Will Volcanic Ash Damage My Car’s Paint Job? Hawaii Residents: Kilauea’s Eruption Is Bad News for Our Cars On May 17th, 2018, Kilauea Volcano made national headlines when the Halemaumau Crater erupted, ejecting ash, toxic fumes, and volcanic glass 30,000 feet into the air.
Since May 3rd—when the initial eruption alerted residents—Kilauea has shown no signs of stopping. Dozens of lava vents have opened alongside lower Puna, and ash continues to affect air traffic and smother property for miles in every direction. As of this writing, thousands of people have been evacuated from nearby neighborhoods and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage has been reported. Damage to property is due to lava and ash
Most people think of lava or large chunks of falling debris as the main cause of property damage during an eruption. But ash plays a significant role in property loss as well. This article explains how volcanic ash can damage your vehicle’s paint, and what Hawaiian residents can do to prevent that damage from happening.
What is Volcanic Ash? Ash clouds are massive formations of pulverized rock, volcanic glass, and microscopic mineral shards, which can travel for hundreds of miles and even be seen from space satellites. As the clouds travel, their heavier elements slowly fall to earth, leaving a trail of fine smoke-colored dust in their wake.
Volcanic ash is rarely toxic to humans, although it may exacerbate health issues that already exist. The real issue with ash is how damaging it can be to vehicles and infrastructure. The fine grains get into everything, from vents and engines to water networks and power supply systems. If ash isn’t removed immediately, the damage from these grains can do significant and lasting damage. Many of the particles found in volcanic ash are barely visible to the human eye. But when we look at those same particles under a microscope, we see that their edges are as sharp as broken glass. Ash particles contain jagged, crystalline fragments that cause microscopic tears on everything they touch.
Can Volcanic Ash Damage My Vehicle’s Paint?
Unfortunately, volcanic ash does lead to vehicle paint damage. To understand why that is, you need to know a few basics about how paint layers work on a car. All vehicle paint jobs are layered, with a semi-protective clearcoat on top, a basecoat underneath, followed by a primer and an E-coat. The clearcoat is the thickest layer, usually between 30-50 µm. Taken together, the top four layers are just a bit thicker than a single human hair.
Not much protection, right?
Volcanic ash particles are also very small, ranging between 60-120 µm. It’s only when we magnify them that we see how sharp their edges really are. Ash particles aren’t likely to cause visual scratches on your vehicle’s paint—at least not right away. However, they do undermine the structural integrity of the clearcoat and underlying layers of your vehicle’s paint job. The microscopic fibers of ash are just sharp enough to cause micro-tears, eventually leading to paint fade and chipping.
Can Acid Rain Cause Vehicle Paint Damage?
When water and oxygen in the air combine with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from volcanic eruptions, it can lead to rain water with an acidic element. In fact, the most recent explosion of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has already produced some acid rain.
Acid rain isn’t always dangerous to humans. But it can have a serious impact on metal, including your vehicle’s paint job. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even slight traces of acid within rain can damage cars, as well as statues and monuments.
Normal rainfall, says the EPA’s website, tends to have a pH of about 5.6. Acid rain, on the other hand, has a pH of about 4.2-4.4. Within this range, acid rain won’t affect humans. But it will cause metal corrosion, which is why it’s essential to keep tabs on weather reports during major eruptions like our most recent at Kilauea.
How Do I Protect My Paint from the Volcanic Eruption effects? Here are a few quick tips to ensuring your paint job stays safe from volcanic ash and Acid Rain
Buy a vehicle cover. If there is an ash warning in effect, have it with you at all times, and keep it covered both at home and at work. It’s an extra chore to perform, but it could significantly reduce damage from ash.
Regularly clean your vehicle. You may have to wash your car once a day, but at least you’ll keep your paint job safe. Equally important, rinsing the ash off your vehicle will limit the damage it does to your air filters, alternator, radiator, etc.
Use public transportation for heavy ash conditions. If a major ash warning is in effect, you may want to keep your vehicle off the road entirely.
Alternatively, You Can Shield Your Vehicle with a Ceramic Paint Coating
Constantly covering your car and rinsing it off is a lot of work. And leaving your ride at home is never an ideal option. For protection that stays with your car and keeps your paint job looking as good as it was on the day you bought it, ceramic coatings are the way to go. Ceramic Coatings are an additional layer of paint protection that goes over a vehicle’s clearcoat. It’s thick enough to protect against even the most microscopic ash particles. Plus, it magnifies a vehicle’s original paint job, which gives it a beautiful, sleek, newly-washed shine. If you’re concerned about the ash from recent eruptions, and want to learn more about what you can do to protect your car, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Auto Concierge Hawaii.