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