Can You Light A Candle In A Car? Is It Worth The Effort?

Your love for scented candles and their availability might sometimes encourage creative ideas on where to use them. And one place could be your car too! But, is it a good idea? Can you light a candle in a car?

Short answer: you should not do it.

Scented candles might seem like an easy way to get a nice smelling car. Some people may want to light a candle for a few minutes while the car is not moving and have it smell great. Others might choose to keep the candle lit even when the car is moving.

Or maybe it’s cold and you think keeping a lit candle will at least make the car interiors more comfortable, if not warm.

None of these is a good idea and things can turn dangerous rather quickly. Lighting a candle inside the car might damage the vehicle, or worse. 

Most of us already know not to do something like this. But sometimes, necessity compels people and they may think it’s okay to keep a burning candle in the car, while being very careful about it. 

I’ll repeat myself – do not take that risk. Things can get out of hand pretty fast and it’s not worth the gamble. There are better ways to make your car smell better. 

There is, however, one legitimate use of candles in a car in an emergency. Having an emergency candle is useful in case you’re stuck in a cold or snowstorm and find yourself trapped in the car.

That said, let’s see a few reasons why lighting a candle in a car is a bad idea.

Why Lighting Candle In a Car Is Not A Good Idea: Safety Hazards And Limitations

Keeping an open flame in your car (like that from a candle) can lead to unpleasant situations. Here are some of the problems you might encounter.

1. A Candle Might Set The Car On Fire

A burning candle in your car can set your car on fire and engulf the whole car with flames in a few seconds. Imagine something flammable falls on the candle or the candle itself tips over. It can be paper, tissues, woolen or linen pullover or a shawl, and rubber seats. 

That’s an express way to get some major damage to your car. Things can get worse if your car is moving. By the time you bring your car to a halt and find a way to extinguish the fire, the damage might already be significant. The entire vehicle might end up in flames as well.

In one incident in Florida, a car caught fire when the candle inside tipped over and set some papers on fire. The driver was quick to stop the car and get some water, but by that time, the car was already in flames.

2. A Burning Candle In The Moving Car May Cause A Road Accident

Placing a burning scented candle next to your driving seat or in the cup holder can seem easy and stable enough. That’s just a small part of the story.  

Driving needs a lot of concentration and focus on the part of the driver. If you have a burning candle around while driving, it is natural that you’d want to check the candle and the surroundings occasionally. 

You may want to keep a check on whether it’s stable and the wick is burning. That means the driver will be obliged to move their eyes from the road and look at the candle and around it. 

This might take just a second, but that’s too much time to keep your eyes away from the road.

Similarly, the molten wax from the candle might spill. This will damage the car and can be very painful should it fall on a passenger. An even more dangerous situation can arise if it falls on the driver and forces them to focus away from the road.

3. It Results In The Emission Of Carbon Monoxide Gas

Some people think of keeping a burning candle in the car to get some warmth. The logic for this thinking says that the warmth provided by a candle can help keep the car slightly comfortable. 

It might even lower the cost of heating the car, which seems rather interesting in this economy! Candles with more wicks can have multiple flames and be even warmer.

None of the cost savings are worth it if it risks burning down your car.

But there’s another thing to be worried about – carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Like any other flame, burning candles too emit a small amount of carbon monoxide. In a room, this is no problem at all since rooms are larger and have some ventilation. But cars are smaller and if you intend to draw heat from the candle, there won’t be any ventilation.

This can result in carbon monoxide buildup inside the car, which can be very dangerous for the vehicle’s occupants. This gas is odorless and isn’t easily detected. Someone might be breathing it and not even be aware that they’re in danger!

4. The Molten Wax May Spill And Inflict Injury Or Damage The Car

Molten wax from a burning candle can be hot enough to inflict a burn injury if it falls on bare skin. When driving a car with a burning candle, any sudden movement, jolts, or even a pothole can cause the wax to spill. 

The molten wax can spill on the stuff next to the candle like rubber seats, foot mats, any accessory attached, or your clothes and shoes. This can damage these things and leave marks.

You can be as careful as you want while driving, but potholes are everywhere. Even the most careful of drivers can’t say that they’ve never run into a pothole. They are unavoidable and dangerous. Doubly so if there’s a burning candle in a car!

Can A Candle Heat A Car? Can You Light A Candle In A Car To Keep Warm?

Holding tealight in hand

On our long journeys or expeditions, we often come across specific locations that are chilly and we crave something that can keep us warm inside the car. So is lighting a candle while driving helpful? Can a candle heat a car and keep you warm?

Generally, an average-sized candle has a heating capacity of around 80 watts. And to keep the inside of the car warm, you would need a lot of candles. So, using candles in a car is not much of a practical solution. 

Instead, you should look for other alternatives that are more practical and feasible. One such option is keeping a heated travel blanket in the car. Consider one with integrated heating wires and a USB port or 12V input for heating. Most blankets like this come with an auto power-off feature that ensures warmth with safety. 

Or, consider investing in a heated jacket. These usually come with heating zones that heat your upper core body for hours. The heating elements in the jacket are heated by charging the battery inside through a USB port. 

Even using hand warmers is smarter than turning to a candle to heat a car.

Emergency Use Car Candles Are A Good Idea

As we say several times in this article, candles have no place in your car for heating or aroma. However, a candle and matchsticks should be a part of your car emergency kit, especially if you live in a cold area.

In an emergency scenario, someone might end up getting trapped in their car on a highway or some other location. The car is immobile and car heating is no longer possible or accessible. This is where the emergency candle can come to your rescue.

Lighting a candle (or two) in such a situation will bring some warmth to the inside of the car. It won’t get toasty inside the car, but it can be enough to significantly reduce the threat of freezing.

Preferably, the emergency car candle should be in a metallic container, like tin. Using a metal container means the candle jar won’t crack or damage while it’s stored. So, if you are in a situation where you have to use the candle, it will be ready to use.

Another benefit of using these containers is that they’re less messy and will keep the wax contained. 

Using the right kind of wax is important too. Prefer something like beeswax or soy wax, which burns clean. There isn’t going to be a lot of ventilation in a car stuck in snow, so the cleaner the wax burns, the better it is.

Types Of Candle To Consider For Emergency Car Use

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Now, let’s get to the type of candles you can use. You could use plain, regular candles placed in a coffee tin (or any other tin can). Remember to put matchsticks in the same can. 

It’s also possible to use tealights, but they’re too small and work only for a couple of hours.

Alternatively, you could buy off-the-shelf survival candles from online stores or big box stores. These candles are designed with considerations for emergency use, so they’re ready for use.

Here are two suggestions for emergency survival candles

  • SE Survivor Series 3-Wick 36-Hour Emergency Candle comes wrapped in an aluminum can and uses soy wax and palm wax layers.
    You can light all three wicks for higher heat but a lower burn time (10 hours). Or, light the wicks individually for roughly 10 hours of burn time on each wick.
  • EXOTAC – candleTIN Large Hot Burn Beeswax Candle is a beeswax candle with three wicks. You’ll notice it has thicker wicks compared to regular candles.
    That’s because this hot burn candle is primarily concerned with generating heat. Burn all three wicks and you could use this candle to burn 8 oz water in about 20 minutes. Or, just use the wicks individually and you can have a longer burn time, though it won’t boil water. 

Keep in mind, emergency car candles are not a replacement for emergency blankets, car heating kits, or similar solutions. They are just one tool amongst many to use if you’re caught in a tough situation.

It’s A Bad Idea To Light A Candle In A Car

Scented candles are undoubtedly incredible beauties that bring light and scent to your space. But there are spaces where they don’t work well and one such place is your car. 

It’s just too dangerous, yes, it’s dangerous even if you’re very careful. There is no smart or safe way to light a candle in a car. There are better ways to make a car smell better and get the right ambiance. 

Using car diffusers or air freshener sprays is far better than using candles in a car. And it doesn’t even involve risking your car or your life!

However, if you’re stuck inside an immobile car in the cold, using an emergency survival candle could be a lifesaver.