Sitting in a new idling car measuring carbon monoxide on a cold day

It was 8 AM and minus 2 degrees F in Helena, Montana on January 4th 2017.

I got into the rental car (2017 Hyundai Santa Fe, with around 1,000 miles on it) that had been sitting in the motel parking lot over night. The windows were frosted over with zero visibility.

There was a car close to me in the lot. It was driverless but idling several open spaces away while the driver had gone back into the motel lobby to keep warm, while his car warmed up and helped with the defrosting of the windows of the vehicle. I also noted the exhaust from that idling car was rolling back under the vehicle due to the 5-6 mile per hour prevailing wind.

I started my cold rental and took three separate low level carbon monoxide monitors out of the pockets of my coat. Within the first minute, the CO Experts low level detector informed me with an audible sound and digital read out that the levels of carbon monoxide were over 10 then over 25 PPM. The RKI personal CO monitor, model RKI CO-03 also alerted me to levels over 25 PPM with audible and visual reports, with 25 PPM being its audible alarm set point. The TPI PGM 100 personal CO monitor was alerting me to over 25 PPM digitally displayed but not alarming as the set point for alarming on this model was 50 PPM (lower set points are available).

I silenced the CO Experts low level monitor when the level displayed over 25 PPM of CO. Within 30 seconds the level reached over 35 PPM and I silenced the unit again while the RKI unit kept alarming and paralleling the CO Experts and TPI readings.

The silence engaged on the CO Experts low level monitor was over-ridden again when the carbon monoxide levels exceeded 50 PPM and the unit read “HI”. The RKI unit continued to siren as the digital levels on that unit and the TPI monitor reached 60 PPM of CO inside the vehicle all before three minutes had gone by and the windows still heavily frosted over.

I lowered the windows in the rental (so I could see and to hopefully wash the CO out of the car) and pulled forward to turn the vehicle with the prevailing wind blowing the exhaust away from my vehicle and not under it. I placed the vehicle in the same parking space, turned 180 degrees than just previous. I raised the windows. All three low level CO monitors were reading zero and stayed at zero while I finally got to my cup of coffee while the vehicle warmed up enough to defrost the windows and safely drive away.

How much carbon monoxide are you in when sitting inside a vehicle while it is idling? You too can answer this question for yourself.

-Bob Dwyer, CSME Carbon Monoxide Safety

CO Experts
19299 Katrina Lane; Eldridge Missouri 65463-9102
Tel: 1-888-443-5377 Fax: 1-888-436-5377

CO Experts
19299 Katrina Lane – Eldridge Missouri 65463-9102
Tel: 1-888-443-5377 Fax: 1-888-436-5377