15 Things Never to Leave in a Cold Car

Leaving these items in a cold car could ruin them—or your car's interior.

By Donna Boyle Schwartz | Updated Jan 19, 2022 10:37 AM

Chill Out—Just Not With These Items

Chill Out—Just Not With These Items

As we all learned from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, “Nothing burns like the cold!” And nothing can cause quite so much damage to the items with which we surround ourselves. When winter weather strikes, it can be tempting to rush back into the warm house after running errands and put off unloading the car. But while you're thawing out indoors, groceries and other cargo left in your cold car could be damaged beyond repair, or may damage the interior of your car. Put your boots on and rescue these items from your vehicle ASAP.


Musical Instruments

Guitar in cold car

Guitars and other musical instruments that are constructed of wood can suffer serious damage in the cold. The wood can warp, split, or crack, and the strings may tighten or snap. Once an instrument has been damaged by freezing weather, it can be costly—and sometimes impossible—to repair.  

Related: Expecting Snow? Do These 7 Things ASAP


Bottled Water

Bottled Water in Cold Car

A standard 16.9-ounce bottle of water can freeze in as few as 30 to 45 minutes when the temperature drops to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can freeze even faster at lower temperatures. The water expands as it turns to ice and can crack the plastic bottle, leaving you with a wet mess to clean up when it melts. 

Related: 23 Brilliant Hacks to Help You Weather Winter


Canned and Bottled Soda

Soda Cans in Cold Car

Soda is mostly water, so it poses the same risk as a frozen bottle of water. That said, a can or bottle of soda can withstand cold temperatures for a bit longer than water because the sugar content lowers its freezing point. Beware, though, if the container cracks or bursts, it will cause an even bigger—and stickier—mess.

RELATED: 8 Easy Ways to Winter-Proof Your Car


Cellphones and Computers

Electronics in cold car

It’s bad enough that someone might break into your car to steal your electronic devices, but the cold can be almost as devastating. That's because many of today’s gadgets contain lithium-ion batteries, which aren't designed to endure chilly temperatures. Repeated freezing and thawing can cause condensation inside the unit, shortening its lifespan and potentially voiding your warranty.

Related: 10 Places You’re Forgetting to Winter-Proof


Drugs and Medication

Prescription drugs in cold car

Many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications lose their effectiveness when they freeze. Take care not to leave medications in a cold car, especially insulin or other drugs that are in a liquid suspension, including eye drops and cough syrup.

RELATED: 9 Home Repair Remedies to Borrow from Your Medicine Cabinet


Household Cleansers

Dishsoap in cold car

Many cleaning supplies, including glass cleaners, dish soaps, and multisurface cleaners, are high in water content, which means that freezing temperatures can cause these liquids to swell and crack their containers. Other types of household cleansers such as including laundry detergent and floor cleaners contain surfactants and polymers that may separate or clump when exposed to the cold, which will reduce or eliminate their effectiveness.

RELATED: 9 Products You'll Love—Even If You Hate Cleaning



Paint in cold car

Water-based and latex paints should never be left in freezing temperatures because the ingredients in the paint can freeze, expand, separate, and clump, rendering the paint virtually unusable for your next redecorating project.

RELATED: 11 Things Never to Keep in Your Garage


Canned Goods

Canned food in cold car

Nearly all canned vegetables and fruits are packed in water, which makes it just as risky to tote around canned corn as bottled water. Even if the can remains intact, the seals could break, allowing bacteria to get into the can and spoil the food. When in doubt, toss it out!

Related: 14 Pantry Goods That Basically Never Expire


Beer and Wine

Wine Bottle in Cold Car

You may have heard that that the alcohol content in beer and wine will prevent it from freezing. That's not exactly true. Although it takes longer, alcohol will eventually freeze—wine at 23 degrees, and beer at around 21 degrees Fahrenheit. Once that happens, those bottles will be just as prone to cracking and breaking as any other. 

Related: 11 Weird Ways to Use Wine



Eggs in cold car

Eggshells are designed by Mother Nature to keep harmful bacteria from damaging the precious cargo inside. When eggs freeze, the shells will often crack, allowing germs to enter and cause the eggs to spoil. Even if the shells do not appear to be cracked, eggs that have been frozen won't look or taste like you're used to—the yolks become thick and don’t mix well with other ingredients.

Related: 30 Things You Never Buy at the Grocery Store—But Should


Aerosol Cans

Aerosol Cans

Many people think of aerosol cans as fairly indestructible, but these handy containers for hairspray, spray paint, antiperspirant, lubricants, and other household products are all labeled with optimal storage temperatures. Aerosol cans are ideally stored at temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit; exposure to freezing temperatures can cause them to crack and even explode, which could damage the interior of your car—and maybe break its windows. 


Eyeglasses and Sunglasses

Eyeglasses and Sunglasses

Those pricey prescription lenses or stylish shades you just shelled out big bucks for should never be left in a cold car, because the frames and lens are susceptible to cracking and warping when exposed to freezing temperatures (to say nothing of the potential for theft!). Extreme cold also can cause glasses' frames to snap, and can shorten the lifespan of any protective coating on the lenses.


A Low (or Empty) Gas Tank

A Low or Empty Gas Tank

Have your parents always nagged you about filling up the car when a winter storm is coming? Well, they were right. Keeping your gas tank filled more than half-full in the winter prevents your car's fuel lines from freezing. You also may want to keep an eye on the tire pressure, because a drop of 10 degrees in temperature can cause a 10 percent reduction of the air in your tires. And while you’re checking on fluids, make sure you top off the antifreeze and window washer fluids.

RELATED: The Best Tire Pressure Gauges for Car Owners




Everyone knows how what a bad idea it is to leave pets in a closed car in the summer, when temperatures can rise to dangerous, even fatal, levels in a matter of minutes. Cold temperatures can be equally dangerous for our furry friends, because it doesn't take long for the temperature inside a parked car to plummet to the ambient temperature outside the vehicle. Pets can succumb to hypothermia quickly, collapsing or even sinking into a coma; danger signs include shivering, lethargy, pale or gray gums, stumbling or lack of coordination, fixed and dilated pupils, and low heart and breathing rates.


Very Young (or Very Old) Loved Ones

Very Young (or Very Old) Loved Ones

It should be a no-brainer, but babies, young children, and elderly people should never be left in a cold car. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the young and old are particularly susceptible to hypothermia, which can lead to symptoms such as confusion, excessive shivering, exhaustion, heart arrhythmia, and even possibly a coma. Escort your loved ones inside with you.


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