Will the ash falling in Washington state hurt my car?

Lake Forest Park had the worst air quality in the state Tuesday morning, August 21.

With ash falling across Western Washington, many are wondering if the ash will damage the finish of their cars and trucks.

It could, if not handled properly.  While the ash may only be mildly abrasive, wiping them off with a dry cloth is not recommended and could potentially scratch your paint, especially if you use pressure.

So you should wash them off, right?  Yes.

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See a map with real-time air quality conditions for Washington state cities.

Mike West, who has 54 years of experience in the auto body repair and paint industry, says the key is what you do before you wash your vehicle.

“The ash will have no harsh effects on your car's finish as long as you thoroughly rinse your vehicle with your water hose, from the top down first, prior to washing it. The ash may contain some very mild abrasive, which if not pre-rinsed off, could leave micro scratches in the paint finish that show up in bright sunlight, especially on darker colors,” said West.

Eric Berge of Werner's Crash Shop spoke with KIRO 7 morning anchor and reporter John Knicely.

Berge agreed that there should be minimal impact to your car and that rinsing before washing is key.

“Rinse the car really thoroughly before you wash it so you're not grinding it into the surface.  Putting pressure on it -- you'd be like sanding the paint,” said Berge.

According to car-care product maker Meguiar’s, owners should also make a point of washing their vehicles soon after they’re covered in ash if rain is in the forecast.

The company warns that the next time the finish gets wet with the wood ash it can become highly corrosive if not rinsed and washed off.

“Leaving an ash-covered car outside on wet nights or foggy mornings may very well result in chemical etching and, in some cases, serious damage to a vehicle’s painted surfaces,” CEO Barry Meguiar said in a release.

Finally, if you're not a fan of hand washing your car, taking it through a drive-through car wash or one where you spray it yourself is perfectly fine, again, as long as the car is rinsed before washing.

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