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How to cool your car down during hot weather

A parked car can get boiling hot. Here are ways to help keep your car cool during hot weather.
Person holds steering wheel
Posted at 8:14 PM, Jun 17, 2024

Scorching summer temperatures are bad enough, but they can be even worse when you get in the car to drive somewhere.

The National Weather Service says cars sitting in the sun can heat faster and to higher temperatures than what you feel outside. After an hour in 84-degree ambient temperatures, for example, the air inside a car can reach more than 120 degrees.

Dark-colored surfaces like seats and steering wheels can also climb to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit in direct sunlight.

Here are ways to keep your car cool during the hottest parts of the year.

Use a shade or a towel

A sunshade in the windshield will keep direct light from falling on the dashboard and wheel, where you have to sit when it's time to drive.

A cheaper option is to simply drape a light-colored towel across the dash and wheel. Light colors help reflect some of the sunlight that might otherwise heat up the interior.

Get the most out of your air conditioning

Your modern car might come with remote-start air conditioning — but it may not be the most efficient way to run the cooling system.

The AC's compressor is tied to engine RPMs, which means it often works better when you're at driving speeds than when the car is sitting at idle.

And when you start a drive, the AC needs a short time to start blowing cool air, too. Rolling down the windows for a short time while you turn on the air helps remove hot air that's been heating up in the parked car.

Setting the AC to its lowest temperature might sound like an inefficient extreme, but some car AC systems cool air all the way down to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before it enters the cabin. At warmer settings, your car may be reheating cooled air — and consuming more energy.

Cover up high-touch areas

Another simple heat-proofing tip is to park with the steering wheel turned 180 degrees, so the top of the wheel isn't in direct sun.

Covering seat belt buckles and other high-touch areas like the gearshift or emergency brake can also keep them from being scorching hot when you need to grab them.