The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

San Diego Cars and Trucks Suffer from Breathing Smoke Too; Oil Changer Suggests Replacing Air Filters, Checking Oil

SAN DIEGO--Oct. 2, 20039, 2003--Residents of areas located in the path of the smoke and ash pouring from wildfires in San Diego and San Bernardino counties have been warned to avoid breathing outdoors because of health risks from the ultra-fine particles.

People also need to realize that when they drive through that same smoky air, their cars and trucks can also suffer damage, warns Larry Read, Chief Executive Officer of the Oil Changer(TM) chain, which has four stores in San Diego County. All four have been temporarily closed by the fires.

If properly handled, smoke and ash problems need not be significant and can usually be fixed as easily as changing the vehicle's air filter and checking or changing the oil after the smoke has dissipated. But left unchanged, air filters can clog and cause O2 sensor errors, contribute to fuel-injection problems and cut gas mileage by as much as 10-20 percent. Fine smoke and ash particles can also get through even a clean air filter into an engine manifold, where they can build up as grit in the oil, risking damage to an engine. Diesel engines, particularly those with turbo units that use vacuum air intakes like Ford 250 and 350 diesel trucks, can be particularly susceptible to smoke and ash getting into the engine and causing major damage, Read explained.

Driving in smoke for as little as 50-100 miles -- one day's commute for many motorists -- can foul an air filter enough to warrant replacing it, Read said. Thankfully, Read said, replacing an air filter will cost only $6 to $14 in most cases, and takes only two or three minutes at most shops like Oil Changer.

Do-it-yourselfers should be warned against even gently knocking an air filter against a solid object to knock the loose soot out, and should under no circumstance try to wash a filter or blow one out with compressed air, Read noted. High pressure air or even jarring the filter can break fragile filaments of an air filter loose, Read said. "If you're not sure what you're doing putting it back together, you might not even be able to start the vehicle again," Read added.

Oil Changer plans to help San Diego residents cope with the damage by offering 25 percent off the cost of all filters after the fires are brought under control. They also plan to donate a portion of their post-fire revenues to fire relief funds.

Read has been in the oil-change business for more than 20 years. He is currently treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the national Automotive Oil Change Association.

More information about Oil Changer is available at