Important Tips to Know Before Cleaning Volcanic Ash Off Your Vehicle

Taal Volcano's recent eruption in the country has accented the need for drivers to be aware of the damages caused by volcanic ash in their vehicles.

These damages are at their worst when they scratch your car's paint, windows and wiper blades.

They can get inside every opening in your vehicle, which can easily clog air-filtration systems and brake assemblies. This causes the brakes to malfunction and the car's engine to fail and overheat over time.

Ash from a volcano can also make driving difficult and dangerous. Cars that travel fast can stir up and create "cloud dusts" that can lessen visibility on the road. And if that's not enough, ash can decrease tire traction, especially when the roads are wet or covered with marking.

This brings us to one important point: Never underestimate volcanic ash. They can cause a lot of damage--especially if you don't clean them correctly.

What is Volcanic Ash?

Volcanic ash is different from the common ash we see when burning paper or wood. The latter is soft, while the ash from volcanic activity is hard and insoluble in water.

And while volcanic ash may be smaller than the standard ashes, the mineralogical composition might vary depending on the type of volcano it originated from.

Take the case of Taal Volcano. According to a research and study made by by Carating, Juico, and Okhura, the ashes spewn out from Taal contain more basalt to basaltic andesite rocks than igneous types found in some volcanoes.

Why is this significant? Basalt is a hard rock. It's a common ingredient used to create tiles or bricks--or even as a base for roads and pavements. In fact, the word "basalt" is derived from Late Latin "basaltes", a misspelling of Latin "basanites", which means "very hard stone".

According to ScienceStruck, it's 6 on the Mohs scale, and in terms of tensile and shear strength, basalt rocks fall in the strong to very strong category. This makes them very tough--enough to scratch metal or break glass.

How It Affects Vehicles

So what this means for vehicles is that ash from some volcanoes are far more damaging compared to others.

All volcanic ashes are abrasive--but the volcanic ash from Taal is more abrasive due to its more "basaltic" properties.

That's why it's important to be careful when cleaning your vehicle. Volcanic ash contains minute rocks that can cause deep scratches on your vehicle's surface. And once these scratches appear, then it's only a matter of time before metal rusts, or glass weakens in strength.

12 Steps in Cleaning Your Vehicle

This brings us to another important point: Make sure to clean off  volcanic ash very carefully.

And by carefully, we mean AVOID WIPING them off--especially when car paints and windshields are involved.

Here's a step-by-step guide on the proper way to clean them:

1. Hose off your car first. This allows the water to loosen surface deposits, allowing the ashes to fall off easily. Another alternative you can do here is to "air clean" the ashes using a blower. This one is messier, however, but it does the job decently.

2. You'll be using three buckets with different sponges here. The first bucket and sponge will be used for cleaning the car's windshield, windows, and wipers (using a PH-neutral soap or shampoo); a second bucket and sponge is used for cleaning the vehicle's entire body; and a third bucket is used for cleaning the tires.

Using individual buckets for each of your vehicle's areas will make sure that the water doesn't get contaminated by the debris from the other buckets.

3. It's important to clean using only one stroke: from top to bottom. This ensures that the debris will fall down the vehicle naturally, allowing for easier rinsing and lesser debris contamination.

4. When doing the actual cleaning, follow this routine: Get the first bucket, and hose a small area of your windshield to remove remaining debris. Then sponge the small area off using a PH-neutral  shampoo or soap (to neutralize the ashes' acidity). Repeat the entire process again, moving forward on a different spot methodically until you've covered all the areas of your windshield.

Do the same for your wipers and glass windows as well.

By the way, it's important to wash all crevices, especially around the windshield and windows. Dust may have gathered in these places, so you might have to lower your windows down (or even open your car doors) to get rid of the debris lodged inside these small spaces.

5. Get the second bucket for cleaning the vehicle's entire body. Using a different sponge, repeat the same procedure in number 4, making sure to clean only from top to bottom.

6. Then get the third bucket for the tires, and follow the same procedures outlined in number 4.

7. Now, rinse off your vehicle thoroughly, starting from the hood and down to the tires. To be sure that all debris are washed off, it's good to perform a second round of rinsing before you dry it off.

8. Dry off the vehicle with a high quality microfiber drying towel or synthetic chamois.

9. Apply a good polish or wax to add protection to your vehicle. Not only do they prevent ash from settling on the surface or even in small crevices, but they can also form a mild barrier against acidic deposits.

10. Make sure you're car's tires, rubber seals, and wiper blades are well-sealed by applying automotive rubber treatment.

11. Cover the passenger compartment vent inlet with thick, loosely woven felt-type material to filter air that gets inside your car. The vent inlet is often located at the base of the wind-shield, and usually found under (or on the side) of the vehicle's hood.

12. Make sure to frequently wash your car until the volcanic eruptions stop. This will help prevent the volcanic ash from settling and causing damage.

Better yet, just cover your entire vehicle with a good, quality car cover. Not only is this good preventive measure for you, but it will also save you a lot of time (and effort) in cleaning  the ashes off your vehicle.

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