Wildfire smoke is likely clogging up your car's cabin air filter

Smoke from B.C wildfires has been irritating Albertans lungs for days, and it also might be causing problems for their vehicles.

If it's only lightly clogged, wait until skies are clear before you change it, says mechanic

Ryan Rankine of South Pro Automotive shows a clean cabin air filter, right, and one clogged by smoke, left. (CBC)

Smoke from B.C wildfires has been irritating Albertans lungs for days, and it also might be causing problems for their vehicles.

Ryan Rankine of South Pro Automotive says sales of cabin air filters have increased dramatically recently.

This year is Calgary's smokiest on record, according to one amateur weather sleuth, who says the city hit 322 hours of smoke on Monday. 

The city got a brief respite on Tuesday, but on Wednesday Environment Canada once again warned that air quality had shot up to high risk.

A clogged air filter will not only slow your air conditioner down, but it will push smoky air throughout your car.

"It'll deal with the smoke, it deals with the dust. This filter is all the air coming in through your heater, so it filters your air for your heater, your air conditioning, for inside the car period," said Rankine.

He said if your filter is very dark in colour and filled with ash or dust, you should take it in to be replaced right away. But if it's only lightly smelling of smoke, hold off.

"If it's not plugged … I'd probably wait a couple weeks, let the smoke die down, replace it then, he said."

Normally, cabin air filters should be changed every year or so, depending on how much you drive.

Smoke is expected to linger in Calgary until Friday or Saturday.

With files from Elissa Carpenter

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