Classic Hacks: How To Cool Down A Car That's Been Baking In The Sun

Image: iStock

Nobody likes being stuck inside a hot car -- it can leave you feeling suffocated, dehydrated and uncomfortably sticky in a matter of seconds. While most vehicles now come equipped with air conditioning, it can still take a tortuously long time to expel all that hot air; especially if you're sitting in the back seat. These tricks from the Lifehacker archives will dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to cool your car's interior.

The following six steps come from life hack bible wikiHow. They're designed to work with any car that's been left in the sun, even if you don't have fancy reflecting shades or window tints. Here's what to do:

  1. Roll down the windows.
  2. Turn on the A/C on the fresh air setting, do not recirculate.
  3. Crank the fan up all the way and make sure the thermostat is on the coldest setting.
  4. Drive for a minute or two with the windows down, to force out the superheated air.
  5. Once the air in the car begins to feel cooler than the outside temperature, then switch from fresh air to recirculate.
  6. Adjust temperature using lower thermostat and fan settings.

As we explained in our original post, your car is essentially a bucket when the windows are rolled down. If you adjust the airflow so the air is also blowing down into the foot wells, you’re more effectively displacing the air from the area of the car with the least air circulation and pushing it up and out the windows. This trick works, albeit less effectively, even if your air conditioner is broken because the ambient air outside is usually a good deal cooler than the roasting air trapped in the car.

Another trick is to direct your AC's air flow up to the windscreen, which is the hottest part of the car and the part that radiates heat into your face. You can also try opening the backseat window on the opposite side of the driver and then opening and closing the driver's door about five or six times to fan out the hot air. (Thanks to LH reader sol95 for that tip!)

[Via wikiHow]

Lifehacker's Classic Hacks is a regular segment where we dig up the most popular, useful and offbeat advice from our archives and update it for your modern lifestyle.


    Its a pity cars dont have an inbuilt heat extraction system powered by a second rechargable battery/solar (As to not threaten your ability to start the car) to keep the inside of the car at least as cool (hot) as the outside in summer.

      Or even more interestingly, a seebeck generator (electricity generated from a thermal differential).

      in a completely passive system, it would only turn on when the car started getting warmer than outside. if the temperature equalised, it would stop generating power and turn off. Probably wouldn't generate enough power to run an aircon but it might be able to handle a fan circulating fresh air into the car.

      It'd be crazy for a car manufacturer to put one in a car given they already contains large batteries, ventilation, and a stack of processors - but it'd make a fun experiment.

        Wouldn't you need a crazy heat differential for the seebeck to do anything meaningful?

        You could achieve the same result with a solar panel on the cars roof - given that cars not in beaming sunlight probably aren't going to get boiling hot, you could get the solar panel to plug juice straight into the AC system.

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