Genius Hacks For Keeping Your Car Cool On Your Next Road Trip

Anyone who travels in the summer knows the pain of getting back into a car after it sat out in the sun. This is especially true when road-tripping, because you don't have the usual accommodations of being at home, like the possibility of parking your car in your garage to keep it out of the sun. Thankfully, we've sourced several ways to keep your car cool on your next road trip.

A huge part of summer travel is mitigating the effects of the sun, whether that involves protecting your own body or your things. For instance, there are several ways to protect yourself from sunburn during a long day of sightseeing. Unsurprisingly, sunscreen is at the top of the list. There are also easy ways to keep your tent cool on hot days so that you can nap or get to bed at night in a space that feels comfortable and refreshing.

But cars involve another level of strategy to keep cool. They get so hot because of the greenhouse effect, which means that short wavelengths of light energy enter the car through the glass windows and get trapped. Light wavelengths become longer in the car and can't escape back out, raising the temperature inside. So here are some hacks for making your reentry into your car more manageable.

Shade is crucial for keeping your car cooler

Wherever possible, park your car in the shade during hotter summer months. Park it under trees, or find a shaded area of a parking lot to keep your vehicle out of direct sunlight. It sounds incredibly obvious, but seeking out shade for your car makes a huge difference when dealing with the temperature inside. It's worth it even if it means that you have to walk farther to reach your destination.

If you can find other covered parking, do so. A parking garage, even if you have to pay for it, is another way to keep your car much cooler, especially if you know that you have to leave your car for a long period of time. Underground parking is great, as is a carport. Source out anything that offers your car sun protection, so that when you get back into it, you're not bombarded by a sweltering vehicle.

Invest in sunshades and window shades for your car

To keep your car cool on your next road trip, invest in a windshield sunshade to keep rays out of your car. The products tend to be very affordable — many are available for $20 or less — and offer UV ray protection. Not only do windshield shades keep your car cooler, they also protect your car. Harsh sun exposure over extended periods of time can lead to cracked and discolored dashboards, so you're also taking care of your car over the long run by using one. Many windshield sunshades pop out like rectangular umbrellas and pack up small, so they don't have to take up a ton of space in your car.

You can also purchase shades for the side windows of your vehicle. Many of these window shades allow you to still roll down your windows, so you can keep them on while driving, offering sun protection for passengers sitting in the back seats. This keeps kids and pets safer and cooler while road-tripping.

Use solar powered fans

One of the most brilliant hacks we've come across for keeping your car cooler in the summer are solar-powered fans. These devices sit on top of the window, snugly between the door frame and the glass, and give the car adequate air circulation to keep the car cooler while parked. They can also help keep the car smelling fresher on long trips, when extended periods inside the vehicle can make the air smell musty and stale.

Even better, the fans are portable and low-maintenance, since they're solar-powered. You don't have to worry about charging them or plugging them in to feel their effectiveness. There are other solar-powered fans that connect to the car's sun visor so that you don't need to install it over your car's window.

One tip that often gets included in keeping your car cooler in the summer is cracking your windows while you're away from your car. We haven't included this on our list because of the increased likelihood of car theft. However, some suggest opening your sunroof slightly if you have one to prompt more air circulation. This is up to you. As much as open windows can help, it's not worth potential break-ins and robberies.

Cover the interior of your car with blankets and towels

One of the worst experiences of climbing into a hot car is scorching yourself on seats that have cooked in the sun, or handling seat belt buckles that feel lethally hot to the touch. It's a simple hack, but your best bet to mitigate this scalding discomfort is to keep things covered when you park your car. Keep some supplies in your car that you can use to drape over the interior. Cover your gear shift with a soda koozie by placing the empty koozie upside down over it when you park. 

Since the seats of cars can often get extremely hot, cover seats with a blanket before you lock your car, so that when you get in, especially if you're wearing shorts, the seats are at least cool enough to sit on comfortably. This also will keep metal items, like seat belt buckles, cooler to the touch than if they were exposed to the sun. A steering wheel can also get unbearably hot after sitting in the sun, so cover yours in a beach towel so that you can comfortably grip it when you get back to your car.

Squirt you seat belt buckles with water

One of the more unusual hacks that we've found for getting into a hot car on a road trip involves a squirt bottle filled with water. When you re-enter your car, if the seat belt buckles and any other metal equipment are too hot to touch, simply mist them with water. This will cool them down so that you can handle them without burning yourself and the water evaporates quickly.

Another thing to do is simply leave all of your car doors open for a few minutes when you return to your car. Even open the trunk. This allows the car to air out before everyone piles in. And hey, while you're waiting for the water to evaporate from your seat belt buckles, you can let the interior of the car cool off even by a little, making your re-entry that much more bearable.

Look into window tinting

It's a pricier outlay initially, but if you live in a hot area or road trip in warm areas often, it might be worth looking into window tinting for your vehicle. Tinted windows can help block the sun's rays and they also keep down the internal temperature of a car. Tinted windows also help protect the interior of your car from damage due to sun exposure.

One of the most innovative ways of covering your car windows is through ceramic window tinting. "In general, ceramic is more effective than traditional tint," auto technician Mike Crossen told Consumer Reports. "It's going to block a higher percentage of UV light, which will keep the car cooler and slow the fading of your car's interior. It also adds protection from the sun's rays without the need for darker tint. You can have a lighter tint that still offers superior protection."

The cost of ceramic window tinting ranges, but it can cost a few hundred dollars per window or around $1,000 for the whole car, roughly. Of course, this is a steep price tag, but worth it if you want to maintain the interior of the car and keep it cooler. Window tint laws vary by state, so be sure to do your research when opting for window tints on your car.