Stuck on the road during an ashfall? Here are a few safety tips

You’ll need all the help you can get
by Leandre Grecia | Jan 12, 2020
PHOTO: Leandre Grecia

You’ve probably heard the news about the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano earlier today. Ashfall from the said eruption has reached as far as Metro Manila as of writing, and this has become a problem for thousands of unlucky motorists that were on the road when the ashfall began.

Just to give you an idea of how bad things have gotten, even Toyota Motor Philippines has posted its own advisory on Facebook to help out its customers. From our end, we’ve come up with a brief list of safety tips to keep you and your car safe in case an ashfall suddenly occurs while you’re on the road. It goes without saying that you should avoid driving altogether in times like these, but if the conditions allow for it and you really have to hit the road, then keep these tips in mind.

1) Drive slowly and maintain a significant distance to the car in front.

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Driving through ashfall is a lot like driving through a storm: You should drive slowly, and if you’re on an expressway, then it’ll be safe to just follow the minimum speed allowed. Avoid tailgating more so, because the ash kicked up by the wheels of the car in front of you can drastically worsen your visibility—far worse than how water spray does, mind you.

2) Don’t idle the car for extended periods of time.

Idling the car for too long during an ashfall will clog the filters. If you’re stuck in gridlock, do your car a favor and turn off the engine. Again, avoid driving the car for extended periods through an ashfall, or avoid driving at all, if possible—that’s the best way to avoid any engine problems.

3) If road visibility is too low, pull over.

You can’t easily use your windshield wipers to clean off ash (especially if you’ve run out of windshield washer fluid, so keep the reservoir topped up), which means visibility could get really low. If you’re finding it too difficult to navigate through the ashfall, find a safe place to stop and simply pull over. Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t forget about number two on this list.

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4) Have your car thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible afterwards.

Once you’ve got the driving part over and done with, you’re now left with the task of having your car thoroughly cleaned—and we mean thoroughly. The ash that’s accumulated on your car can eventually find its way to the inside of the engine bay, clogging the fans and the belts. Also, ash gets sticky when it’s wet, so not only will it be difficult to wash off if you leave it sitting on surfaces for too long, it will also affect the cooling capability of your radiator. We’ll release a much more comprehensive tip sheet on this soon, so watch this space.

5) Recirculate the A/C. 

We know this is the default setting for most automobiles, so in this situation keep it that way. Your priority right now is to not breathe in ash particles.

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Do you have any other tips you can add to this list? Feel free to share them in the comments. Drive safe, everyone!

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PHOTO: Leandre Grecia
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