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Is it worth $140 to buy a carbon monoxide detector for your car?

A residential home detector may be cheaper. Putting a residential one under a seat might be the right volume when it goes off, and it would require no installation costs. I’ve heard of people dying because of CO getting into the car (e.g., in a garage or when there is a great deal of snow on the ground). But the chances are quite low, so I don’t know if it is worth it.

A CO detector is really only needed in a car that isn’t well maintained. If the exhaust system is complete and leak free, there is no danger. Even less danger with a modern fuel injected car as the exhaust has very little CO in the exhaust stream.

The issue you may have seen recently with Ford Explorer police vehicles and CO is due to a cracked exhaust manifold allowing gas to leak under-hood and into the fresh air intake when the SUV is idling and stationary. Like at a stake-out, speed trap or donut shop parking lot (forgive me for the donut crack, I couldn’t help myself).

You shouldn’t leave the car running in the garage with the door down so the CO detector isn’t needed there either. Mount one in your bedroom if you have a gas furnace or living room with a gas fireplace.


“Is it worth $140 to buy a carbon monoxide detector for your car?” - OP

People who die from carbon monoxide poisoning in their cars do so because they either run the car in the garage with the door closed or they have leaks in their exhaust system that they choose not to repair.


  • if you need to work on your engine and it needs to be running, don’t do so in the garage with the door closed.
  • And if you want to warm your car up in the winter, don’t do so in the garage.
  • And If you should get stuck on the road in a huge blizzard, do not run the engine with the windows closed tight. People died from CO poisoning stuck on I-90 during the “great blizzard of '78”… and I’m not exaggerating.

All gas engines need to have their exhaust vented to the outside. Always.
That includes cars, and gas heaters, fireplaces, woodstoves, and all other things that burn larger than a candle.


If you have a rusted out exhaust then you should get it replaced.

About the only scenario I can think of that one might be justified if the auto does idling for really long periods. Maybe a semi driver with a sleeper cab or a RV might be advisable. These may idle for long periods with occupants inside.

There are over a billion private cars in the world, what are the chances of you falling asleep in your car with the engine running inside your garage and the garage door closed?

The latest news indicates that Ford thinks that holes drilled in the body for added lights and radios. The holes were drilled after delivery and not properly filled, allowing gases to enter the cabin of the Explorer. I guess we will find out in time what really happened.

If you’re warming your car up in the garage with the garage door closed, your chances of falling asleep… forever… rise dramatically. Yes, people have died from this. Far too many don’t understand how CO works (by displacing oxygen in the bloodstream) and some will die. Official data shows that approximately 200 people die in the U.S. every year from CO poisoning, some in cars.

Of particular danger are blizzards. Those of us who have been stuck (unable to travel from ones current spot) in a few in our lives can appreciate the need to keep warm, but there should always be an inch of opening in the windows to prevent CO poisoning. In severe blizzards the exhaust cane become restricted and CO make its way into the passenger cabin. Granted, in today’s world of low CO emissions, much smaller and cleaner engines, and rust-resistant stainless steel exhausts, the danger is lower than it was in my youth of dirty-running carbureted V8 engines with steel exhausts prone to rot holes, but the risk is death, so all precautions must be observed.

NOTE: you will NOT realize you’re falling asleep. I have personally blacked out from lack of oxygen to the brain, and you don’t even know it’s happening. One moment you’re sitting there and the next you’re waking an hour or two later… or not. :skull_and_crossbones:

Carbon Monoxide is deadly. Always take all precautions. In the case of a car that means keeping the exhaust in good shape and always being aware of the things I’ve mentioned above.

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If you want one buy a battery powered home on; I bought one for about $25 and they last 5 years.

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Good update. That makes a lot of sense considering there is a hood seal at the rear to prevent engine gasses from migrating back to the air intake. Seems sloppy to fail to properly seal wires passing thru the firewall.

Spend the $140 on car maintenance.

My residential CO detector cost $25. I was also thinking under the seat for the location. Is the $140 one for industrial use?

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And some of the ones that don’t die from the poisoning die later because they are waiting for a liver transplant. This happened to a family a few years back in MA. All members of the family were safely pulled out of the house, but 5 out of the 6 family members needed liver transplants.

I wouldn’t ever make such a generalization. On my fiancee’s former 1999 Chevy Cavalier, nobody could find the leak, but there definitely was one that the EMT’s could detect. She took that car to several GM dealerships and several independent mechanics, and nobody could find the leak.

As to the original question, I don’t think an unknown exhaust leak is any less likely to happen than a house fire, but nobody would suggest you not have smoke detectors in your home. By that line of reasoning, if having a carbon monoxide detector makes you feel safer, it’s probably worth the moderate price to buy one.

I certainly wouldn’t spend $140 on a carbon monoxide detector when I can get one for $20:

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I accept that the possibility always exists, even if it is unlikely. That said, maybe those little personal CO detection badges would be a cheaper alternative. Hang one on the mirror.

Available here for $5

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Every year there are hundreds of unintentional deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning that do not take place inside a garage. For example, during the Washington blizzard back at the beginning of the year, five people died in their idling cars while stuck in traffic jams in the snow, likely when snow impaired the ability of exhaust to exit from the tail of the car and it built up under the car and infiltrated the passenger compartment. Personally, I have no problem with the idea of just buying a $25 battery powered home unit and tossing it under the seat just in case.

Would putting it under the seat prevent its detection capabilities? I mean, maybe the CO particles would fall on the seat and not into the detection component.

ROFL. No. According to the instructions that came with my carbon monoxide detector, it can be placed at any level because CO dissipates to fill the available space, it doesn’t concentrate high or low.

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That’s true.
Carbon has an atomic weight of about 12,
nitrogen has a weight of about 14,
and oxygen has a weight of about 17.

Nitrogen is a diatomic compound, ergo it travels in pairs.
Ergo, a carbon atom bonded to an oxygen atom would weight almost exactly what the nitrogen diatomic atom would weigh, making the two mix together, neither being relatively buoyant. Like scotch and water. :rofl: