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Taking Care of Your Vehicle In Wildfire Smoke

By Jeff Cummings

As wildfires become increasingly common in Alberta, the smoke these fires produce is not only dangerous for your health—it can also hamper your vehicle’s performance.

Wildfire smoke can infiltrate every space and cranny in your vehicle. And sometimes, driving in highly dense smoke can impact crucial sensors in your vehicle’s air intake systems.

“A sensor could get hot from the smoke’s debris, and it could cause your engine light to come on your dashboard as you’re driving,” says Bruce Stewart with Bruce Stewart’s Auto Repair Centre, an AMA Approved Auto Repair Service Facility and Rewards partner. “This could cause your vehicle to idle really low or cause issues with your vehicle’s mileage.”

Stewart recommends visiting your AMA-approved mechanic to get those sensors cleaned to avoid complications and keep them effective at detecting future issues. All shops carry sensor cleaning sprays which allow mechanic to remove debris from those sensors, giving you peace of mind.

If you’ve been driving close to a wildfire or in an extremely smoky area, you should also get your mechanic to check your engine air filter, as ash can start to restrict air flow to the engine.


During a wildfire when smoky conditions linger for days, your vehicle’s cabin filter plays a critical role in keeping the inside of your car clean.

“So, when you’re travelling through a heavily smoky area, hit the recirculation button on your air conditioner,” said Stewart. “This keeps the air recirculating in your vehicle that’s already inside.”

But you should always keep an eye on the filter by visiting your local shop or by checking them manually, as it’s a crucial part of the vehicle that helps your respiratory health inside the car.

If you’re checking it yourself, check the vehicle’s manual to locate and inspect your filter regularly. If it appears clogged or dirty, replace it to ensure you’re getting optimal filtration efficiency. For more information about changing your vehicle’s filter, check out this story.