How Long Can You Sit in a Running Car Outside

Cars are sometimes left running for various reasons, it could be you are waiting for someone and do not want to turn off the engine, etc.

Leaving a car running or idle is not bad, the bad and dangerous thing to do will be sitting inside while it is running and with the windows and doors locked. If you need to sit in a running car, how long can you sit in it?

You shouldn’t sit in a running car for too long. As a matter of fact, sitting for up to 30 minutes may be too long putting other factors into consideration, except, if the windows are whined up and the air conditioner is on.

Should You Sit in a Running Car Outside?

No, you shouldn’t sit in a running car outside as it has a lot of negative effects on your health.

A running car means the car is parked but the engine is still running/idling. When a car is running, you shouldn’t for whatever reason sit in it whether outside or in a garage.

Looking from various angles, there is no angle from which sitting in a running car outside can end well, especially on a person’s health except maybe you licked the windows and turn on the air conditioner; this is because, you can die while sitting in a running car outside from carbon monoxide, etc.

How Long Can You Sit in a Running Car Outside?

Sitting in a running car outside is not advisable, however, if it cannot be helped, you can go ahead. You can sit in a running car outside for only a short period of time while putting some factors into consideration.

If you decide to sit in a running car whether for a short or long period,

  • Be sure you have a good exhaust system
  • There is enough air (natural) in circulation enough to allow exhaust gas to dissipate.

This is also not the time to leave the AC on, at times like this, you need to have all the car windows open to allow fresh air into the car.

What Happens if you Sit in a Running Car Outside?

When a car is not moving but the engine is running, exhaust gas known as carbon dioxide finds its way inside the car.

The gas contaminates the air making the air you breathe unclean and harmful air to your system. If you do not get out of the car in time and keep inhaling the gas, you will get suffocated, this suffocation will be a result of a lack of fresh air and constant inhalation of carbon dioxide. In a case where the AC is on, what you will inhale is carbon monoxide.

Inhaling carbon monoxide-contaminated air will eventually lead to carbon monoxide poisoning especially if the car is parked in an enclosed space. This is not to say you cannot get carbon monoxide poisoning if the car is parked outside.

Once a person sitting in a running car gets suffocated without immediate attention, it could lead to death. This may sound like something extreme but the possibility cannot be ruled out. When a person is not breathing in the fresh air and gets suffocated, in no time the lungs will contrast leading to death.

Is it Safe to Sit in a Running Car with the Air Conditioner On?

It is not safe to sit in a car with the air conditioner on. For a fact, you can’t possibly have the air conditioner on with the windows opened, all the car windows and doors will need to be closed.

Sitting in a running car with the air conditioner on is definitely not safe as you stand a high chance of carbon monoxide poisoning.

When a car is parked and running with its air conditioner on exhaust fumes finds their way inside the car through vents or cracks in the bodywork by the engine.

It is more dangerous if the car is parked with the engine running in an enclosed space. In an enclosed space, not only will the car overheat because of a lack of clean fresh air, but it will also lack ventilation in the car.

If you must stay in a car while it’s idling, do not put the air conditioner on and make sure the windows are opened, if the surrounding allows the car door to be open you should also leave it open.

Can You Get Carbon Monoxide from Sitting in Your Car Outside?

Yes, you can get carbon monoxide from sitting in your car outside.

As part of the way to keep the engine and car functional, fuel burned during internal combustion is passed out as exhaust fumes (carbon monoxide) through the exhaust pipe. Not only does the exhaust fume go out when the car is moving, but it also finds a way to go out when the engine is idling.

For this to happen when the engine is idling, it finds its way inside the car through vents and cracks in the bodywork of the engine. It in turn mixes with the little air in the car.

The sad thing here will be if someone is sitting in the car when this happens, of course, the person breathes in the contaminated air unknowingly since carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. Breathing in carbon monoxide-contaminated air will lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Can I Sit in My Car with the AC Running?

Yes, you can sit in your car with the AC running although it is not recommended to do so. The safe answer should be NO but it is not a feasible answer.

Sitting in a car with the AC running is not advisable but if you cannot help but it, let it be for a short time. The fact is, no matter how short the time you are sitting in the car is, serious damage can still be done.

The AC is meant to be at work when the car is moving for proper air circulation and ventilation not when the car is idle.

An idling car with the AC on is very dangerous especially if there are children on board. It is not safe for adults but more dangerous for children.


The best solution will be to not sit in a running car at all, but of course, this is not possible as some people won’t listen. Hence, the advice is to sit for just a short period of time to avoid getting poisoned by carbon monoxide.