Safety Tips to Follow When You’re Stuck on the Road During an Ashfall

A few days back, the famous Taal Volcano had a phreatic eruption which had caused an ashfall; it even reached Metro Manila. The ashfall caused lots of problems for drivers, motorists, and those who even take public transport or commute. It has been a nuisance even to regular residents because of the danger it holds.

What You Should Do During an Ashfall
This image was taken from the Philippine Star |

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What is an Ashfall?

An ashfall is also known as a “hard rain of particles” that came from whatever a volcano spewed. It’s considered dangerous because of the haze and the dust it brings; it isn’t regular dust, the particles contain microscopic “broken glass” particles that can damage our bodies.

But have you put thought on how hard it is to drive during an Ashfall? Honestly, if you’ve seen the photos – it’s like driving in a storm. It can cause poor visibility and accidents on the road.

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As much as possible, avoid driving during an ashfall if you don’t really need to go anywhere. On the other hand, we’ve listed some of tips to make sure that you and your car is safe while you are travelling.

Keep important things inside your car

Should you really need to be traveling, ensure that you have the essentials for you to be able to keep the haze off of your systems. These things include:

  • A face mask (preferably an N95 face mask)
  • Glasses or goggles for the protection of your eyes
  • Jackets and cloth to cover your face or some parts of your body
  • A bottle of water to keep you hydrated

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Those are a few of the essentials you would need if you really need to travel during an ashfall. Ensure that you have all within reach so you won’t have to bramble to find it in case you need it.

Make sure you drive slowly and carefully to create distances from the vehicles in front and at the back of you.

As we mentioned earlier, driving in an ashfall is much like driving in a storm. There are scenarios where visibility can become very limited and this can actually cause accidents. This is why you need to make sure that there is a significant distance between you and the car in front of you.

First, this allows the ash coming from the other car to disperse a bit and not go towards you. Second, it gives you a little bit of time to react just in case you experience zero visibility.

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If you find yourself in an expressway, it’s advisable that you maintain or stay at the minimum speed allowed to ensure that your car or vehicle doesn’t slide.

Make sure the car isn’t idle for a long period

Leaving the engine on for long periods of time while your stuck in traffic can cause issues. If this happens, make sure to turn your engine off. Failing to do so can cause your car filters to get clogged; resulting to slowed performance.

If you expect that traffic is going to be really heavy or if it’s not really needed to go out, avoid driving or travelling at all for the meantime – it’s the best way to avoid any problems for both you and your car.

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If visibility becomes really low, pull over

Over time, the ash that’s falling will cause poor visibility – and that’s a guarantee. Yes, you can use your windshield wipers to clean it off but what if your windshield wiper fluid runs out? Also, the contents of the ash is not your regular dust – it’s something that can be dangerous if inhaled.

It would be challenging to use your windshield wipers due to the fact that wiping off the ash without the fluid can cause damage/scratches to your windscreen. If that happens, pull over and don’t take the risk of continuing. On a side note, turn off your engine as well.

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Recirculate the Airconditioner

By default, this is what cars are usually set to, but make sure it really is and keep it that way. It recycles the air inside your car instead of pulling in air from outside (which in this case will also include ash particles).

If you go and take the option of getting the air outside, your car can absorb the haze from outside and it can damage both the aircon of your car and the health of the people inside it. This actually is one of the best tips anyone can take if they’re traveling during an ashfall.

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Clean your car afterwards or as soon as the ashfall stops.

One you have reached your destination, there’s one more thing you need to worry about – it’s cleaning your car. Doing so ensures that you won’t have any problems or issues with any parts of it.

Make sure that you clean your car thoroughly since the ashes can easily find their way in your engine bay. If you happen to not clean all of it and it if you allow it to stay in your car for too long, it becomes really sticky and wet and you’d find it more difficult to remove later on in the future.

Here are a few tips as well to help you on cleaning or tuning your car after an ashfall:

  1. If you drove over heavy dust situations, you need to change your oil, air and oil filters frequently every 80-160 kilometers (that’s 50-100 miles converted). If it’s just light dust, you can change every 800-1600 kilometers instead.
  2. Bring the car to a service garage and have them clean your wheel assemblies for every 50-100 miles for very severe conditions or 200-500 miles for heavy dust conditions such as what we’ve experienced.
  3. You might no be able to remove all of the ash that penetrated your engine bay. Make sure to clean the essential parts daily for a few days consistently to make sure that all of the ash would be flushed out of your vehicle’s components.
  4. Wash the engine compartment using a garden hose. Doing so will remove any ash that might have already became sticky.

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Again, as much as possible we want to reiterate that if its not important. Don’t drive in this type of conditions. But if you really need to, drive safe and keep all of these tips in mind.

In all honesty, all these tips are easy and general tips for people like us who travel. During an ashfall – especially if it’s hard –  it really is not advisable to stay outdoors.

Keep appointments and reschedule meetings that will require you to travel long kilometers. Remember that during an ashfall, it’s not just the vehicle or the road that is in danger – it can also impose a lot of health problems.

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