Keeping Safe from Vehicle Generated Carbon Monoxide

Motor vehicle exhaust fumes are a common source of carbon monoxide. It is therefore important that, as motorists, we are aware of how we can reduce the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.  

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas. It is odorless and colourless and cannot be detected without using specific technology.

Carbon monoxide becomes extremely dangerous to humans when it becomes trapped and concentrated in an enclosed space. If you breathe in a lot of CO you can become unconscious. Prolonged exposure can result in death.  

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like”. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • weakness
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • confusion.

You may find that your symptoms improve whenever you are away from your vehicle but return or become worse when you return. This is a definite sign that you should get your vehicle’s exhaust checked for CO leakage.

How can I keep safe?

  • Never leave a vehicle’s engine running in an enclosed space such as your garage. This can cause a deadly build-up of CO gas. It can also cause CO gas to seep in to the house.
  • If you need to charge your battery the AA recommends you take your vehicle to an Auto Centre with battery charging facilities.
  • Modern calcium based batteries require a deep cycle charger to bring them back to full charge. Idling your vehicle or taking it for a drive will not achieve this.
  • Get your exhaust checked for leaks if you experience symptoms consistent with CO poisoning when you are in or around your vehicle.  

Risks of Keyless Ignition Technology

Using an ignition key to start and switch off a vehicle’s engine has become highly ritualised. However, many new vehicles now have keyless ignition technology.

Keyless ignition technology enables a vehicle to be started and switched off remotely by pressing a button on a small key fob device. The vehicle can however be unintentionally started due to an accidental button press. Drivers can also easily forget to switch off their vehicle’s engine due to the lack of a physical ignition key. Starting a vehicle and leaving it running in a confined space like a garage can be very dangerous due to a possible build-up of CO gas. It is therefore important to:

  • be familiar with how to start and stop your vehicle’s engine. Ask the vehicle dealer or manufacturer for advice if required
  • store keyless ignition devices in secure places where they cannot easily be accidentally pressed.

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