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In 2017, Ford warned owners of certain Explorer SUV models (built 2010-2018) that carbon monoxide (CO) could be leaking into their vehicles’ cabins1. The danger is that CO is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause serious impairment in drivers and even death.
The company took charge of righting the problem, but for many people, this issue highlights safety concern most of us probably never even consider with our cars. Is your vehicle leaking CO? It’s worth your safety (and that of your passengers) to find out by investing in a reliable vehicle carbon monoxide detector.
- What CO Levels Are Dangerous?
- Best Carbon Monoxide Detectors For Cars
- How Does CO Get Into A Car? (Video)
- Need A CO Detector For Your Home?
The health effects of carbon monoxide depend on the CO concentration and duration of exposure, as well as a person’s overall health. CO concentration is measured in parts per million (ppm).
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets its worker safety standards at a maximum exposure of 50 ppm in any given 8-hour period. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms can include headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
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Tips To Reduce CO Poisoning Risk In Cars
Make sure you or your mechanic regularly check your car’s exhaust and emissions systems, keep your car well-tuned and never drive a car with holes in the floorboard or trunk (or with the trunk open).
We’ve chosen the best CO detectors for car interiors based on accuracy, features, pricing and other factors.
Note: Quick readings of low levels are important for a car’s small, enclosed interior. Most home CO detectors only alarm after an hour at higher levels.
Sensorcon is a professional-grade CO detector, manufactured for commercial and industrial use. But it’s also an excellent personal portable detector that’s small enough to fit in a car easily. The large digital display shows accurate readings from 1-1,999 ppm, and the alarm sounds with a low-level alert at 35 ppm and high-level alert at 200 ppm after only 60 seconds. It also has the widest range of operating temps of our other top picks.
Forensics Detectors’ carbon monoxide detector is specifically made for vehicles, including cars, trucks, school buses, aircraft and boats. Within 60 seconds of turning it on, a red LED light indicates if levels are over 9 ppm, and it alarms (70dB) with levels over 25 ppm. This device is also compact and has a 3M sticky mount, making it a great fit for your car.
The GXG-1987 is a handheld manual meter that detects CO levels. It displays the temperature and CO concentrations between 1-1,000 ppm. The alarm is preset to sound with CO levels starting at 24 ppm, but you can adjust that level if you prefer. This device, however, automatically shuts off after 10 minutes, so you’ll need to power on again periodically if you’re on a long car trip.
The FASOHERE device combines a charger, CO detector and glass breaker all-in-one — all at an affordable price. However, based on customer feedback we’ve seen, it may not be the most reliable option for totally accurate CO level detection. Some consumers said they tested this device against higher-end detectors, and the FASOHERE’s levels read low compared to readings from reliable products.
This brief video gives you expert tips on the reasons CO can be leaking into a car or truck.
Please remember that if you need to warm a vehicle, you should first remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Leaving the engine running even if the garage door is open could result in high levels of CO.
If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, you’re taking another huge risk. In fact, it’s illegal in many states to not have them. See our reviews of the best home CO detectors for our top picks and tips on where to place them.
Have you ever experienced CO poisoning symptoms?
Sources:  Bloomberg
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