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How Hot Can Your Car Get in the Sun?

Published Wed October 4, 2023

A hot car with sun shining through the windows


While sun-soaked afternoons are perfect for beach outings and picnics, they’re not so kind to our vehicles. The inside of a car can transform into a veritable oven, posing risks you might not have considered. 


It’s not just about the uncomfortable sizzle on your seat or the sting from a steering wheel that’s too hot. The implications can be severe for both humans and pets left inside. 


So, how hot can a car get in the sun? Let’s look at the scorching numbers and explore a few ways to keep your vehicle cool, comfortable, and safe.


How Hot Can It Get Inside Your Car? 


When exposed to sunlight, a car can rapidly become alarmingly hot. On an 80°F day, within just 20 minutes, the car’s interior can soar to 109°F. Within 40 minutes, it might reach a scorching 118°F. 


Even on milder days, with temperatures around 70°F, the inside of your car can turn uncomfortably hot. The rapid rise in temperature makes vehicles potentially dangerous environments for both humans and pets, especially on sunny days.


Why Overheated Cars Are a No-No for People and Pets


Knowing how hot a car can get in the sun is crucial for the safety of both people and pets. Overheated cars can swiftly become life-threatening. For humans, escalated temperatures increase the risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and impaired alertness. For your furry friends, it’s even more perilous. 


Unlike humans, pets can’t sweat efficiently, making them more susceptible to overheating. Tragically, many pets suffer fatal consequences from being left in hot cars every year. Given the rapid temperature rises inside a parked car under the sun, never leave passengers or pets locked inside, not even for a few minutes.


Why Do Cars Turn Into Baking Ovens, Especially in Summer?


So why do cars get so hot, especially in summer? It boils down to the greenhouse effect. Cars, with their glass windows, trap sunlight inside. Sunlight enters the car as visible light and is absorbed by the seats, dashboard, and floor, converting it into infrared light. 


While visible light can enter the car easily, infrared light cannot exit as efficiently, causing heat buildup. This trapped heat causes temperatures to skyrocket inside the vehicle. Dark interiors exacerbate this effect, absorbing more sunlight and heating up faster. 


How to Keep a Car Cool When It’s Parked in the Sun


There are things you can do to minimize the heat in your vehicle. You won’t have to worry about your car feeling like a broiler if you follow these tips to keep it cool:


  • Shady Spots: Always aim to park in shaded areas or under trees.
  • Sunshades: Invest in reflective sunshades for your windshield to deflect sunlight.
  • Window Crack: Leave windows slightly open for ventilation but not enough to attract thieves.
  • Tinted Windows: Consider getting your windows tinted; they can block a portion of incoming sunlight and keep your interior cooler. Before you tint, check local window tinting regulations. 
  • Light-colored Fabrics: Use light-colored seat covers—which reflect more sunlight than they absorb.
  • Steering Wheel Hack: Turn the steering wheel 180 degrees before exiting; this keeps the top from getting too hot to touch.
  • Cover Up: Throw a blanket or towel over seats and dashboards to reduce direct sun exposure and heat absorption.

Remember, even with these tips, leaving pets or people inside a parked car on warm days is never safe.



Keep Your Car Cool with an AC Tuneup at Meineke


As a driver, it’s essential to know how hot a car can get in the sun, but what’s more important is taking action to keep the vehicle cool and safe to drive. 


At Meineke, we have expert AC tune-up and repair services to ensure your car stays cool, even on the hottest days. Keep your vehicle cool, maintain optimum performance, and provide a comfortable experience for all your passengers. Find a Meineke center near you, and schedule an appointment today!