Hot Days, Dangerous Hotter Car Interiors

A typical oven thermometer to test the interior and an infrared (non-contact) thermometer to test the bed and mat temperature.
Photo Credit: Picasa

by Don Stec

There are many stories in the news today about tragedies that occur when children and pets are left in cars on hot days.  The advice given is very general; “It’s going to be hot today, and the interior of a car could get to 120 degrees, don’t leave children and pets inside the vehicle unattended.”  It seems obvious there has been no research by the writer or the TV personality doing the announcement. Last week  I read that  3 deaths occurred throughout the United States, in just one week.  What is really sad is that these warnings have been going on for decades and the deaths seem to be increasing each year.

I wrote a radio commercial about vehicle interior heat danger in 2001 because I was seeing too many people stop at Coachmaster for a collision estimate and leaving their children in the car.  

Going outside to inspect the vehicle, I often saw there were older adults and/or pets left in the vehicle.  Often the drivers were surprised at how hot the occupants were. Apparently, they did not realize the temperature could rise so fast.  I would invite the occupants inside the air conditioned waiting room and offer cold water.  A big convincer to the owners of the extreme heat, were the dogs. They watched them lapping up the water as fast as I could pour it into a bowl.  

Speaking of dogs; many dog owners do not realize how hot the metal bed floor of a pick-up can get.  As I started to write an estimate on a truck, I could not help but notice the dog prancing about.  The owner assumed the dog was excited because a stranger was by the truck and scolded him to sit still.  I said, “you know, I think the bed floor is too hot for him.”  The owner put his hand on the floor and said, “If I can hold my hand on the floor for three seconds it is not too hot.”  I touched the floor for three seconds and that was long enough to know it was too hot.  “Well the dog has been on it for several minutes.  Let’s see if you can do that.”  He put his hand on the bed and could not hold it longer than 5-6 seconds.  I explained, “People do not realize how hot metal can get.” He unleashed the dog and opened the tailgate.  The dog immediately ran to a shaded dirt area.

I thought it would be interesting to test the temperature of vehicles …of various colors.  On the day of the test it was approximately 100 degrees.  The vehicles were all parked in full sun and had been there for at least an hour.  An oven thermometer was placed in each of the vehicles, on the rear seat. The test lasted three minutes for each vehicle. The oven thermometer had been tested against an electronic thermometer for accuracy and proved to be accurate.

After three minutes the interior of a white vehicle reached 125 degrees.

After three minutes the interior of a medium gold vehicle reached 142 degrees..

After three minutes the interior of a black vehicle reached 152 degrees.

I also tested a black metal truck bed floor; of course, it is an exterior panel.  It tested at 138 degrees using an infrared thermometer.  A black bed floor mat tested at 172 degrees.

The Redding area is reported to reach 115 degrees in the coming week. This should add at least an equal rise or higher temperature to vehicle interiors.

It is reported a safe temperature to cook a hamburger is 160 degrees.  So you could describe a car parked in the sun as an “oven,” It’s a paradox. – The sun is necessary for life but it also can destroy life.  Even the lowest temperature tested could be deadly.  

Be careful out there.

Coachmaster Collision repair* -- founded in 1969 is the best equipped body and paint shop in the North valley. Specializing in “Total Body Alignment.” Contact Alan Gordon for an estimate on your vehicle. Call 530-243-1310 or visit the business at 6851 Eastside Road, in Redding California. *Click here if you are using a smart phone or other mobile device.