Possessions that were just fine in cooler temperatures might not be so agreeable if left in your car on a hot day, and it could end up being quite a costly mistake on your part. Here’s a list of things that are probably best removed from your car if you won’t be back for a while.
1. Your smartphone
Most modern mobile phones have built-in sensors to warn you of excessive heat. But if left in the car on a hot day, these functions are not enough if the temperature inside the car climbs beyond what your phone can handle. Overheating can damage the internal battery, which can lead to severely reduced battery life or simply leave your phone useless.
When it comes to iPhones, Apple states that the batteries in its phones work best in temperatures of 62-72° Fahrenheit (roughly 16-22°C). They warn that temperatures in excess of 35°C can permanently damage the capacity of your iPhone’s battery – an unfortunate revelation for Australians, where summer temperatures upwards of 40°C are fairly common.
Samsung similarly warns that using its devices outside of “normal operating conditions” (0-35°C) may impact their performance, as will leaving your device in a parked car on a hot day.
2. Aerosol cans
You might have a can of spray deodorant lying around the car for times when you’re feeling less than fresh, but in summer, leaving any aerosol in your car is a bad idea – full stop. They tend to explode at temperatures above roughly 48°C.
Don’t think your car gets as hot as 48°C?
According to the RSPCA, the temperature inside a car can reach 50°C in just five minutes on a day when it’s only 32.5°C outside. And Kidsafe and AAMI recently made a lamb roast using only the normal air inside a locked car at Sydney’s Bondi Beach, during which the temperature peaked at 83°C – the lamb was “totally overdone” after just 90 minutes.
That’s also why you never leave your pets in the car, because even if you crack a window, it’s just not enough.
Considering the ramifications of an aerosol can exploding, not only would your car be seriously damaged, but anyone in or near the car would be grievously injured, if not killed. Even if anyone wasn’t affected by the explosion, your wallet certainly would be; we’re guessing that only the most comprehensive of car insurance policies may cover you for damage to your car caused by your own negligence.
Whether it’s the aforementioned can of deodorant, or some spray paint, you’re better off not keeping them in your car at all. Store them in a bag that you can take with you for safety’s sake.
3. Medications (prescription or over the counter)
Extreme heat can alter the chemical composition of medicine, meaning that your migraine pills could become anything from useless to toxic.
Ideally, you should be storing your medicines at a temperature ranging anywhere from 23-25°C. However, failing that, just keep them somewhere cool, dark, and dry – like a cabinet.
Dr Sarah Westberg, associate professor at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, advises:
“Any medication, unless it specifies that it needs to be refrigerated, really needs to be kept at room temperature in a dry place away from heat, humidity, and light. So the best place to keep medicines is in a medicine cabinet that’s outside of the bathroom, and not on top of a refrigerator where there’s heat .”
Dr Westberg also stresses that it’s important to consider the importance of your medication when storing it. For example, a box of Nurofen that loses some of its potency due to exposure won’t cause you anything other than mild inconvenience. But if you take medications in order to alleviate potentially harmful or even fatal symptoms of certain conditions, and that medication is made less effective or even ruined after sitting in the car for a few days, you could be in serious trouble if you take it.
4. Lighters and gas bottles
If you needed any more reasons to quit, here’s one more – your Zippo lighter in the glovebox can explode and destroy your car on a hot summer’s day. Same goes for the “swap & go” gas bottle you’ve been meaning to take to a service station.
Reservoirs of flammable gas shouldn’t be exposed to extreme heat. It’s as simple as that.
Many of the things we said in the paragraph on aerosols apply here, but exponentially more so. If an aerosol can exploding can do serious damage to your vehicle, a gas bottle will probably total your vehicle and leave it a flaming wreck.
While that sounds a tad dramatic, it’s not inaccurate. The gas bottle is several times larger and filled entirely with gas designed to combust, whereas the aerosol can is rather small by comparison, and the contents are only incidentally flammable.
So while you might need to grab a new gas bottle for your barbeque down at the service station, make sure that as soon as you get it home, it’s removed from your vehicle. Otherwise you’re risking some serious destruction.
5. Plastic water bottles
The real problem with plastic water bottles in cars is not chemicals from the plastic – a common urban myth – but bacteria growing inside the heated water. Bacteria multiply quickly in water that is hot but not boiling.
The bacteria comes when you put your mouth on the bottle to drink some of the water, so if the seal is broken on a water bottle and you’ve drunk any, there’s probably bacteria growing already. Not a big deal if you drink the water in one day and wash the bottle for reuse – but a big deal if you drink some one day, then polish it off after a week of the bottle sitting in the hot car.
So what was that we said about urban myths and plastic chemicals? It’s an urban myth that if left in the heat, some of the chemicals found in plastic bottles could seep into your water, which would assumedly be extremely bad for your health if you drink the water. Cancer Research UK’s website states that “small amounts of chemicals from plastic containers can end up in the food or drinks that are kept inside them” but that “the levels of these are very low.”
“Even in experiments where plastic bottles are heated to temperatures as high as 60°C for many hours, levels of chemicals that move into food and drink are usually far under levels that are considered unsafe.”
Bottom line – it’s generally a good idea to keep your car clean of debris and miscellaneous possessions at all times, but in summer it’s vital. No one wants to do serious damage to their car, their possessions, or themselves.