Sick of your car? Maybe it’s mak­ing you ill

Ottawa Citizen - - DRIVING - BRIAN TURNER Driv­ing.ca

It’s sur­pris­ing that a sub­stan­tial part of any ve­hi­cle’s con­struc­tion is de­voted to keep­ing us pro­tected. Safety fea­tures we ex­pect, but health pro­tec­tion we some­times take for granted — or don’t even know about. Some items we can mon­i­tor and take care of our­selves and oth­ers re­quire a lit­tle more ef­fort, of­ten from ex­pe­ri­enced hands. Cabin air fil­ters: Enough of our pop­u­la­tion is at risk from mould and mildew spores that you’d think this of­ten-easy-to-re­place item would be a reg­u­lar in ev­ery­one’s rou­tine, but sadly it isn’t. If a driver or pas­sen­ger is par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to these ma­te­ri­als, wait­ing un­til there’s a no­tice­able odour or lack of HVAC air flow means suf­fer­ing need­lessly.

Your oil-change tech should be in­spect­ing this fil­ter at every ser­vice, but with longer and longer man­u­fac­turer-rec­om­mended in­ter­vals ap­pli­ca­ble to to­day’s ve­hi­cles, a cabin air fil­ter can of­ten go bad long be­fore any­one catches on.

De­pend­ing on your sen­si­tiv­ity to mould or mildew and the en­vi­ron­ment you drive in, you should be check­ing this fil­ter at least three times per year. With most ve­hi­cles the fil­ter is ac­ces­si­ble from the inside, usu­ally be­hind the glove box. If you’ve been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a heavy musty odour be­fore chang­ing the fil­ter, you might want to try a spray treat­ment of a good house­hold mould killer.

With the fil­ter re­moved you can also di­rect the spray to the inside of the heater box. Af­ter let­ting it sit overnight, keep the heat set high on the HVAC con­trols for a few days worth of com­mut­ing (open the win­dows if you have to).

The dry heat from the ve­hi­cle’s heater core can re­duce the moist en­vi­ron­ment needed to let mould and mildew thrive. Raw fuel or ex­haust is best avoided: Ford is in the news this year with com­plaints from law en­force­ment per­son­nel re­gard­ing ex­haust fumes en­ter­ing the pas­sen­ger com­part­ments of their work ve­hi­cles.

Ap­par­ently with all the ad­di­tional equip­ment and elec­tron­ics po­lice ser­vices re­quire, the in­stall­ers might not have taken steps to seal any body holes they made to route ca­bling and other com­po­nents. You don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be driv­ing a win­ter beater to run the risk of en­gine or ex­haust fumes en­ter­ing the cabin.

As some of the chem­i­cals that spew out of our in­ter­nal com­bus­tion beasts can have cu­mu­la­tive and less-than-read­ily-no­tice­able ef­fects on our bod­ies, get­ting things fixed be­fore you fall ill is crit­i­cal.

With au­to­mo­tive ex­haust, some leaks come with an au­di­ble warn­ing, but some do not.

Ex­haust man­i­fold/gas­ket leaks, for ex­am­ple, of­ten start off with a barely au­di­ble throaty rum­ble only when the en­gine is cold.

If you’re driv­ing a V-8 or long in-line cylin­der powered ve­hi­cle, take the time once or twice a year to turn off all un­nec­es­sary ac­ces­sory noise­mak­ers on the first start of the day and lis­ten to the en­gine care­fully.

Hav­ing the com­plete ex­haust and fuel sys­tems in­spected dur­ing rou­tine ser­vices on the same fre­quency is also wise.

WIKICOMMONS

The cabin air fil­ter from a Mercedes E-Class.

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