August 26, 2003

Air from forest fires can cause damage to vehicles, says BCAA

(Burnaby, B.C.): As thousands of people evacuate their homes in areas threatened by forest fires, many are turning to their vehicles as a temporary place of residence and storage. However, the smoke-filled air combined with dust and ash can affect people's vehicles, says the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), and can potentially cause damage to the campers, trailers and cars people are relying on.

During this hectic time, it's easy to forget about the maintenance of vehicles, however BCAA offers the following tips to vehicle owners to avoid any frustration that might come from a vehicle not running properly:

       Dust and ash can quickly plug up air filters and lead to vehicle performance problems. To ensure the air circulates through the filter, take out the air filter and clean it out by tapping it gently and shaking out the dust. Clean the air filter housing unit with a vacuum. Dust and ash can take a considerable amount of time to clear, so it's important to check the air filter again in a few weeks.

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

       Top up the windshield washer fluid and ensure that wipers are in good operating order, as mess and grit can form on windshields. 

       Headlights should be on at all times, especially in reduced visibility. Motorists should also plan trips carefully and as little as possible, as streets could be busy with emergency crews.

       Once all the dust has settled and there are no more water restrictions, vehicle owners are advised to wash their vehicles thoroughly. Ash buildup can be acidic and may damage a vehicle's paint.

       If you are unsure of the mechanics of your vehicle, take it to your local automobile service facility to have it looked at, or consult BCAA's list of Approved Auto Repair facilities, available online at

BCAA is committed to providing security and peace of mind to people on the road and at home and reminds its home insurance policyholders who have been affected by the forest fires to call the 24-hour emergency claims service at 1-800-719-2224, or visit a BCAA Sales Centre.