The Dangers of Leaving Your Car Running in the Garage

Car running in a garage

Whether you live in a cold or hot climate, you know how convenient it is to start your car in the garage and leave it running so the temperature can adjust. The problem is, that leaving your car running in a garage is very dangerous and even deadly. Learn the reasons running a car in an enclosed space could mean serious injury or death to you and your loved ones.

Dangers of Leaving Your Car Running in the Garage

When you leave your car running in the garage, you expose yourself, your family, and your pets to carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless, and highly toxic gas produced when fuel burns incompletely.

Most vehicles have tuned engines that start using internal combustion, producing high concentrations of this toxic gas. Most newer vehicles have been redesigned to reduce the emission of carbon monoxide. However, it is still present at dangerous levels in enclosed spaces like garages.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Even the lowest concentration of carbon monoxide inhalation can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 50,000 people visit the ER every year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to a study conducted by Iowa State, a running vehicle in a garage will raise carbon monoxide concentration levels to 500 parts per minute (ppm) in just two minutes with the garage door open. That’s 100 ppm more than the maximum amount of carbon monoxide in the environment! Furthermore, carbon monoxide was still present in that garage ten hours after removing the car.

Anyone who worked in that garage would have died from carbon monoxide poisoning within 5 to 10 minutes.

It is even more dangerous when your car runs in the garage in winter because, in cold weather, vehicle engines produce higher carbon monoxide concentrations. The concentration can reach over 80,000 ppm in the first two minutes after starting the car. Even though the levels of emission drop significantly after five or more minutes, carbon monoxide emissions are still at a dangerous concentration of 1,000 ppm.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Even just a few minutes of running your car in the garage can expose your family to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most symptoms resemble common illnesses, so it can be difficult to realize that you are poisoned until it is too late. Symptoms include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mental confusion 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Brain or heart damage
  • Miscarriage
  • Death

Open Garage Doors Do Not Protect You

Many think it is only dangerous to run your car if you have your doors closed, but this is a myth. Even with garage doors open, there is still a risk of poison gas leaking into the house – especially for families with attached garages. 

According to a Minnesota study, up to 85% of the air entering your house comes from the attached garage. It is also diluted as it flows into the house, so your carbon monoxide detector may not be able to pick it up.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is indeed terrifying, but don’t worry! There are ways to keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Never run your car in the garage, even with the door open.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors at knee height in your garage, the room next to it, and the rooms above.
  • Always keep extra batteries near your carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Test your carbon monoxide detectors and check the batteries at least once a year. 
  • Replace carbon monoxide detectors every five years.
  • Leave the house immediately and call 911 if you hear an alarm.

You Can Keep Your Family Safe

As you can see, exposure to carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous. Don’t ever run your car in the garage – even with the door open – and make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of any possible gas exposure. You can protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

BabySav is a non-profit organization that raises awareness about deaths caused by leaving children and pets in hot cars. We provide stickers, signs, and keychains that can be used to reach thousands of people. Through these services, we provide reminders to help save lives one at a time.