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Even on cooler days, a car’s interior can become like an oven in the blaring sun. The following are 10 items you should never leave inside a hot car. Plus, learn eye-opening facts and tips to help you keep your belongings safe and sound. (Although we don’t mention this on our list, never leave pets or children in a hot car.)

1. Food and drinks

Never leave food and drinks in a hot car
Drinking beer in a car at a drive-in | Adam Berry/Getty Images

Let’s start with the basics. Stashing your favorite drinks and food in your car might seem convenient. However, leaving even nonperishables like snacks, bottled water, sodas, and alcoholic beverages in a hot car is a no-no. The extreme heat can cause cans to explode and plastic bottles to release harmful chemicals into liquids. That’s not to mention perishable items, including pet food, which can be dangerous to consume after spoiling in a hot car.

2. Medications

Prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and even vitamins can lose effectiveness or become dangerous when exposed to high temperatures. Always keep your medicine in a cool, dry place to ensure it remains safe and effective.

3. Cell phones and other electronics

Your precious gadgets like cell phones, tablets, and laptops can suffer significant damage when exposed to extreme heat. The high temperatures can lead to battery swelling, screen malfunctions, and even data loss. Always take your electronics with you when leaving your vehicle. Doing so will also prevent theft of items left in the trunk and elsewhere in your car.

4. Battery-powered devices

Devices that rely on batteries, such as flashlights or portable chargers, are also at risk in a hot car. Excessive heat can cause batteries to leak or explode, posing a fire hazard. Keep these items in a cooler environment.

5. Sunglasses

Sunglasses can warp or even melt when left inside a hot car. They can also burn your skin if you put them on right away. Protect your shades by taking them with you, or invest in a stylish sunglass case.

6. Aerosol cans/pressurized canisters

Never leave aerosol cans and pressurized canisters — like deodorant, hairspray, spray paint, or cooking spray — in a hot car. The heat can cause them to burst or explode, creating a dangerous situation.

7. Lighters

Lighters can become highly flammable when exposed to excessive heat. In a hot car, the gas inside the lighter expands and might ignite. Remove all lighters from your vehicle before the next heat wave to prevent destructive fires.

8. Crayons and other art supplies

If your passengers like to create art on the road, think twice about leaving crayons, markers, and other art supplies in your car. They could melt and make a colorful mess that’s tough to clean.

9. Athletic gear

Sports equipment like tennis rackets, golf clubs, and yoga mats can become warped or damaged when exposed to high temperatures. Avoid ruining your athletic gear by taking it out of the car between outings.

10. Plants

Some plants, especially those sensitive to temperature changes, can wilt and die if left in a hot car. Give your green companions the conditions they need to thrive. On the other hand, check out these “cardening” tips for growing plants in your vehicle.

What happens in a hot car?

The outside temperature reading in a Volkswagen
The outside temperature reading in a car | via Getty Images

Now that you know what not to leave in a hot car, let’s explain why. Vehicles can reach astronomical temperatures in an hour, a 2018 study shows.

“For vehicles parked in the sun during the simulated shopping trip, the average cabin temperature hit 116 degrees in one hour. Dashboards averaged 157 degrees, steering wheels 127 degrees, and seats 123 degrees in one hour,” researchers from Arizona State University and University of California at San Diego School of Medicine found.

“For vehicles parked in the shade, interior temperatures were closer to 100 degrees after one hour. Dashboards averaged 118 degrees, steering wheels 107 degrees, and seats 105 degrees after one hour.”

The researchers conducted the 2018 study on three hot summer days with temperatures in the 100s in Tempe, Arizona. So, conditions will vary depending on the season and location. Still, intense heat in a hot car can cause plastic items to melt, batteries to explode, and windshields to crack.

What is the fastest way to cool a hot car?

The fastest way to cool a hot car is to open the windows or turn on the air conditioning. You can also use sunshades or tinted windows to help reduce the heat inside your vehicle. Be cautious and never leave anything valuable or heat-sensitive inside your car during a hot day.

Keep your items safe from the blistering heat. By following our list of items you should never leave in a hot car, you’ll avoid potential damage to your belongings.