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Keeping Cars Cool in the Summer: Ten Tips to Beat Vehicle Heat

Vehicle windshield shade.
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Summer is here, and while many love the warm weather, it’s not so fun when you have to get into your car when it is has been sitting in the hot sun all day. Keeping cars cool in the summer heat can be a difficult task.


Top 3:

  1. Crack the windows. Yes, it’s an easy thing to do but how many of you actually do it? State Farm’sVehicle Research Facility recorded interior air temperatures well in excess of 145° F and vehicle interior surface temperatures on areas exposed to direct sunlight in excess of 195°F. So even if it’s hot outside cracking the windows could help bring that temperature down. Any little bit helps. Just be sure to keep an eye out for summer thunderstorms and roll up the windows if needed to keep the rain out.
  2. Cover up the seats. A good method for protecting the driver and passengers from those hot seats, is an easy one, but many of us don’t think of it. Simply leave blankets on the seats when you leave the car. This will shield the seats from direct sunlight. Then just toss the blankets on the floor or in the trunk so you have them on the next hot day. This is especially helpful if you have leather seats.
  3. Use a sunshade. Pop up or roll up, it doesn’t matter. This is an effective way to keep harmful rays out of your vehicle and to help keep the temperature down. In addition, sunshades will allow the car to cool faster.

Sunshade Options

Cardboard sunshades placed over the windshield is the most common way to protect the vehicle. These can be found easily at local retailers. Higher tech options include auto sun shades that attach easily to the passenger side of the windshield. Simply pull the pleated sun shade out and hook it onto the mounted brackets installed on the driver’s side. When you are ready to start your drive the spring-loaded mechanism on the auto sun shade fully retracts. Other options are easily available and can be found in auto parts stores or through a quick online search.

Then, there are the shades that can be found at the baby sections of retail outlets to protect young children from the sun. The options are numerous and they all can help reduce the amount of sun entering your vehicle and raising the temperature.

All of these options have the added benefit of preventing interior fading and cracked dashboards. And don’t forget about the rear of the vehicle—the back windshield. Sunshades can prove helpful here as well, particularly for higher end-cars. Automatic options are available and rear sunshades also help protect passengers from the heat.

econour car windshield sun shade
EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade with Storage Pouch
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Autoamerics Windshield sunshades sit in the windshield of a Gray Ford Explorer. With a larger image of two windshield sunshades float over the car.
Autoamerics Windshield Sun Shade 2-Piece
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  1. Park in the shade. Location is key when it comes to protecting you and your car from hot temperatures. If you can find a shady area, use it, and if not park with the sun facing the rear window rather than the front windshield.
  2. Tint your windows. Solar control window film is a great way to protect your vehicle from extreme heat, according to Window Film magazine. Just make sure that when you go to a tint shop to inquire about automotive film, you tell the company you want to stay within the legal limits. Specific laws do exist in various states. Most reputable companies would tell you this but there are some film companies who do apply film that goes over the legal limit.

Here are some more simple options that can also make a difference:

  1. Use a remote starter to cool the car before you enter. Most people think about using remote starters in the wintertime to warm their vehicles prior to stepping out into brisk weather. However, using your remote starter to cool your vehicle during the summertime can be just as effective.  Many newer vehicles are equipped with remote starters as a factory-installed option. Even if your car doesn’t have a remote starter already, it’s usually possible to have one installed by a professional, either by a dealership or an aftermarket shop. Just make sure that you leave your car’s climate control system on and set to cool. Use the remote starter to turn your car on approximately five minutes prior to getting in and it should be cool by the time you get in.
  2. Use the recirculate option when running the AC. Using the recirculation feature takes air from inside the cabin of the vehicle and recirculates it through the air conditioning, cooling it again. In contrast, by not using the recirculation feature, the vehicle is pulling air from outside, cooling it, and pushing it into your vehicle. Therefore, using the recirculation is much more efficient because the air does not require as much cooling.
  3. Recharge the AC unit if you notice it isn’t blowing cold air. Freon is the gas refrigerant that vehicle’s use in their AC systems. Over time, small leaks in the system can cause the freon to leak. If freon levels become too low, the AC system will not function properly. Without this critical refrigerant, the system will not be able to cool the air. It’s simple to have the system level tested and it can be recharged if it’s low. Getting the freon levels back to normal will allow the system to cool properly again. However, to prevent the freon level from dropping again, it’s prudent for a mechanic to figure out where the system is leaking and to repair the leak. This is done by adding an ultraviolet (UV) dye to the freon and spotting any leaks using a UV light.
  4. If you have a sunroof, keep the sunroof shade closed but crack the sunroof to act as a vent. Some vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, come with a solar operated sunroof vent, which is helpful in those hot months. If your vehicle does not have an automatic solar operated panel, just be sure to open yours before parking. Keep in mind, you’ll want to close it again if rain is coming– summer thunderstorms always sneak up quickly!
  5. Finally—go old school, vent your windows. Not all vehicles are equipped with vent windows. They’re usually only seen on older vehicles– especially trucks. These small triangular windows positioned in front of the front windows and operated manually swivel open to direct air into the cabin of the vehicle. Usually, they’re small enough that they can be left open without risking theft. If possible, combine opening the vent windows with cracking a sunroof. This will allow cool air to flow into the vehicle down low, and hot air to exit the vehicle up top.
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Tara Taffera

Tara Taffera was the editorial director for USGlass magazine, AGRR Magazine , and Window Film Magazine. Her skills and more than 20 years of experience have helped her earn numerous journalism awards, including coveted Jesse Neal Awards. Tara enjoys spending time with her family and staying active with her husband by competing in races together, including triathlons. She also spends time volunteering in her community and with her church. Find out more about Tara on Linkedin.

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