Hi! I’m Shane Reilly, a professional EMF inspector and certified Building Biologist. I’ve worked in this field since 2017 in hundreds of homes, vehicles, and offices. I do this work primarily in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, but I have also helped thousands of people via online consulting.
I’d like to share a bit about my experiences in investigating the EMF radiation profile of vehicles. If you spend more than an hour or two per week in a vehicle, this will be very valuable information to take in. You won’t look at your car the same way after reading, I promise you that. In fact, you may even become highly motivated to sell your current vehicle in favor of one with lower EMF exposures.
That may sound like a painful process, but I think you should reframe it as an investment in your future health and longevity.
Table of Contents (click any of the topics to go directly to that section)
All Cars Have EMF
You need to understand this right off the bat; all cars have varying degrees of EMF radiation. It doesn’t matter if it is a 1985 Ford F-150 or a 2023 Tesla Model X. If you want an EMF free way to travel, get a bike (but not electric!!!) or a horse drawn carriage.
Don't worry- my goal in writing this is not to send you back to the pre-industrial era; rather to educate you on how to understand and reduce the health risks presented by modern vehicles.
And the health risks are significant. For cars, the worst EMF types present are radiofrequency (over the air), magnetic fields (over the wires), and artificial light. For a brief overview of those categories of EMF radiation, and some of the medical research on them, check this out.
Where Does EMF Come From in Cars?
Vehicle Electrical System Basics
The electrical system of your car, similarly to your house, uses coherent (strong and focused) levels of EMF that deliver power (electricity) throughout. If you’ve ever pulled up the carpet or looked behind the dashboard, you know just how many electrical wires are present.
There are dozens of systems in a vehicle that use electricity to work, and EMF radiation of one kind or another is always the result of electricity in the wires.
Now it is true that many of these systems in a car use a DC, or direct current system of energy delivery. DC radiation is generally less problematic than alternating current (AC). Our bodies have internal DC electric circuitry after all.
However, due to the presence of the vehicle alternator, which is an electrical generator that converts mechanical energy into AC electrical energy, much of the EMF radiated in a car has a pulsed, or AC profile. This is much more problematic for our health.
Here are some other major causes of EMF in vehicles:
To complete a circuit so that electronics can work in a car, there are generally two conductors (wires) involved, a negative (black) and positive (red). Current flows out on one conductor, and back on the other. The laws of physics tell us that when current flows across a wire, a magnetic field radiates perpendicularly to that flow.
Large magnetic fields are created when the wires don't run side by side. This is very common inside vehicles.
The interesting thing is that if the positive and negative conductors run side by side, as close as possible, then the magnetic fields from each wire cancel out because they are out of phase with each other. That means no magnetic field!
Unfortunately, to save money, manufacturers don’t actually run all of the paired positive and negative wires side-by-side. Instead of running the black wire all the way back with the red wire, they frequently shorten the negative (return current) wire and attach it nearby to the metal chassis of the car. This can leave a large section of the positive wire solo and radiating a magnetic field into the car.
In the case of many BMWs, for example, both for weight balance and performance, the battery will be located in the trunk of the car. The negative battery wire will bond to the chassis somewhere in the trunk, while the positive wire will run solo all the way back up to the front of the car where the alternator is.
In a nutshell, dirty electricity is extra frequencies added onto the fundamental frequency (60Hz in homes in North America). You can think of it as noise or interference. This noise radiates off of wires into our spaces and is a health concern. While cars use different fundamental frequencies, dirty electricity is still present.
Due to the complexity of the digital electrical systems and sensors in modern cars, a great deal of interference can be created between systems. Automakers go to great lengths to reduce this and ensure EMC, or electromagnetic compatibility in their vehicles.
Unfortunately for humans, automaker efforts around EMC don’t take it far enough to protect their vehicle owners from the ills of electromagnetic noise, or DE. I have electrosensitive clients can’t even sit in a car for very long without severe discomfort due to the significant amounts of DE present.
Modern car tires have steel belting inside the rubber to enhance performance, safety, and durability. Unfortunately, as the vehicle moves, the tires rotate at varying speeds, including the hidden steel, creating a magnetic field. The frequency of this field varies with how fast or slow the tire is rotating, creating a variable (AC like) magnetic field. You can measure this with a gauss meter and compare the magnetic field strength when the car is stationary vs. rolling. Depending upon how close the seating areas are to each wheel well, very strong exposures can be created. Although not something everyone will want to undertake, there is a way to “degauss” a tire, more info here.
Many cars and trucks now offer wireless connectivity inside such as WiFi, BlueTooth and Cellular service boosting. It may seem convenient to provide WiFi for your passengers, or to allow your phone to connect via BlueTooth to the stereo, but there is a huge downside.
This wireless type of EMF, also known as Radiofrequency or microwave radiation, has significant links to cancer and a number of other health issues. See bioinitiative.org for more info. It is especially problematic when this radiation is emitted inside the metal shell of the car, which is similar to an electromagnetic shield, or faraday cage. More on that later.
Modern cars have dozens of sensors, from those that check to see if your butt is in the seat, hands are on the steering wheel, or even if you are alert with eyes open. Plus sensors for active cruise control (radar), park assist, lane departure and others. Many of these use the problematic wireless form of EMF radiation mentioned in the last point. Most frequently, high Gigahertz frequencies, also known as millimeter wave, of 5G fame are used by these sensors.
One other thing to keep in mind about sensors is that they can compile data. From engine management, to your VIN number, and the sensitive personal info on your connected cell phone, your car contains a lot of data about you.
There are two major issues with this. First, the data is ripe for hacking and stealing. You can have some fun looking into this on YouTube. Secondly, the compiled data is collected and stored on servers for the automakers to analyze. Can you trust them to protect your data? Even worse, what if in order to sell cars in a certain country, say China, the automaker has to make the data accessible to that government? Here’s a provocative rabbit hole to go down on the subject.
Remote Entry Key Fobs
It may seem great to be able to walk up to your car and have it unlock automatically when you get close enough. However, to do this, it requires the keys to periodically transmit wireless radiation, usually a strong, penetrating 400 Megahertz signal.
You can significantly reduce this source of vehicle EMF exposure by keeping your key inside of a faraday bag at all times, even while driving.
Beyond that, thieves have very good ways to exploit this system, lock you out, or easily steal your car. It’s called a key fob relay attack. To prevent this type of attack, Keep your keys in a metal box or faraday pouch at home that is more than 30' from the street side of the house to stay out of the range of the thieves' tech.
Artificial Light & Tech Screens
From the LED headlights to large tech screens to lighted buttons, accent lighting, and more, vehicles create huge exposures to artificial light. This simply doesn’t match sunlight, the evolutionary gold standard for our eyes and photoreceptors (which are found all over our bodies including the skin btw, not just in the eyes).
Even worse, artificial light pulses or flickers imperceptibly to the naked eye. Your mitochondria still pick up on this however. Flicker can cause headaches, migraines, and even epileptic seizures. Take a slow-mo video with your cell phone and play it back to see the effect.
Car Chassis - Faraday Cage
The metal skelton of a car or truck is essentially a faraday cage. But a faraday cage can be a double-edged sword, and any radiation emanating inside of it will reflect back onto you, creating higher exposures.
With all of the wireless tech inside cars these days, being on the wrong side of a faraday cage is a big problem.
Even worse, on account of being inside the car (faraday cage), your cell phone will get lower connection strength (fewer bars) to the cell towers on the outside. As a result, the phone software can turn up the transmit power (wireless radiation) in an attempt to maintain connection. This will compound the exposures inside a car significantly.
Wireless charging is a newer advent in cars, whereby you don’t have to plug your phone in to charge it. This is accomplished by creation of a significant magnetic field in the center console area that oscillates the cells in the phone battery into charging.
Just another downside to seemingly convenient technology, and another harmful ingredient in the EMF soup that is a modern vehicle.
Do Electric Vehicles and Hybrids Emit EMF?
Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Hybrids like a Tesla or Prius, respectively, have large battery banks that provide some or all of the vehicle’s power. In my experience, many of these vehicles have lower magnetic fields throughout than you might expect for a car with thousands of battery cells under the floorboards. They must be wired in such a way as to minimize magnetic field exposure from the battery banks themselves.
What is truly harmful in these cars is the dirty electricity, as well as light and wireless radiation.
Overall, I would avoid these types of vehicles. More on that later.
How to Test the EMF in Your Car
Different vehicles will have different EMF profiles, and guessing will get you nowhere. You have to be able to assess in a concrete way, what types and the strength of EMF type present.
To do this, you need your own EMF testing equipment. I'm going to recommend 3 key meters below that are must-haves for this type of work.
Before you test, take reads of the ambient conditions with the car off. It will be best to have low EMF around you, so that you won’t have to subtract the ambient out of your reads when the car is on. Ideally, get the car to a rural area, forest, or some area away from power lines, cell towers, and other cars.
Once you have the recommended meters below, and are familiar with their use, you’ll want to draw a crude layout of the interior of your car or truck. Even a spreadsheet will do. You’ll want to track data for the footwells, each seat, and each head area. Take readings with the car off and on, and driving (get a helper for this, don’t attempt to measure while you are driving) plus with different components on and off like the stereo, AC, fan, lights, automatic windows moving, wiper blades moving etc…
Once you have all the data compiled, you can make observations about what conditions and areas the car is most problematic in.
Keep reading for some basics concepts on remediation and shielding in your vehicle.
By the way, if you would like some training on your meters, definitely setup a remote or in-person professional EMF consult with me. I’ll get you squared away in no time!
The Best EMF Detectors for Testing Your Car
The Safe and Sound meters are excellent for testing WiFi, BlueTooth and cellular up to 8 gigahertz. The Pro II is the best for this type of testing because it provides a numerical readout, in addition to sound and light.
The Classic is also useful, but again, it won’t provide numerical values, which makes it less diagnostic in understanding “before and after” scenario measurements.
WiFi, BlueTooth, and cellular all sound different on the meter, so this is an excellent resource in more accurately identifying the source.
I can’t recommend the Safe Living Technologies EM3 highly enough for measuring AC magnetic fields (among other AC EMFs). In fact, the dirty little secret of Building Biologists is that many or us use this one and the Pro II above as backup meters in our kits because they are so good and easy to use. It is scheduled to be available to the public at the end of summer 2023. If you can't wait until it is released, get the UHS 3-Axis meter.
💰For any of the meters above, use my affiliate code ‘ODS05’ for a discount.💰
The other key meter for understanding magnetic fields and delving into remediation is an AC/DC clamp meter to put around the actual wires underneath the carpeting or behind the dash in your car. This will help you measure current levels on a conductor, as well as net current between a pair of matched conductors. This is a great one for that and doesn’t break the bank.
This is the only EMF that you don’t need to test for in a car. Any source of light in most vehicles is going to be problematic. The fewer lights the better.
How to Pick a Low EMF Car
Avoid Newer Vehicles
While all cars have EMF, newer cars are more complex, and generally have way more features than cars 10-15 years old. More features means more EMF radiation. I wouldn't recommend anything newer than 5-7 years, unless you can verify it has few options, or can build it from the factory as bare bones as possible.
You will probably still have some EMF issues to remediate, just less than a comparable year with all the bells and whistles.
Due to the issue of conductor separation mentioned above, the area around the battery, and the wires coming out of it, are going to be hot spots for magnetic fields. A lot of current flows in and out of the battery and the positive and negative wires from it are usually not paired together. The resulting magnetic field will be large.
In many newer cars, including some Audi SUVs, the battery is directly under the driver seat. On my 2016 Mercedes Sprinter, it is under the driver footwell. This is not good, and took significant electrical rewiring to remediate.
Ideally, the battery would be located in the engine bay (it is sometimes possible to relocate the battery to this area), or back in the trunk (requiring some rewiring to keep the conductors paired all the way back towards the alternator).
Simple Option Packages and Features
Let me state what is probably obvious to you by this point- the more features and electrical complexity your car has, the greater your EMF exposures will be, and the harder it will be to remediate enough of them to make the car healthier.
So, when selecting a vehicle, go for simple, with few options.
Avoid Electric and Hybrid
These cars generally come with a lot of tech inside, and so have really high artificial light and wireless EMF exposure.
What really concerns me about these cars though is the new infrastructure required to support their charging stations. Did you know, as part of the US policy to ‘electrify everything’, we will need 75,000 miles of new high-voltage power lines- which emit huge magnetic fields for hundreds of feet in all directions. So not only will the passengers in these vehicles be exposed to large amounts of EMF, but the rest of us as well. That figure is from an excellent Substack by Katie Singer, with other concerning facts about EVs. Turns out they aren’t the ‘green’ panacea they’ve been promised to be. Check it out here.
This step is absolutely crucial to perform. You’ve got to have, and be competent with, quality detection meters like those mentioned above.
Once you’ve used the selection criteria above, and scheduled your test drive, it’s time to test the EMF in the car.
Again, it’s best to test a vehicle away from the city, power lines, and cell towers. So arrange to take a slightly longer test drive (Some dealers will even let you have the car overnight or for the weekend). If the sales associate comes with you, make sure they put their phone into FULL airplane mode or leave it off when you test with the Safe and Sound meter.
If you absolutely can’t get out of the city, I’ve taken a Tesla to an uncrowded subterranean parking garage before to get a cleaner environment to test in.
If testing or picking a vehicle with low-EMF in mind seems like too much and you want to hit the EASY button, definitely setup a remote or in-person EMF consult with me.
What are the Lowest EMF Vehicles?
I wish I could just share a list of low-EMF vehicles with you. But I can’t. Sorry about that, but there is a lot of variance between vehicles, even the same model and year. Different options and production dates can mean slightly different engineering and wiring and thus a different EMF profile.
If you follow the steps on how to select a vehicle, and then test, you have a higher probability of success.
What is the EMF like in Camper Vans and RVs?
As the proud owner of a camper van myself, this subject is near and dear to my heart. My beloved Sprinter had some serious EMF issues present when I got it, primarily due to the conductor separation around the battery (this is a huge problem in most Sprinters, even brand new ones).
So most of these vehicles, just like passenger vehicles, will have inherent EMF exposures. The added issue with RVs and camper vans is that they get filled with auxiliary batteries, solar panels, 12 volt appliances, inverters for AC appliances, and many other EMF producing components so that they are ready for off-grid camping and living.
I’ve done serious remediation on Mercedes Sprinters, Dodge Promasters, and Ford Transits, and can help with your RV or camper van if you need it. The remediation process for these vehicles is complex and outside the scope of this article, but I am building a lot of content on my social media around this subject, so be sure to check that out.
Click the image below or this link to see my YouTube vanlife playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7f_I2rRhVrNsIk86t3bu6YyOeH3nyG04
How Can I Remediate EMF in my Car?
The first step is to test and compile data, as mentioned above. Once you've reviewed the data, try to identify likely sources. What was nearby when the meter displayed a high number? It might be the stereo, the battery, the air conditioner or others.
Sometimes, it is as simple as going into the settings on the stereo and disabling BlueTooth or WiFi.
Sometimes you have to dig deeper, and remove carpeting or trim pieces to expose the wires and measure them with a clamp meter. You'll want to expand your data sheet and draw a basic electrical schematic showing clamp meter values for the major wires.
Once you have this schematic, you can consider rewiring with the help of a professional mechanic. Please note: rewiring will void parts of your vehicle warranty.
Here's one example of the rewiring concept:
Ultimately, there are many ways to remediate EMF in your car, and which road you take will largely be driven by the data you get from testing. I'll list a few other methods below:
7 Ways to Protect Yourself From EMF in Your Car
I can’t stress this enough. See above for further detail on this point. You’ve got to test to know for sure, and to get a better idea how much remediation is possible.
Disabling WiFi, BlueTooth, or cell signal boost from the control panel (stereo or center dashboard display) is generally easy to do. There’s probably a YouTube video out there for your car on how to do it. BUT- you absolutely have to verify that it worked by testing with the Safe and Sound meter. Sometimes the vehicle software won’t allow you to disable any communications and sometimes it continues to transmit despite showing itself as off.
Be wary if the battery is replaced, or the dealer installs a new software update in the car; these can reset previous settings and turn the wireless features back on.
Shielding is a mixed bag in cars as it can be difficult to get full coverage of shielding material around an EMF producing car component.
For center console screens and/or stereos, if you can’t disable the wireless, it may help lower the exposure to lay some shielding fabric over the area. Use some velcro or other means to fasten it so that it doesn’t fall off and get tangled in your feet. This is my preferred shielding fabric for this purpose.
Once you have inside sources of wireless radiation in your car tamed, another way to shield your car is from external sources. You can accomplish this by applying clear shielding film to the windows. You see, external wireless frequencies like WiFi, BlueTooth, 4G/LTE and 5G signals will penetrate the windows of your car and get inside.
Find a reputable window tint shop and have them give you an estimate of how much film (in lineal feet) will be needed. Let them know you can get rolls in widths of 3, 4, or 5 feet. Then you can decide if you want the tinted or clear film (or some of each), and you can place an order for my preferred shielding film, Signal Protect.
My affiliate discount code (ODS05) will work for either of these products. Once received, you can have the shop install it, and the amount of wireless radiation getting into your car from outside will be dramatically reduced.
Another type of shielding to tackle is around lighting. For smaller artificial light sources, these stickers work really well. Check out the video below to see how well these stickers work.
For larger screens and backlit areas in cars, I would reach out to WAKN and see if Phil can custom cut one of his films for your application. Tell him I sent you!
For shielding other types of EMF in your car, there are some products out there designed to block AC magnetic fields, namely G-Iron, MuMetal or MCL61. Unfortunately, these products are not effective enough with magnetic fields caused by net current or conductor separation issues. That's primarily what you are dealing with in cars, so don't expect these products to do enough. You've got to rewire the major electrical issues first.
Remediation in vehicles generally involves rewiring certain sections, or pulling fuses to disable certain systems. It can void parts of your warranty, and represents a shock/fire hazard. This should only be done by trained professionals. I’m not going to give much specific info here due to the liability. If you’d like to explore remediating parts of your vehicle, or make sense of testing data, I’m happy to get more specific with you during a paid consult or on-site evaluation.
Offset with Natural EMF
You can pay a lot of attention to, and spend a lot of money on remediating artificial EMF in your home or vehicle. This could all be for nothing if you don’t also focus on reconnecting to natural, healthy forms of EMF.
The best way to do this in a vehicle is to let the sun in. Your window glass blocks important parts of the solar spectrum, making the sunlight just as alien and bad as the tech lighting in your car. Even a slight crack in your window will allow the healing power of sunlight into the vehicle to offset artificial EMF exposure. This can work even on a cloudy day.
So open that sunroof or window, and let nature’s healing power in.
Keep your Phone in Airplane Mode While in the Car
As discussed above, the metal and glass of the vehicle a faraday cage effect. Wireless signals inside the car will have a harder time getting out, and will reflect back, creating additional exposures for you.
Because of this, you don’t want to have your cell phone transmitting while in the car. I understand this may be inconvenient, but don’t worry, I do have a possible solution for you.
Relocate- External Cell Phone Antenna
While it is true that you shouldn’t have a cell phone on in the car, sometimes we need a map with traffic data to a destination or the use of some other app to aid driving.
I have a solution that will create an ethernet network inside your car, connected to your phone, with an external antenna. This means the wireless radiation from your phone will be only on the outside of your car. Pretty cool, huh?!
This solution is in the final stages of development but if you email me, I'll send you more information on it.
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Finally, for anyone who spends more than a few hours per week in a vehicle, it will truly benefit your health to identify and remediate EMF radiation inside. If the prospect of doing that is too much for you right now, don't hesitate to reach out to me and get professional help. The first 15-minutes are on me!