Suicide via CO from auto tailpipe exhaust

Back in the day, there were sometimes reports of people committing suicide by attaching a garden hose to the tailpipe of their cars with the other end in the passenger compartment. Since catalytic converters now oxidize CO to CO2, is this still possible. Entertainment purposes only.

I have no cites, and am relying on my feeble memory, but I recall a story this year about an elderly couple who died in their home because the vehicle was running in the garage. The story had a focus about the pushbutton remote start feature so popular today. Those guys didn’t know the car was running.

A friend of mine had a son who committed suicide this way back in 1996.

It didn’t take much digging to find a cite for my previous post:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/news/ct-keyless-ignition-risk-met-20150618-story.html

Here’s a CO poisoning incident from a car from this month.

My oldest sister committed suicide in that manner. Cars produce less CO than they used to, but they still produce sufficient quantities to kill yourself with if you really want to do that.

starting with a cold engine, there will be a window of time where the engine will be running rich (thus producing more CO and unburned hydrocarbons) and the catalyst will not have reached its “light off” temperature where it starts actually cleaning up those pollutants.

Great responses. Don’t try this at home, kids.

This thread made me remember something I’ve heard but don’t know for sure… So I’ll ask!

I read somewhere a LONG time ago that this method of suicide* is bad for the person killing themselves in that they wake up before they die, but are unable to move and/or do anything about it.

Assuming they have filled up the tank with gas, they will be awake and aware of their death.

Not sure if this is true, or one of those stories meant to dissuade kids from offing themselves in this manner. I would think that once the gas knocks you out, that is it. You will continue to breathe in the poison gas, but will NOT wake up.

*Do NOT try this at home.

The problem I heard is not that ‘awake and immobile’ but ‘hot, acrid gasses are hard to sit through long enough to die’ - you need to either be very strong willed, or really, really, seriously unconscious - and, if you have the ability to get that far unconscious, you should have the ability to push ‘unconscious’ to ‘dead’ and just skip the nasty hot, acrid gas stage entirely.

And CO2 and CO are both lethal.

I heard (from a mutual friend) that this is the method my friend used to commit suicide on Thanksgiving this year.

So sorry Zipper - it really sucks, doesn’t it?

That’s frightening. Remind me never to get a remote starter. Occasionally, I will go into my garage and find the car locked, apparently because I somehow hit the lock button while the keys were in my pocket. But if it had been a remote starter…

My (not-factory) remote starter, installed in 2013, shuts off automatically after 10 minutes. The better half’s (factory) remote starter on his 2014 SUV shuts off after either 10 or 15 minutes. I’m really surprised that there are any remote starters that don’t have an auto-shutoff.

The second link on the Chicago story puts a bit of a lie to the idea that you could wake up immobile, however; apparently the male victim woke up and had the faculties to go out to the garage, shut the car off, and go back into the house in an attempt to save his wife. So perhaps a last-minute change of mind is possible.

I’m sorry for your loss, Zipper.

If MrsFtG sits a bit too long in the garage, the CO meter in the house above the garage starts to register it. Her car is ~14 years old and runs quite well.

Catalytic converters have been around since the early 70s, and car exhaust suicides have not diminished since then. Carbon monoxide is deadly because, when present, it is much more readily absorbed by your lungs’ than oxygen molecules.

A teenage couple offed themselves here, 8 years ago. They drove their car to a public park, routed a hose from the exhaust into the car, and went to sleep. Somebody nailed a memorial cross onto a tree, near where they were found…i walked by it this morning.

well, keep in mind there are a lot of older cars out there, and many of them have nonfunctional or missing catalysts.

but even for new cars, which are subject to the EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions limits, CO has to be less than 3.4 grams per mile on the lab drive cycle. definitely more than zero, but no idea how much an idling car would be producing.

Still works – my brother-in-law killed himself that way this summer.

Nitrogen is way better for that reason - your body doesn’t even know its suffocating.