With Southern California under a blanket of smoke and falling ash, motorists should take steps to remove debris from the exterior paint of their vehicles, according to AAA. "It's especially important to remove ash and soot from vehicles as soon as possible," said Dave Skaien, of the Auto Club's Approved Auto Repair Program. It may take more than one wash to remove ash since a large amount is falling throughout the Southland and will continue to fall for the next several days. "Motorists may have to repeat washings to keep ash from collecting on the vehicle and scratching and damaging the paint," said Skaien. Other tips for caring for your vehicles in the coming weeks:

  • Whenever possible, garage the vehicles. Not only is this the best way to keep ash off, it also will protect and prolong the finish on the vehicles, and the trim and rubber on tires.

  • If you can't park the vehicles in the garage, gently wipe the vehicles off with a long-handled car duster to remove the soot and ash. Be sure to dust off the headlights and taillights for maximum visibility. If you have a car cover, use it. A car cover also will help keep ash off of the vehicle and protect the painted surface.

  • If washing the vehicles at home, wet thoroughly and wash with warm water, a soft mitt, towel or sponge, and formulated car wash soap. Start at the car roof and work your way down and around the panels. Rinse vehicles thoroughly and dry with a soft clean towel or chamois.

  • After the fires are over, motorists should inspect and replace, as necessary, the engine air filter and auto technicians should inspect and replace ventilation filters in the passenger compartment. A dirty air filter can restrict fuel economy and increase vehicle emissions.

  • If you haven't changed windshield wipers for the winter season, change them now before cleaning the windshield with wipers. Make sure the windshield wiper fluid reservoir is filled and spray the windshield first to avoid accidentally scratching it.

  • Keep the sunroof and windows closed. Outside of the fire areas, run the air conditioner on re-circulate until the outside air quality significantly improves. Once the outside air quality is better, make sure to run the air conditioner set on fresh or vent so you're moving outside air inside to clear the stale smoky smell. If the interior of the vehicle smells like smoke, add a vehicle air freshener to mask the odor.

  • Thoroughly vacuum vehicle floor mats and cloth surfaces. Wear a mask, if necessary.

  • When the smoky air clears, and to minimize the effects of ash and soot on the vehicles' clear coat, wax your vehicles in the garage when they are washed and cool. Use a good quality car wax and follow the directions. Once applied, remove with a clean, soft cloth. Car wax helps protect the finish against ash, hard water spots and future rainy weather.

    About the Automobile Club of Southern California The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate, has served members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit from the organization's roadside assistance service, insurance products and services, AAA Travel Agency, financial products, automotive pricing, buying and financing programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services, and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at www.aaa-calif.com.