Proper car maintenance after a volcanic eruption

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    THE eruption of Taal Volcano released a kind of volcanic ash that is different from the one from Mt. Pinatubo.

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology experts say that the ash released by Taal Volcano also carries a fine dust that is smaller than a micron also called microdust which can cause health issues. This fine dust can go directly into the bloodstream. Being so small it can easily infiltrate nearly every opening in a vehicle, easily clog air-filters. When wet the ash can cake and clog radiators which can lead to overheating and engine failure.

    Ash particles can even enter bearings, CV joints that have rupture rubber boots and even transmissions with uncovered or defective pressure plugs. Transmissions that are infiltrated by ash particles can experience extra wear and noise which can lead to metal fatigue and failure.

    Brakes are also affected by volcanic ash because of its fine “sandpaper qualities.”

    According to Phivolcs experts, volcanic ash consists of particles called pyroclasts. These measure between with 2 mm and can be as fine as 1 micrometer (μm). Fine sandpaper of 320 grit is about 1.5mm bit. Thus, brake pads and rotors are especially vulnerable to abrasion, while ash can also cause clogging of cable systems.

    Seals on hydraulic components can break. In some examples, mining trucks used to transport the lahar from Pinatubo after excavating it from the river experience brake failure after being subjected to heavy ash exposure. Driving for long distances over ash fields may require constant brake attention and light braking.

    Also, ash caught between windshields and wiper blades will scratch and permanently mark the windshield glass. This is because of the abrasive nature of the bits and the shape which is a complex crystal, usually made of silica and iron. Melted under the extreme heat of magma the fusion or iron and glass makes for a strong material that can damage windows by scratching, each time these are raised, lowered, and cleaned.

    Finally, fresh volcanic ash in areas closest to the source of the eruption are highly corrosive due to sulfur content which can turn into a mild sulfuric acid that cause corrosion of paintwork and exterior fittings.

    Many car companies offered their advice to ensure good car maintenance after a volcanic ashfall. Ford Motor Philippine suggests to:

    1. Keep vehicles under cover as much as possible.

    2. Not to remove ash by sweeping or brushing as it may cause scratches on the vehicle body. Remove by rinsing with water using a garden hose on low pressure while wearing appropriate dust mask and eye gear.

    3. Lift wiper blades clear of the windscreen and ensure both glass and wiper rubbers are cleared from ash deposits.

    4. Ensure the areas around the fuel door and door opening are cleaned prior to re-fuelling your vehicle to avoid contaminants from entering the fuel tank.

    5. Engine air cleaner should be inspected by a qualified technician and replaced where dust accumulation has occurred.

    6. Under hood and engine bay area should also be inspected and cleaned by a qualified service personnel to avoid any damage.

    7. For people driving in areas with heavy ashfall, have the pollen filter replaced at the first opportunity to ensure it does not clog up evaporators and they do not breath any contaminants.

    8. Avoid driving while significant ash deposits remain on the road. If driving cannot be avoided, use the vehicle climate control system on recirculated air mode to reduce unwanted dust and odor from entering your vehicle. When required to drive in ashy conditions keep speed at least 20 kilometers per hour lower than road speed. For example if the required speed is 50 kms. per hour drive at 35 mph or lower. Do not follow too close to the car ahead, and use headlights on low beam.

    Taal Volcano is known for its long-term eruptions—sometimes lasting for months.

    If in case this happens the following are suggested:

    Change oil often. In very dense ash conditions change oil less than 10,000 kilometers than your usual change cycle.

    Clean air filters by with compressed air from the inside going out. If your filter is oil-based use the cleaning fluids. Clean filters daily. By blowing the filter element from inside you can reuse it. Replace the filter much earlier than the service cycle.

    Cleaning the interior of the car is necessary to be done every day. Vacuuming is needed to take out the fine particles which are respiratory hazards.