With all the fires currently raging throughout California, and the ash from those fires falling on your vehicles, I thought I would share a few tips on how to care for your car without damaging the exterior. Ash fallout in the Bay Area has been particularly bad this week, and my family’s cars have been covered with ash many mornings.

A lot of people will use a towel or soft brush and perform a dry wipe to remove ash from the exterior of their car, but doing so improperly may scratch the paint. You need to take special care to avoid scratches.

One way to remove ash properly is to use a type of showroom finish spray or a waterless wash type of product along with good quality microfiber towels. Also using a good pressure washer to pre-rinse your car before washing by hand will help remove ash and other contaminants. When washing your car, make sure you use a soap designed for automotive finishes. Mix it with water to make lots of suds to lubricate the surface of your car to help avoid making micro scratches and swirls that deteriorate the clear coat of your car, and cause premature paint failure.

Regularly using a good quality wax on your car will add shine as well as help protect it from UV rays, water spots and anything that can harm the paint such as ash, dirt, and anything else that can collect on the surface of the paint and clog the pours of the paint. The ultimate exterior protection that I’ve seen is the ceramic coatings being used these days. They’re harder than the clear coat on your car, and once it’s done, they don’t wash off over time like waxes do. One brand that is very good and has been well tested is Ceramic Pro. No wax is ever need to be applied on top of Ceramic Pro. There are different packages along with different warranties for how long it will last, so make sure you go to a reputable certified installer. The installer will also register the coating with Carfax which can add value to your car.

Mechanically speaking, when your car is exposed to ash and wild fire air contaminants, there are some things you may want to also be aware of. Your car has an air filter, and it will suck up ash along with other debris which can affect the performance of your car and possibly reduce the fuel efficiency due to a dirty air filter. So remember to check it and change it out for a new one. The cabin air filter will be sucking in the ash from outside when using the A/C contaminating it as well. So you may also want to replace it, too.

Lastly your windshield wipers will collect ash as well as dust and dirt and can easily be cleaned with a towel and plain isopropyl alcohol. That way you wont smearing ash , dirt, and grit causing scratches in your windshield, along with that annoying chattering sound from the windshield wipers. I hope these tips help!