water wash. When completely dry,
        apply a coat of high quality car wax and wipe off (per the
        instructions) with another soft cloth. Car wax helps protect the
        finish against ash as well as hard-water spots and rain.

    -   If you can't use water, use a long-handled car duster to gently wipe
        off the vehicle. Start from the roof and work your way down. Do this
        a few times to remove the ash and soot. Repeat this process until the
        water restrictions are lifted. Follow the above tips for washing your

    Protecting your vehicle

    -   If you live in an area where brush fires are prevalent, consider
        buying a vehicle cover or place the vehicle in a garage. Hot ash can
        burn rubber molding around windows and doors.

    -   Keep the air intake area - located at the base of the windshield -
        clear of leaves, pine needles, soot, dirt and dust, as it can get
        into a vehicle's interior through air conditioners and heaters.

    -   Keep the sunroof and windows closed. When near the fire areas, run
        the air conditioner on "recirculate" until the outside air quality
        significantly improves. Once the air quality is better, set the air
        conditioner on "fresh" or "vent" so you're moving outside air inside.
        If the interior smells like smoke, try vacuuming or consider taking
        it to a local car detailer shop.

    -   After the fires are over, inspect and, if necessary, replace the
        engine air filter. Have mechanics inspect and replace ventilation
        filters in the passenger compartment. A dirty engine air filter can
        restrict fuel economy and increase vehicle emissions.

About BCAA

BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C., with over 100 years experience and gross annual sales of nearly $400 million from its membership, insurance and travel businesses. A BCAA Membership can be found in the wallets of over 790,000 British Columbians and in one-in-four B.C. households. For the past two years, BCAA has received the highest score in Canada for home insurance customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power and Associates study. And, for the past four years, BCAA has been named one the 50 Best Employers in Canada by international HR consultants Hewitt Associates and the Globe & Mail's Report on Business magazine. To learn more about BCAA's products, services and member advocacy, visit www.bcaa.com. For more information on the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation visit www.tsf-bcaa.com.

SOURCE British Columbia Automobile Association

For further information: For further information: Niela Melanio, BCAA Public Affairs Advisor, Office: 604-268-5342 (M-F between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), Cell: 778-228-8859 (any time), Email: niela.melanio@bcaa.com

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British Columbia Automobile Association

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