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While Canada is experiencing a lower than average number of wildfires this year, the hundreds of wildfires that are currently raging across the west coast of the United States are contributing to the worst air quality seen in decades. With cities like Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco having the worst air quality of anywhere in the world. Despite Canada’s low number of wildfires, air quality across Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan is continuing to decline as the fires continue to burn. Breathing in too much wildfire smoke can make anyone sick, but is particularly damaging to high risk groups such as the elderly or anyone with respiratory issues. 

Protecting Yourself at Home 

If you are experiencing bad air quality in your area due to the wildfires there are a few ways to protect yourself and keep you and your family safe and healthy while in your home. 

  • Keep all windows and doors closed at your home.
  • If you have air conditioning, use the recirculate function. Make sure the air filter on your furnace or air conditioning system is clean. If the filter is dirty, replace it with a new filter.
  • If your house is too warm to keep the windows closed consider using an air purifier. 
  • If you are using a ceiling fan to recirculate air make sure to clean the fan of any dust or debris. 

Protecting Yourself on the Go

The average Canadian spends 45 minutes to an hour commuting to and from work every day. With personal vehicles being the primary mode of transportation for 74% of Canadians, your in-car smoke protection is only as good as your filter. 

Most car manufacturers recommend changing your air filter every 20,000 km or every 12 months, whichever comes first, regardless of how dirty your air filter appears to be. A clean cabin filter will keep the smoky air outside and clean air inside while driving. Besides checking your cabin air filter consistently and changing it as necessary here a few ways to avoid breathing in smoke while driving your vehicle. 

  • While driving, always keep windows fully rolled up to let the cabin air filter do its job
  • If using air conditioning, make sure to use the recirculate setting to cycle the clean air in the vehicle. 
  • During particularly smokey or dusty areas ensure the air on the vehicle is turned off to not clog up the filter with dust, smoke and debris. 

How Smoke Can Harm Your Vehicle

Smoke from wildfires can cause serious issues to your vehicle if it is not properly addressed. Here are some common problems related to smoke:

  • Strange Engine Noises – When your car is idling, you should feel and hear the smooth vibrations of an efficient engine. If you notice unusual noises, in particular a coughing, popping or spitting noise, it suggests that the engine isn’t getting enough airflow, which means your air filter needs to be replaced. What has actually happened in your engine is the air filter has become dirty or clogged. This reduces the airflow, changing the air-fuel mixture. The rich fuel mixture creates a black soot residue which covers the spark plugs. The noise comes from the spark plugs not firing properly due to this residue. Dirty spark plugs can also cause problems with starting your car and misfiring.
  • Decreased Power and Performance – If you noticed that your vehicle isn’t as responsive and powerful as it usually is, there’s a good chance a dirty air filter is preventing your engine from receiving the clean air it needs to perform optimally. Simply replacing your air filter can eliminate this issue.
  • Lower than Usual Fuel Economy – Decreasing fuel economy is a clear sign of a bad or dirty air filter. A bad or dirty air filter restricts air flow, lowering the oxygen in the mixture. Your engine compensates for this by consuming more fuel to produce enough power to move the same distance or speed as you would with a clean filter.
  • Black Smoke or Flames in the Exhaust System – An insufficient air supply means your engine will be running on a fuel-rich mixture, which won’t burn completely before it enters the exhaust to leave the car as a black soot-like residue. This residue can be seen as black smoke. Alternatively, the heat in the exhaust might ignite the unburnt fuel, causing flames at the end of the exhaust and a popping sound.
  • Smell of Gas or Petrol in the Exhaust System – If you smell gas (petrol) when starting the car, it’s because insufficient air is entering the fuel injection system and the excess unburnt fuel exits the car through the exhaust pipe (hence the smell). When you replace the air filter, the smell should go.
  • Check Engine Light – An inadequate supply of air can result in carbon deposits accumulating in the engine, which will eventually trigger your check engine light. If the light comes on, check your air filter to see if it needs replacing before you run other, more expensive diagnostics. 

As you can see, a dirty air filter can cause numerous problems for your vehicle if it isn’t changed regularly. During times of low air quality both filters in your vehicle become dirty and clogged much quicker than usual. Not sure how to check your air filters? No problem! Come visit our service department for a no charge filter check to make sure that you are and your vehicle are staying safe and healthy.