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Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
November 18, 2013
6 min. Reading Time

So many of us practically live out of our cars these days, it’s easy to accrue collections of things we want to have readily at hand when we’re driving. Thing is, in the summer time, extreme temperatures inside our cars can wreak havoc upon the molecular integrity of many items, leaving you with an altogether different result than you’d planned for when you left the items in the car in the first place.

Some of this stuff is common sense, after all who’d leave a Popsicle in a car in Phoenix—well anytime—and expect it to be the same when they returned? On a hot summer day, the ambient temperature can be magnified by as much as 30 degrees or more inside the car within ten minutes of shutting off the climate control system. In other words, 90 degrees outside the car can become 120 degrees inside the car in a mere 600 seconds.

 Here’s a list of ten things you really don’t want to leave in your car on a very hot day.

Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Grandma or Grandpa

You’d be amazed how many people leave an older person in a car on a hot summer day. Further, many older people will get tired while shopping or whatever, and decide to go wait in the car. Either way, in extreme summer temperatures, this can be a prelude to the rest of the family sitting in a chapel somewhere singing a mournful chorus of “Nearer My God To Thee”. Heatstroke is a very real thing. Extreme temperatures can run the body’s core temperature up so high people literally begin to cook from the inside out. If they gotta stay in the car, or go to the car without you, make sure they have the keys and know how to operate the climate control system.


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Kids and (especially) babies

See number one above, except this is worse because at least Grandma or Grandpa are probably responsible enough to be left with the keys to the car so they can operate the climate control system. Kids, on the other hand—left alone with the keys to the car—well that’s just a very bad idea. While we highly recommend against leaving kids in the car, we recommend even more vigorously against leaving kids in the car with the keys. Or have you forgotten how tempting it was to drive the family car when you were a kid? And babies… Do we really need to elaborate? Seriously?


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Pets

This is true for much the same reasons as numbers one and two; except pets left in the car have absolutely no shot at getting out should the temperature inside the car begin to reach uncomfortable levels. Leave a dog or a cat in a superheated car for an hour or more and you’ll very likely come back to find Scruffy paws up—big time. Dogs in particular overheat much faster than people do. They pant to cool themselves off using the outside air. Superheated air inside a car does not permit this process to function properly. And no, cracking a window does not help, the small opening will not permit enough outside air to enter the car and circulate. And no, baked puppy is not a delicacy folks, nor is it a desired trait in a pet.


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Medications

Do you remember the consultation with the pharmacist you were offered when your prescription was issued to you? The one you were in too much of a hurry to accept, so you just grabbed the package of pills and left? Well, one of the things the pharmacist was going to tell you about is it is a less than intelligent thing to do to leave your medication in the car in the summer. Extreme heat, as we mentioned before, alters the molecular structure of all substances. In the case of your medication, this can result in a loss of effectiveness. Which is why you now have three children—even though you’d been taking your contraceptive exactly as prescribed. And whatever you do, don’t leave those children in the car with the keys.


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Condoms

Yes, we know no boy takes the time to read the little foil package he so hurriedly takes it out of, let alone the box all the little foil packets came in (no pun intended). However, should one ever take the time to avail themselves of the literature on the package, they would note a warning from the manufacturer advising against exposing the device to extreme heat. By the way, while we’re on the subject, carrying it around in your wallet in your back pocket is a bad idea too. Heat weakens a condom, making it prone to failure, which in turn exposes the wearer and their partner to STDs and pregnancies. So, if you’ve been like, uh, thinking you’re being prepared by keeping condoms in your car, and you’ve inexplicably contracted a raging case of Chlamydia—or fatherhood… Well, anyway, now you know why.


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Plastic Bottles Of Water

First of all, if you want hot water, you can walk into any restaurant, café, or fast food joint and get a cup of hot water for free. Why bother to cart it around with you? But more to the point, plastic bottles are made of some pretty nasty stuff—which happily stays inert as long as it is kept at room temperature. Newsflash folks, plastic is made from petroleum byproducts. Researchers in Germany found evidence of a man-made estrogen-like compound leaching into water packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. This type of substance, known as an "endocrine disruptor," has the potential to interfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones in the human body. Of course, like most new findings, this is under considerable debate within the scientific community. And yes, there are FDA standards in place for plastics intended to come into contact with food substances—but hey, why even take the risk


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Prescription Glasses/Sunglasses/Reading Glasses

Whether frames are made of plastic, acetate, nylon, or whatever, superheated conditions inside a car can soften the frames and the temples of your glasses, destroying the way they fit. Right about here you’re probably asking, “If that’s true, why does my car have the nice little compartment for storing glasses? The same reason it has cupholders, so you have a place to put them so they stay out of the way and don’t fly all over the car in sudden maneuvers. But you have to use your head and use these things when they are appropriate. Just we suggest you avoid leaving plastic bottles of water in the cupholder on a very hot day, don’t leave your glasses in the nice little compartment on a very hot day. By the way, most lenses in prescription glasses these days are made from a glorified plastic called polycarbonate. The melting point for this material is 155 degrees. Yes, it can get that hot in a closed car on a summer day. However, temperatures approaching this number can distort the material enough to throw your prescription off and compromise your vision.


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Hair Spray

OK, do we really need to tell you leaving a highly compressed can of an extremely flammable material inside a car on a 100+ degree day is a less than prudent thing to do? Yes, there is considerable debate surrounding this one. However, common sense says if you can use a can of hair spray as a flamethrower by spraying the contents of the can through a match or another open flame, you’re dealing with a flammable substance. Now, let’s put that substance under pressure and heat its container enough to make it expand significantly. Too much expansion, the can could rupture and yes, go BOOM, inside your car, not so pretty. Not so pretty at all. But hey, you won’t ever need hair spray again if it happens with you in the car. Whoof!!!


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Food

Soft stuff like chocolate, gumdrops, gummy bears and the aforementioned Popsicles are no-brainers right? Then why is it every summer somebody leaves a chocolate bar in the car and is surprised to find a puddle molten chocolate when they return? Less obvious though is cooked food. Even though you’ve cooked it, there are still latent bacteria present, elevated temperatures can get those bacteria active enough to cause you some significant gastric distress if consumed. Further, anything with mayonnaise or other dairy in it will spoil in extreme temperatures, ditto foods high in protein. Of course, if you’re in a hurry to lose weight, the resulting diarrhea might be looked upon as a positive thing—so…


Ten Things You Should Never Leave In A Hot Car: Electronic Devices

CDs, DVDs, MP3s, your mobile phone, laptop, tablet computer, and digital camera are all designed to reside in temperatures below approximately 113 degrees. Keep in mind this number is specified by the manufacturers because they are trying to give themselves some cushion to keep their devices functioning. Keep in mind though, in certain parts of the country, a car’s interior can easily top 130 degrees, and that’s going to result in a failure. Not to mention the fact you put a 130-degree telephone next to your face, you’ll very likely leave the imprint of the device in your skin. I mean, we like our iPhones, but do we really want the shape of the things branded into our faces?



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