Different sources have different estimates for how hot your car can get on a hot, sunny summer day. A study by Stanford Medicine stated that a car can heat up 40 degrees in the first hour – making even a 70 degree day prime for overheating your car’s interior. We’re going to give you some tips for getting and keeping it cool when parking all summer. First, a quick reminder, never leave your child or pet alone in the car. Even with the windows open, the car cannot remain cool enough for the car to be a safe environment for a child or pet and the heat increases the most in the first half hour. Always be mindful and safe with your little and/or furry passengers.

Before You Go

Before you hit the road, there are a few things you can check or install to make your car cool more efficiently.

Car Refrigerant: Check that your air conditioning system has enough. If you’re not car savvy, have your mechanic do a quick check. If you’re a DIY-er, check your owner’s manual for the type of refrigerant your car takes. They are usually available at your local car parts store. Check out these two videos to give you an idea of the task at hand.

Window Tinting: The sun, not the outside temperature, is the main reason for the heat spike in your car. Tinting your windows will decrease how much sun can get in, and decreasing how quickly your car heats up. We’ll cover less permanent and less expensive options later.

Cloth Seats: Especially in hotter and sunnier areas, think about getting a car with cloth seats instead of leather. Leather absorbs more heat and will be very uncomfortable to sit on after being in the sun all day.

Parked Car Ventilation Systems: Some new cars offer parked car ventilation systems. This is available on higher end cars but there are portable options, as well.

Self-Cooling Seat Covers: There are many versions of aftermarket seat covers, some that circulate are, some that have cooling crystals. The prices range based on the type and caliber of the seat covers.

While Parked

When you’re leaving your car out in the sweltering heat, there are a few ways you can reduce the amount of sun that gets in.

Circulate Air: Crack your windows slightly (less than an arm’s width), to allow air to move through your car while you’re away.

Sun Shades: There are sun shades for every size car, often metallic, but also in patterns if you want and funky look.

Towels: If your kids spent some time at the pool in the morning, do double duty by covering the seats with the towels. It will allow the towels to dry out while keeping the seats cool. Make sure to crack the windows open so there isn’t a damp smell when you come back to the car. If you’re not using damp pool towels, it’s still not a bad idea to have a few in the car to cover your seats and dashboard. Be sure to cover dark plastic and metal pieces that can get hot enough to burn you and your passengers.

Park Smart: If possible, park under shade. However, if there isn’t shade available , park with your trunk facing the sun so the front seats and dashboard will be covered. If you’re parking for a long time, park so your trunk is facing where the sun will be when you’re returning.

Returning to the Car

As you’re walking across the hot asphalt of the parking lot, you know your car will be blazing. Here are the best ways to get it cooled off and ready to drive.

Blast the AC: People often believe you should wait until the car warms up to blast the AC but it will begin to work immediately if you blast it right away. Even if it blows hot air for a minute, it will move the air around. Crack the windows a bit to allow the hot air out and close them as the car begins to cool.

Air it Out: If it is a particularly hot day, open doors blow the AC for a bit to allow the car to cool off before you and your passengers get in the car.

Wipe Down: You can use a wet towel to wipe down the wheel and gearstick. It will dry quickly and take some of the heat with it. Don’t do this too often though, as it can begin to wear down any finish or material.


Remember that the metal and plastic pieces can get hot enough in direct sun to burn your skin, so be extra careful with seat belts as you get in the car! We hope these tips help you and your car stay safe and cool this summer!