Is your car unbearably hot? The quickest way to cool down a vehicle in summer with or without air conditioning

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With temperatures soaring these are the best techniques to quickly cool a car - as well as how to stop it heating up in the first place

Highs of 25 degrees have already been recorded in parts of Wales and the Met Office expects temperatures to reach 27 or more in parts of Wales and southern England towards the end of the week. 

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While many of us welcome the chance to bask in the warmth, the heat can make driving uncomfortable as temperatures quickly rise inside cars, whether they’re parked or on the move.

So it’s important to know how to quickly cool your car down and how to stop it getting too hot in the first place. Here are some tried and tested tips - as well as advice on keeping your car cool.

The air-con method

One of the simplest methods comes from automotive designer Nir Kahn, who is based in Israel, and has previously shared his top tip for people trying to cool their cars quickly. Here's his method:

  1. Set the air conditioning to maximum
  2. Open all the car windows then get the car moving.
  3. After a minute you should close the front windows, allowing the cool air from the vents to force the hot air backwards and out the rear windows.
  4. After another minute, close the rear windows, by which point most of the hot air should have been expelled and the air conditioning should be pumping fresh, cool air into the car. 

If your car has air conditioning you also want to use it to best effect, so once it’s running, direct the air to the lower footwell vents and close the upper ones. This will help force the hot air up and out. Don’t use the recirculation function as this will just trap hot air in the car and move it around. Once the air in the car has cooled, you can open the upper vents again.

Don't have air-con?

If you don’t have air conditioning, you can try hanging damp cloths/towels over the air vents to help cool air coming in. Alternatively, invest in some ice packs or freeze bottles of water in advance and use these to cool yourself as you drive.

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The 'fanning' method

If you’d rather cool the car before you set off, perhaps because it isn’t fitted with air con, you can try “fanning” the car, although this is likely to get you even hotter as you cool the car. To do this you simply need to open all the windows on one side of the car then quickly swing a door on the opposite side open and closed eight to 10 times. This will help drive huge volumes of hot air out of the car.  

Some heat-reducing measures

While it’s good to know how to cool a car on the move, prevention is better than cure and there are some simple steps you can take to stop temperatures inside your car from getting too high in the first place. 

  • Park in the shade - whether it’s a covered car park or simply finding a tree to stop under, getting your car even partially in the shade can make a big difference to how hot it will get inside.
  • Invest in a sunshade - if you can’t find a shady parking spot, a screen over your front window will help deflect the worst of the sun’s rays and keep things cooler.
  • Leave the windows open - obviously only do this somewhere that you know your car is secure, but leaving windows or a sunroof open even a little can help create some airflow to keep temperatures down. 
  • Cover touchpoints - if you know your car will be parked for a while it’s a good idea to cover the steering wheel with a cloth or towel to stop you getting scorched hands on your return. It’s also advisable to cover any metal elements, such as seatbelt buckles, which can get unbearably hot. If you can’t do this, try wiping them down with a cool damp cloth before touching anything. 

Be prepared if you are driving in a heatwave

Even taking all these steps, it’s possible your car could still become uncomfortably hot, so it pays to be prepared, especially if you heading off on a long trip. Make sure you take plenty of cold water with you on any journeys and wear light, loose clothing to help keep you cool. Take more frequent breaks and, if you can, try to avoid travelling in the middle of the day when temperatures are highest.

If anyone in your car starts to show signs of heat exhaustion - such as feeling faint or nauseous, suffering from muscle cramps or headaches, or cold, clammy skin - pull over somewhere shaded and cool their skin using a spray or cool, damp cloth, and get them to sip fluids - the NHS recommends a sports drink or cool water.

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