Forest Fires and Your Car’s Paint Job

by | Aug 24, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

No time to grieve for roses when the forests are burning.—Zbigniew Herbert

With all the forest fires burning across the country, even the world, the bright red sunsets are a sight to see. Unfortunately, you may have also noticed a residue of fine-dust and even particles of ash on your car. What you are seeing is the ash and soot fallout from the forests burning. You need to be aware of this because the ash contains substances in the ash that can damage your car’s finish.

Ash residue from forest fires can damage your vehicle’s finish and the average garden hose cannot supply enough water and water pressure with the detergent action to avoid damaging a vehicle’s finish. The ash from forest fires contains, among other things, the minerals magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. These minerals are essential for life, but they are not healthy for your vehicle’s paint. When ash mixes with water, paint damaging chemical reactions occur. The real concern is when your car gets wet. Chemical etching can happen, and it doesn’t have to rain either. Sprinkler systems, morning dew, and even fog can create conditions ripe for chemical etching. If left untreated, etching can occur and cause significant damage to paint, clear coat, or both.

The most damaging chemical reaction results in potassium hydroxide lyes. Potassium hydroxide acts similar to drain cleaner and is corrosive. Potassium hydroxide is one of the chemicals used in in Caustic strippers. They work because the lye reacts with the oily component of the paint, loosening it from the surface.

Calcium and magnesium carbonates are also a big concern. Carbonates form when these minerals are mixed with water and become corrosive. If left alone, the corrosive residue will eventually create tiny craters in your car’s paint and clear coat finishes. Furthermore, calcium is the cause of hard water, which results in water spots. The solution: A professional car wash and maybe deail or paint correction ensures a thorough washing of your car, ensuring it is free of damaging chemical reactions and abrasives.