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Car tips for enduring the wildfire smoke season

Smoke in the valley has begun to dissipate and fade slightly but residents are still unfamiliar with a deep breath of fresh air.

Environment Canada is reporting that the air in the Central Okanagan remains a moderate risk to valley citizens.

But how do the smoke and ash affect the inside and outside of your ride and how can you stay safe on the road this smoky summer season?

Chad Abougoush, owner of Boyd's Tire and Auto Service, has a couple ways to keep your car in good shape for transportation.

Abougoush says that vehicle owners have two main air filters in their cars: the engine air filter and the (often overlooked) cabin air filter.

<who>Photo Credit: Boyd's</who>

The engine air filter can be slightly obstructed by smoke and debris clogging the filter which will have some effects on the vehicle's operations and may need to be changed, especially in these conditions.

However, a vehicle's cabin air filter has less to do with motor operations and more with maintaining the clean air inside the vehicle cabin, but some drivers aren't even aware of the filter's existence.

A cabin air filter keeps the smoke outside and the clean air inside, "just like how you want to change your filter in your HVAC system in your house because it brings the air from the outside inside," explained Abougoush.

If the cabin air filter is filled with dirt, debris and smoke, the air inside a vehicle will be too.

<who>File Photo</who>

Cabin air filters are generally quite easy to change in most cases, as are engine air filters, but location depends on the vehicle type.

Abougoush explained that the filters are often changed during regularly scheduled maintenance, like oil changes, and should be changed to keep vehicles running at optimal performance.

However, if you're not sure when the last time you replaced the filters was, it might be worth looking into changing them out — especially during the wildfire season to keep the air inside your vehicle crisp and clean. Instructions can be found in most vehicle manuals.

Filter changes may be required more often if your community is within the vicinity of ongoing fires with higher levels of smoke in the air.

Speaking of the outside of a vehicle, a car's exterior isn't generally vulnerable to ash residue when it's dry, but humidity and wet nights can cause chemical etching on your vehicle, says Meguiar's, a car care company.

“The elements in wood ash include calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, which are inert and have no effect on finishes in their dry form," explained Meguiar's.

"There is, however, a serious risk of chemical etching on automotive paint finishes when these elements are mixed with water. Leaving an ash-covered car outside on wet nights or foggy mornings may very well result in chemical etching and, in some cases, serious damage to a vehicle’s painted surfaces.”

<who>File Photo</who>

It is best, when possible, to blow the ash off your car, says Abougoush, or give it a good wash with soap and water to scrub it clean.

Smoke can also reduce visibility, so drivers should also make sure all their lights, including headlights, brake lights and turn signals, are functioning properly to stay safe on the road.

Click here for tips on how to drive carefully in BC during the wildfires.

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