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15 Things You Should Never Leave in the Car

Your vehicle should be used for transportation, not storage. Keeping these items in the car could hurt your health and security.

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antibioticsVideo Creative/Shutterstock


Most medicine should be left at room temperature, but a car will rarely stay at that point when not in use. Heat probably won’t make your drugs directly harmful, but it could make them less effective.

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The map on the phone in the background of the dashboard. Black mobile phone with map gps navigation fixed in the mounting. Vintage style photoAleksey Korchemkin/Shutterstock


Beyond the expense of the devices themselves, gadgets like laptops, cell phones, and thumb drives contain information that could be easy to steal. If you’re in a position where you have to store your laptop or phone unattended, make sure the information is encrypted, says Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of Identity Theft Resource Center. This makes thieves unable to view information without a code, separate from the password used to log in to the device. “It’s a strong layer of protection and would need someone putting a fair amount of effort into it to view,” Velasquez says. “It’s much stronger than password protection.” Learn how to recognize the 14 signs that your car is about to die.

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hand squeezes sunscreen on handyurakrasil/Shutterstock


Ironically, the active ingredients in sunscreen break down in high heat. Leaving it in the car on a hot day could reduce its effectiveness. Plus, the heat could cause it to explode, leaving you with a hot mess.

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image concept Bottled water was left in the car for a long time. To drink it?Casezy idea/Shutterstock

Water bottles

Although the research is a bit unclear, studies have linked BPA and phthalates, chemicals found in plastic water bottles, with health conditions like cancer and heart disease. Letting a bottle sit in the sun and heat up could cause these chemicals to leach into the water. Plus, if the bottle has been lying around for a while, it could start harboring microorganisms. Learn more about why you absolutely shouldn’t leave water bottles in the car.

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purseCozy Home/shutterstock


Leaving a purse or wallet in plain sight makes your car a target for thieves, even if you’ve locked your doors or taken the valuables out of your bag. “It doesn’t matter if the alarm goes off,” Velasquez says. “It’s attractive, and they’re going to grab it.” Check out these 100 car maintenance tasks you can do on your own.

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Fashion sunglasses on a wood tableMickly Nuttapat/Shutterstock


Take advantage of your car’s sunglasses compartment while driving, but don’t leave your shades in it after you reach your destination. Heat can warp plastic frames and make metal ones too hot to wear. Leaving your glasses or sunglasses on the dashboard is even worse because the windshield could attract sunlight like a magnifying glass, American Optometric Association spokeswoman Susan Thomas has said.

You can cool down your car in a minute with these 5 hacks.

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File Stack top view, file folder pace on wood desk backgroundNirat.pix/Shutterstock

Important documents

If you have personal documents that you plan to mail or shred, make that task a priority on your to-do list. Letting files like school transcripts or tax forms sit in your car while you run other errands or until you have time to take care of them leaves information vulnerable if anyone breaks into your vehicle, Velasquez says. “Put it in the car, take care of it, and then you’re done,” she says. “You have to follow through.” If they don’t need to be in your car, leave them at home or in the office—but make sure you know the 9 things you should never keep on your desk.

Never throw away these 11 tax-related papers.

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Woman's fingers holding Passport of USA (United States of America) on blue travel wallet and wooden background. Evgenia Parajanian/Shutterstock


Never leave a passport in the car while traveling, even if it seems like it’s too bulky to carry around. Identity theft is even easier with a passport than with a driver’s license, Velasquez says. “We have to think of data and pieces of our identity as valuables,” she continues. “You’re not going to leave jewelry in the car, but we don’t have that same level of concern with things that make up our identity, and we need to.” These are the most reliable cars that rarely need a mechanic.

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Top view angled shot of red wine bottle with corks and opener on rustic wooden boardstab62/Shutterstock


Wait until after work or errands to pick up a bottle of wine. If the bottle gets too hot, the flavor could be affected, and the liquid could expand enough to seep around the cork or push the cork out a bit, contaminating the wine inside.

You shouldn’t be doing these things in your car.

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carseat for babybest time photos/Shutterstock

Young children

Even if you don’t expect an errand to take more than a few minutes, leaving children alone in the car on a hot day puts their safety at risk. On average, 38 children die every year from heatstroke in hot cars. Even if the window is cracked, the temperature inside the car can spike almost 20°F within ten minutes, according to the CDC. Check your state laws—in some areas, it’s illegal to leave young children alone, even if it isn’t sweltering outside.

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Border Collie puppy sitting looking over the seat waiting close upAarontphotography/Shutterstock


Dogs and cats are also at risk in hot summertime temps. Hundreds of pets die every year from overheating in vehicles, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. After an hour, car temperatures can reach 45°F higher than the climate outside, and even a shaded parking spot won’t keep the temperatures much cooler. Quit falling for these 12 myths you need to stop believing about your car.

Find out if you should really be buckling your dog in the car.

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Four colorful eco-friendly shopping bags filled mostly with groceries in the trunk of a car.glenda/Shutterstock


Save your grocery run for the end of your errands list. Perishable food should be put in the fridge within two hours in most cases. In the summer, you have an even shorter window. If it’s more than 90°F, food shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour, according to the USDA.

Check out this hack to prevent your grocery bags from tipping over on the way to home.

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Collection of various cactus and succulent plants in different pots. Potted cactus house plants on white shelf against turquoise colored wall. Top view.ABO PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock

Indoor plants

Consider the weather before heading to a gardening center, especially if you won’t be heading home straight after. Even relatively mild temperatures of 45°F to 50°F can kill some plants within an hour, according to Lowe’s. If the leaves are touching the windows, the chilly glass could ruin the foliage. Hot temperatures can also be deadly to plants, so keep them shaded and cool on your drive home, and bring them indoors as soon as possible. Make sure you know these other 10 things you should never do in your car.

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Aerosol spray cans nozzle close up. Several spray cans with light in background. Shallow depth of field.optimarc/Shutterstock

Aerosol cans

There’s a reason for the fine print on aerosol cans’ warning labels: Don’t store in temperatures above 120°F. As the product’s temperature climbs, so does the pressure inside that lets it spray continuously. In rare cases—like a woman in Arizona and a man in England experienced last summer—the heat in a car can get so intense that the aerosol explodes, especially if you leave it in direct sunlight. The projectile can damage the car, or worse, hit somebody with a force strong enough to send them to the hospital. Also, things you should never leave in your garage.

Make sure you get these items out of your garage before winter strikes.

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Red Confidential/Shutterstock


Your favorite tube won’t stand a chance in the sky-high summer temperatures. Keep lipstick from turning into an unusable, melted mess by toting it in and out, rather than leaving it in the car for touch ups in front of the sun visor mirror.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest