Will Jonathan run out of oxygen and expire, when he falls sleeps in his (not running) car?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

For years, I have been a field-mouse-poor college student, sleeping in my (crappy, leaky, rusty) Jeep on trips, such as snowboarding, to save money (yes, it gets nippy -- hence the zero-degree sleeping bag). Now, with a job, I bought a "new to me" 2006 Subaru Outback that has similar sleeping capacity in the back (yes, I can now afford a car, just not the crazy hotel prices at the ski resorts). My fear is that this "new" car has far fewer rattles and doesn't leak air like my Hindenburg/Jeep did. So I fear if I sleep in it, I may run out of air and just die in my sleep. Can I die in my car if it is NOT running and I sleep in it? -- Jonathan

TOM: Well, let me be clear about this from the outset, so our lawyer doesn't die in HIS sleep tonight. We don't know.

RAY: Right. But we're more than happy to give our uninformed opinion, like we do every week!

TOM: I don't think you can suffocate in a closed car. I just don't think cars are airtight to that extent. After all, when you put a car in a lake, it fills up with water and sinks, right?

RAY: And there are vents that always mix some fresh air with your heating and air conditioning, and those may very well remain open pathways all the time, regardless of whether the engine is on.

TOM: That's our guess, Jonathan. Of course, if we're wrong, have your heirs write to us and let us know for future reference.

RAY: We know people who've slept in their cars through the years, and none of them ever died, or even reported any shortness of breath. Although all of those cars were old heaps.

TOM: We understand that in the 100-plus-year history of the automobile, some people have been known to engage in activities that consume even more oxygen than sleeping. We have no firsthand knowledge of this, of course.

RAY: We do know that it steams up the windows, though. So we know fresh air isn't exactly pouring in.

TOM: Oh, I thought that was a built-in privacy feature. I thought you had to order that when you bought the car.

RAY: We've never heard of anyone dying of suffocation in a closed car, Jonathan. But we'll ask our listeners what they know (write to us via our Web site, www.cartalk.com). And in the meantime, you can always leave a window open a crack. See if that sleeping bag really is good down to zero degrees!

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