What Does Wildfire Smoke Do to Your Car?

Wildfires in the Western United States have become increasingly common each summer. These fires aren’t just devastating for forests and wildlife—wildfires can also be a serious concern for vehicles. Even if you’re not driving through an area where a fire is burning, wildfire smoke can take a significant toll on your car, truck or SUV. Continue reading to learn how wildfires affect your vehicle.

You’re breathing in dangerous air when wildfire smoke enters your vehicle’s cabin. That smoke can also cause engine damage as ash and other debris flow through your car’s grill. Your best protection against these wildfires is to swap out your engine and cabin air filters.

Experts generally recommend switching your filters every 25,000 to 45,000 miles, but if wildfires are in your area, we recommend changing your filters much sooner than that. New filters are fairly inexpensive, and they’re your best defense against polluted air and engine damage. Talk to your mechanic about how frequently you should change your engine and cabin air filters.

What if you have to drive through wildfire smoke?

Hopefully, you’ll never be put in a situation in which you have to drive through an area with ongoing wildfires, but that’s not a given anymore due to global warming. Be sure to keep the windows closed if you are driving in an area with heavy wildfire smoke. If your car has one, hit the air recirculation button to cut off outside air and limit your exposure.

Find a place to pull over if the smoke becomes too heavy to see through. Dense smoke doesn’t just make driving dangerous—it overwhelms the engine filter and allows tons of contaminants inside.

Because wildfires can be a serious concern for vehicles, we recommend taking your car in for an inspection as soon as you make it through the dangerous area. A professional can check your vehicle to find any problems or replace your filters if needed.

Other signs you need to replace your filters

Watching the odometer is a good way to tell if it’s time for new engine or cabin air filters. But your filters may need to be replaced sooner than expected, especially if you’re subjected to wildfire smoke or heavy pollution.

A few signs that it’s time to change the engine filter include the smell of gas when you start the car, lower horsepower or black smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. Additionally, the check engine light may turn on when the filter needs to be replaced.

The first things you’ll notice when your cabin air filter starts to fail are restricted airflow from the vents or bad odors when the heat or AC is on. You may also hear louder fan noises, as your vehicle has to work overtime to push air through those dirty vents.

Talk to our team today

Whether you’re concerned about how wildfires affect your vehicle or you’re experiencing some vehicle issues, contact our pros at Pat Doll Automotive LLC today. We’re here to answer all of your questions, and we provide a wide range of services for all makes and models.