As we are all aware, the west coast has experienced serious wildfires recently, which has caused widespread destruction of land and property. The “fallout” from the fires, usually in the form of ash, can damage automotive clearcoat finishes, both OEM and refinish. This damage is called “environmental etching” and is most severe for new refinish paint jobs (one month old or less) but can also affect OEM paint and older repaints. This “etching” is especially visible on black and darker color vehicles.
Interestingly enough, the ash fallout is harmless, and will not damage the finish of a vehicle in its’ dry form. However, if it becomes wet during a rainy night or a foggy morning, it can essentially change to a corrosive chemical. This corrosive chemical can cause serious damage to the painted surface of an automobile.
So, what do you do to protect your vehicles finish? Below is a good excerpt from a Meguiar’s article, which outlines the best defenses against etching from wildfire fallout.
“The elements in wood ash include calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, which are inert and have no effect on finishes in their dry form. 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 result in chemical etching or serious damage to a vehicle’s finish.
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…
Keep all vehicles in a secure garage 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.
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. 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 automobiles.