As damaging wildfires rage throughout Southern California, ashes from the forest fires are settling on every surface – from sidewalks and homes to the roofs, hoods and trunks of unprotected vehicles. According to car-care experts at Meguiar’s, the ash residue will not harm automotive paint finishes as long as it remains dry.
“The elements in wood ash include calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, which are inert and have no effect on finishes in their dry form,” says Mike Pennington, Global Director of Training at 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.”
As an example, potassium or calcium when mixed with water, has the potential to form potassium hydroxide and calcium carbonate, which can have the same corrosive characteristics as drain cleaner. To combat the potential ash hazard Meguiar’s suggests the following precautions and remedies:
- Keep all vehicles in a secure garage when not in use and be sure vehicle windows and sunroofs are closed to minimize any residual exposure to the ash.
- If a garage is not available, the next best option is a fitted car cover to protect vehicle surfaces and keep excessive ash residue off of painted surfaces, wheels, and tires as much as possible.
- If a vehicle must be left outside in an exposed area during the fires, owners can minimize or eliminate the threat of paint damage by carefully washing and then thoroughly drying their vehicles each day until the ash threat subsides. This daily washing is made quick and easy with Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax Anywhere.
- Once the fires subside, owners should give each vehicle a comprehensive cleaning, first washing away any remaining ash residue with a product specifically designed for autos.