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One can die of suffocation as the same air is recycled within the car. Moreover the exhaust fumes from your own car can enter the car and suffocate you. If there is a major leak, there is every possibility of a person dying while sleeping in a car as the oxygen levels will come down drastically.
The most important factor that can lead to death while sleeping in a car is carbon monoxide. It is a major component in your car's exhaust fumes and if large quantities accumulate in your cabin you will be in trouble. The problem with Carbon Monoxide is it is a odourless gas and hence you will not even realize your are breathing in poison.
Another reason for deaths while some one is sleeping in a car is a malfunctioning air conditioner. An weak AC will not be able to completely refresh the air inside the car and this will lead to increased carbon monoxide levels. So how exactly does Carbon Monoxide kill you? It reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen to your cells and each of them die due to lack of oxygen.
Some might argue that keeping the windows open might prevent carbon monoxide accumulation. But this will help only partially. Researchers have advised drivers to avoid sleeping inside a car for long durations. Instead one can take a short break outside the car where the air is more fresh.
Having a fully functional AC is vital to have a safe journey. Check if the car's AC is working perfectly every six months. If you feel it is taking a long time to cool or is stopping occasionally, it means the AC needs a thorough look.