How to Keep Your Car Cool in the Summer Heat

Parking in your garage and using sunshades are just two of the many ways you can keep your car cool in summer. Read this list of ways to keep your car cool in the summer to learn more.
Written by Jason Tushinski
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on Dec 11, 2022
Your car’s interior can turn into a furnace while sitting under a hot sun—but parking in your garage, using windshield sunshades, tinting your windows, and using your car door as a fan (really!), among other things, will help keep your car cool.
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Your car’s interior and the greenhouse effect

If your car is parked outside in the heat on a hot sunny day, the cabin will absorb the sun’s heat through the windows and keep it inside. It’s similar to how the earth absorbs the sun’s heat and traps it in the atmosphere.
One study found that on a warm, sunny day, the average temperature inside a car parked in the sun was 40°F warmer than the outdoor temperature.
Key Takeaway It will only take 15–30 minutes for your car to heat up quickly if parked outside on a hot, sunny day.

Why hot cars are unsafe

There have been numerous reports of both children and pets dying from overheating while sitting in parked cars in the heat with the engine off and the windows rolled up.
Never leave children or pets in a parked car.

How to keep your car cool in summer

Strategically parking when away from home

If you’re out and about, find shade or a parking garage to leave your car under when it's hot. Obviously, a parking garage is ideal as your car will be protected from the heat. If that’s not possible, find some trees at the outer edge of a parking lot to park under, or the shade of a building.
Always be mindful of where you’re parking and the time of day or night. Always be sure it’s safe to leave your car there.

Parking in your own garage

If you’re at home and you have a garage, use it for its purpose—park your car there! Not only will your car not be turned into a mobile oven, but it will be better protected from theft, vandalism, adverse weather, and the stickball-playing kids in your neighborhood.

Using a windshield sunshade

A sunshade is a great, cheap accessory that flattens out across the windshield and helps keep your car’s cabin cool if you need to park outside.
The shade absorbs the heat from the sun’s rays, sparing your cabin in the process. While you might not be mistaken for the coolest cat in town when using a windshield sunshade, you might have the coolest car in town because of it.
If you're concerned about maintaining your ride’s cache, you can purchase nicer sunshades—but they’re more expensive.
Key Takeaway A sunshade flattens out across your windshield and absorbs the sun’s heat, helping to keep your car cool inside.

Covering up your vehicle’s interior

If a sunshade isn’t your thing, you can buy a fitted dashboard cover that will keep your car’s display cool from the heat. Of course, you can buy pricier ones for a better fit and to complement your car’s interior.
It is also a good idea to cover the steering wheel and seat belts, as they’re notorious for getting hot.
If you don’t have a dashboard cover, a blanket will help in a pinch to help keep the dashboard and other areas cool.

Tinting your windows

Tinted windows can help keep your car cool. Several
types of window tint
allow adequate light into the car while still blocking the sun’s heat and UV rays.
Keep in mind, while tinting windows may make you feel like a bigshot, each state has different rules about how dark the tint can be. In some states, you aren’t allowed to tint your windows at all.
If you’re driving across state lines, stay abreast of that state’s rules on tinted windows and whether you may be at risk of catching the attention of the police.
Key Takeaway Each state has different rules regarding how dark you can tint your windows, and some states ban the practice entirely.

Cracking the windows open

Cracking the windows a little bit when you’re parked can help excess heat escape from the interior of the vehicle.
Of course, a determined thief doesn’t need much more than a slightly cracked window to get into your car and steal your belongings, if not the car. If you crack your windows, do so with caution. You’ve been warned!

Using solar-powered ventilation fans

You can buy a solar-powered ventilation fan that is blows hot air out of your car while bringing cooler, outside air into the cabin.
You simply attach the fan to the outside of a rolled-up window, and the solar panel powers the fan to keep your car cool.
If you want some cross-ventilation, buy two fans and attach them to each side of the car. Depending on how much you want to spend, a higher-powered fan can be yours.
Key Takeaway Solar-powered fans use the sun’s energy to blow hot air out of your car while bringing cooler air in.

Using your car door as a fan

This last technique is old school, but it works! Roll down the windows and open and close your car door rapidly 6–8 times. The "fan" action of the door will blow some of the hot air out of the car.
Now, we’re just going to come out and say it: you probably won’t look very glamorous when performing this useful, if ridiculous-looking, maneuver. If your crush is in the area, it might be a good idea to wait until they’re out of sight before starting to fan. Make no mistake though, a cooler car cabin will be your reward!

Just drive

If looking like a fool isn’t your thing (no judgment), rolling the windows down, cranking the A/C, and driving will do the trick. It won’t be long before your car is comfortable again.

Gadgets to keep your car cool

You can also use some handy gadgets to cool down your vehicle in the summer. Here are some of the best gadgets to keep in your car.

Dashboard fans

To cool down your car, use an electric dashboard fan.
These can be bought from online retailers and easily connect into your cigarette lighter outlet. Some fans run on battery power instead.

Steering wheel sun shade cover

Just like a sun shade for your car, a sun shade for your steering wheel will keep the wheel cool. This makes it much more comfortable to drive after your car's been in the heat.

Car umbrellas and car covers

One of the best tools to keep your car cooler in the heat is by covering it up. If you can't find a nice shady area to park your car, consider putting a car cover over it.
You can also shop for car umbrellas. They're handy gadgets that will put a cover over the top of your car, like an umbrella.

Frequently asked questions

How can I keep my car cool without A/C?

When you’re driving without A/C, keep those windows down—the cross-ventilation will help keep the cabin cooler. When you’re parked, try to leave your car inside a garage or in the shade from trees or buildings.

How do I keep my car from overheating during the summer?

Parking indoors, using sunshades and solar-powered fans, tinting your windows, and covering parts of the interior can all help keep your car’s indoor temperature down.

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