Washing the ash, we ‘ashk’ an expert

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer January 15,2020

A resident tries to clean the mud and ash from his van AFP

Last Sunday, Jan. 12, social media erupted not just with the explosive news that a restive Taal Volcano in Batangas province blew its top anew (after simmering for nearly 50 years). As the ashes from the eruption spread upwards and northwards, a “secondary explosion” broke the internet, and that was the concern of motorists of how to properly clean the thick layer of ash that settled on their vehicles and their air-conditioning systems.

Numerous suggestions and advisories from well-meaning netizens, as well as car companies have come out online. So, when the dust settles (literally), what tips really do work?

Inquirer Motoring caught up with Nathan C. Lim of Versatemp, a trusted supplier of vehicle air-conditioning systems in the Philippines.

Here’s Lim’s expert advice:

1) Air-con systems are generally protected from ash, but …

Lim told Inquirer Motoring that the condenser and radiator fan motors and electrical connectors are completely sealed from dust, water, and most certainly ash.

“In case you’re driving (or have driven) in areas with heavy ashfall, dust off the condenser coil with compressed air (carefully, of course, to make sure fins are not bent or deformed) to maintain airflow and heat transfer capability. Do not wash the condenser with water until the ash has been blown off as there is a risk that the ash will harden on the fins and tubes,” said Lim.

2) For older car models

“Older car models may not have sealed motors, and I’m speculating here, that fine particles of ash and volcanic debris may adhere to the grease and eventually accelerate wear. But this may take a while. Unless there was significant wear already to start with,” he added.

3) Better to use AC than to roll windows down during heavy ashfall.

“Using the AC where ashfall is present is certainly a better option than rolling down the windows. Just make sure the fresh air intake is closed. The newer your car, the better the seal of the fresh air inlet flap against the fresh air intake. If you smell vehicle exhaust coming in even with windows closed, it’s not sealing very well,” Lim said.

“If your fresh air intake has a poor seal, it may be a good idea to wear some sort of mask,” added Lim.

4) Sophisticated air filters

“Many cars now have cabin air filters to remove pollen, dust, pet hair, etc, from air being blown onto the evaporator coil. This reduces the frequency of evaporator cleaning. It’s best to replace the filter if the air velocity decreases noticeably,” said Lim.

Motorists could also get useful tips from the official social media pages of Toyota Motor Philippines, Honda Cars Philippines and Isuzu Philippines Corp’s service bulletins.

IPC’s service bulletin includes all commercial vehicles (CVs) and light commercial vehicle (LCV) models. The bulletin is released to guide dealers on the proper procedure in washing and removal of volcanic ash on affected vehicles for both LCVs and CVs.

IPC shares these following tips for its LCVs:

1. Conduct air blow on affected unit. Make sure to have an enclosed area where ash could be contained during air blowing.

Also do the air blow process on the engine room and tire assembly. Do not operate wiper blades if windshield is covered with ash/dirt. Also, lift up wiper blade before performing air blow process.

2. Perform high pressure wash on affected unit. Start from roof and hood (horizontal panels first) then work your way on side panels and underbody.

3. Wash unit with soap and clean rag. Apply soap on unit to remove ash/dirt already stuck on unit panel. Make sure to clean the wiper blades.

4. Wipe unit clean with chamois. Clean whole panels on all sides using clean chamois. Include the wiping of the door openings and fuel lid cover. Air blow the edges of window glass and headlight, rear lights to ensure water will not settle on crevices.

TMP advised car owners some “immediate measures”:

Wash vehicles with pressurized water to remove ash from the vehicle’s body, but car owners are advised not to wipe the vehicle while spraying water to avoid scratches on the vehicle’s body. Repeat the procedure if vehicle continues to be covered with ash.

If engine room is affected, please bring your vehicle to your nearest Toyota dealer for proper engine cleaning. Please contact your dealer if you have questions.

To avoid possible health risks, TMP recommends to refrain from using air conditioning system to prevent outside air from coming in. Use of the aircon system during ash fall may pose some risks.

Air filter must also be cleaned if vehicle is driven in areas affected by ash fall.

Air filter must also be cleaned if vehicle is driven in areas affected by ash fall. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

TMP advises to refrain from driving during heavy ash fall for the safety and protection of the vehicle and its occupants.

Honda Cars Philippines has advised motorists to “avoid using your car in areas highly affected with ashfall unless absolutely necessary.”

HCPI added that as much as possible, avoid using your car’s aircon as ash can get into the vents. If usage of aircon is necessary, have your air filter checked and cleaned/replaced immediately.

Always wear face mask even when inside the car. Experts recommend at least N95-type. If not available, a slightly damp handkerchief or towel can be used.

Do not use your wipers if the windshield is dry as this can potentially scratch the windshield. Make sure to fully drench the windshield before activating wipers.

Remove ash from your car using pressurized water. Then wash-off your car as you normally would, using shampoo liberally and soft sponge. Repeat washing if ash particles remain.

If heavily affected by ash, it is highly advised to have your car serviced/checked-up at any authorized Honda dealer and have the vehicle cleaned, including the engine, radiator and other essential parts.

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