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Can u run out of oxygen in a car?

Department of Motor Vehicles

Vehicles equipped with On Board Diagnostic II (OBDII), which includes most 1996 or newer gasoline-powered vehicles and most 1997 or newer diesel-powered vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) less than 8,501 pounds, self-test their emission systems utilizing various monitors. Vehicles perform up to 11 system tests, depending on year, make and model of the vehicle. These tests are commonly referred to as «readiness monitors.» The readiness monitors identify whether the vehicle’s computer has completed the required «tests» while the vehicle is being driven.

If a test has been completed, the system status will be reported «ready.» An uncompleted test will be reported «not ready.» An OBDII vehicle will not pass the annual inspection unless the required monitors are «ready.» The Vehicle Inspection Report from the test equipment will identify monitors that are not ready.

The test equipment reads the OBDII and readiness monitor status as part of the vehicle’s emissions inspection. The vehicle inspector cannot change the information reported by the vehicle.

How Many Monitors Have to be Ready?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines allow up to two monitors to be in a «not ready» state for model year 1996 through 2000 vehicles and one monitor «not ready» for 2001 or newer model year vehicles.

What Causes a «Not-Ready» Report?

Causes of a «not ready» report:

  • Recent vehicle repairs in which diagnostic trouble codes have been cleared with a OBDII scan tool; or,
  • if the battery had been recently disconnected or replaced; or,
  • if the vehicle’s computer requires a software update; or,
  • a pending problem has not yet illuminated the «check engine» light.

What Do I Do Now?

To allow your vehicle’s monitors to perform their tests and reset them to a «ready» state, your vehicle will have to be driven in a special way called a «drive cycle.» Running through the drive cycle sets the readiness monitors so they can detect any emissions failures. Your vehicle’s specific drive cycle can depend on the vehicle make and model, and which monitor needs to be reset. In most cases, two drive cycles are required, separated by a cool down period.

What Are My Options?

If the only reason your vehicle failed the inspection was due to readiness monitors not being in a «ready» state, and your current inspection has already expired, the inspection software will issue a 10-day extension that will allow you to legally operate your vehicle on the highways. During those ten days, you can either:

  1. Drive the vehicle as directed by your owner’s manual (look under OBD); use the generic drive cycle on the back of this brochure; or consult with a qualified auto technician who can tell you how to complete a vehicle or monitor specific drive cycle. Be sure to return to the inspection station within ten days to get the vehicle re-inspected.
  2. Negotiate with the inspection station to have a technician perform the drive cycles according to manufacturer specific guidelines for a fee you will pay.
What is the safest car in the world?

If you take the vehicle from the inspection facility to perform the drive cycle yourself, the inspection station operator can charge you an emission re-inspection fee, up to the maximum fee allowed for an original emission inspection.

How Do I Avoid This in the Future?

Tips to consider:

  1. If your check engine light comes on, do not wait until your annual inspection to get your vehicle repaired. Not only will it help clean the air, but it could save you a lot of time, as well as future repair and fuel costs.
  2. Refer to your owner’s manual to see if your car has a readiness monitor check. Some newer model vehicles have this function programmed in, which enables you to check your vehicle’s monitors before an inspection.
  3. Inspect your vehicle early! Do not wait until the end of the month to get your annual inspection.

Generic Drive Cycle

The purpose of the OBDII drive cycle is to run your vehicle’s onboard diagnostics. This, in turn, allows monitors to operate and detect potential malfunctions of your vehicle’s emission system. The correct drive cycle for your vehicle can vary greatly, depending on the vehicle model and the monitors that need to be reset. When a specific drive cycle is not known, or drive cycle information is not available from an owner’s manual, the generic cycle described below may assist with resetting your vehicle’s monitors. However, this generic cycle may not work for all vehicles.

IMPORTANT: If you choose to use the generic drive cycle below, you must obey all traffic laws and drive in a safe manner. Also, be sure the required preconditions are met prior to performing the drive cycle.

  1. The OBDII drive cycle begins with a cold start (coolant temperature below 122 degrees F and the coolant and air temperature sensors within 11 degrees of each other).
  2. The ignition key must not be left on prior to the cold start – otherwise the heated oxygen sensor diagnostic may not run.

  • As soon as the engine starts, idle the engine in drive for two and one-half minutes, with the air conditioning (A/C) and rear defrost turned on, if equipped.
  • Turn the A/C and rear defrost off, and accelerate to 55 mph under moderate, constant acceleration. Hold at a steady speed of 55 mph for three minutes.
  • Decelerate (coast down) to 20 mph without braking (or depressing the clutch for manual transmissions).
  • Accelerate again back to 55 to 60 mph.
  • Hold at a steady speed of 55 to 60 mph for five minutes. Decelerate (coast down) to a stop without braking.

For additional information, see Inspection Requirements

Mark J. F. Schroeder , Commissioner

C-114 (2/07) Edited for the internet 6/14

Providers of Supplemental Oxygen

A common fear among many oxygen users is running out of oxygen. In the last few years, several medical device manufactures have developed new products that allow users to be away from home much longer than previously possible without the fear of running out of oxygen.

Known as portable oxygen concentrators (POC), these newer devices work the same as a stationary concentrator but weigh only 5 to 20 pounds, are battery operated, can be plugged into an AC outlet, and will also operate via an automobile’s battery or other DC power source. Most of these devices can be used in a car, boat or plane and they never have to be filled.

Cons of using POC:

  • Upfront cost to purchase is high
  • Limited battery life. May need extra batteries which are expensive
  • Oxygen purity level varies with time
  • Oxygen liter flow is limited to POC specifications and may not be capable of delivering oxygen in continuous mode
  • Technology limitations lead to increased failure rates

Stationary oxygen concentrators

  • Weigh 30 to 60 pounds
  • Produce oxygen by concentrating oxygen from room air
  • Do not require filling
  • Plug into electrical outlet

Compressed Gas

When a person with COPD wants to go shopping, visit a friend, or take a walk, he or she needs an oxygen device that is portable and lighter than a stationary concentrator. Historically, the most common portable oxygen choice was compressed gas tanks. The tanks come in different sizes and consistently deliver oxygen at 99% purity. Depending on how much the client exerts, the liter flow can be increased or decreased as per their needs. The only downside to compressed tanks is that they run out of oxygen and need to be refilled.

To allow the tank of oxygen to last longer, an oxygen conserving device (OCD) may be added to the tank by your provider. An OCD releases a flow of oxygen only during inhalation. This intermittent oxygen flow conserves oxygen and extends the time an oxygen cylinder will last. The use of an OCD must be carefully evaluated to meet individual user needs.

  • Stored in gas cylinders
  • Use inside or outside of the home
  • Portable Refilled by home medical equipment companies or by user
  • Available in large or small tanks
  • Use an oxygen conserving device (OCD)

Equipment choice is generally based on the following:

  • Prescription (example 2 LPM)
  • Physical activity level
  • Amount of travel
  • Type of insurance

Oxygen Safety Tips

  • NO SMOKING while using oxygen
  • Avoid open flame
  • Treat oxygen as if it were a drug.
  • Do not change your prescription without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not try to service your oxygen equipment.
  • If yo encounter a problem contact your homecare provider.

Transporting Oxygen Safely in a Car
When traveling with an oxygen system in an automobile, remember:

  1. No smoking or open flames in the car.
  2. Secure tanks so that they cannot be easily moved. If a tank valve is bumped, the valve can be inadvertently opened releasing a large amount of oxygen rapidly
  3. Do not store oxygen tanks in an area of the car where temperature will exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the windows open a crack to allow for some ventilation if tanks must be left for an extended period of time during warm weather.
  4. Do not carry tanks in the trunk of a car. (To prevent damage to the tanks in a rear-end accident.)

It is a good idea to carry an extra tank with you when traveling, just in case your trip takes longer than expecte

How Driver Alertness Can Be Affected By Poor Air Quality

For years, the air pollution caused by cars has been discussed with regard to its effects on the environment and health of people outside, such as pedestrians and cyclists. However, the effect it has on the alertness of a driver has not been given much attention.

The fact is that when pollutants enter a car, many undesirable effects can occur that hamper the performance of the driver. The air quality inside cars is gaining a great deal of interest in developed countries, as there are more vehicles and the majority of people use their cars for over an hour a day.

Reasons for Poor Air Quality in Cars

The three key sources that cause a drop in air quality inside cars are explained in the following paragraphs:

Exhaust Fumes

Exhaust fumes, including noxious gases like carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC), can enter the vehicle via heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. These gases are actually present in vehicles at a level beyond the acceptable limits set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They can cause breathing difficulties in people with respiratory problems, such as asthma. In elderly people with cardiovascular risk, these gases can even trigger heart attacks. They are also known to cause dizziness, headaches, poor hand-eye coordination and nausea, which all could result in accidents.

Accidental poisoning could be the result of carbon monoxide gas released by cars. Traffic jams are potential scenarios that increase the chances of drivers being exposed to harmful exhaust fumes.

Car Interior Materials

Materials used in the fabrication of the interiors of vehicles, such as the dashboard, seats and steering wheel, can also impact the quality of air within the vehicle. This is because of the use of flame retardants comprising bromine and antimony, PVC to produce the seats, and chromium to treat leather.

All of these can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When cars are parked in the sun, or when temperatures rise due to turning on the heating, the chances for VOC emissions increase. Symptoms, including headaches, dizziness and nausea, can occur due to exposure to VOCs.

Breathing in an Enclosed Environment

Poor air quality can also be the result of the normal breathing process when it happens in an enclosed environment. For instance, in a car with the windows closed and HVAC is being used in recycle mode to stop pollutants from entering the vehicle, oxygen is depleted over time and displaced by carbon dioxide.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) in the US, below 19.5% oxygen concentration is categorized as hazardous. One study revealed that in a car with two people the oxygen levels were found to be just 19.1% after 15 minutes. Increased heart rate and impaired muscle coordination and judgement are experienced by drivers when oxygen levels are depleted.

Similarly, increased carbon dioxide levels may cause drowsiness, leading to fatigue. This is already one of the most serious concerns for road safety. Drivers’ reaction times can become slower, thus making them less alert.

Studies show that nearly 20% of all accidents and a quarter of fatal or serious ones, are caused because of fatigue. Another study showed that in fatal single vehicle crashes most of the cars had the heater on and the windows closed.

Improving Air Quality in Cars

Globally, several efforts have been taken to control pollution from cars. Standards have been established in Europe to limit the emission levels of exhaust gases such as HC and NOx. For instance, in 1992, a Euro standard made it mandatory that all petrol cars have to be fitted with catalytic converters to decrease CO emissions.

More recently, some cars are built with cabin filters often located under the glove compartment to avoid irritants, e.g., pollen, and pollutants from entering the car. This is meant to improve driver comfort, as certain gas fumes cause unpleasant odours.

Manufacturers, such as SGX Sensortech, are developing advanced devices to control air quality. However, these devices are yet to be integrated as a standard component to cars. The Hyundai Genesis Sedan, introduced in 2013, was the first car equipped with an internal carbon dioxide monitor, which is designed to decrease driver drowsiness by allowing fresh air in. Carbon dioxide, which is more often used as a refrigerant gas in air conditioning, can cause asphyxiation if it leaks into the vehicle.

Air quality monitors (AQMs) have also been developed to avoid toxic gas accumulation in cars. The default position of the AQMs is “open,” as their operation is based on controlling the HVAC flaps. However, they shut in response to the detection of increased pollutant levels in the environment. Certain models of AQMs are capable of providing audio and visual alerts when poor air quality is detected.

Similarly, AQMs are also designed to turn off the car engine when CO concentration reaches harmful levels, thereby preventing accidental poisonings and suicides. In the future, AQMs may be incorporated into cars as a common safety feature, much like airbags or seat belts.

Image credit: Rasulov /

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