In the sweltering days of summer, going for a drive may offer significant relief from the heat. But there’s a price to be paid: Before your car’s air conditioning takes effect, your cabin can feel like a sauna with a malfunctioning thermostat. Touching the steering wheel? Physical pain. Shifting gears? Like being branded.
Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to make climbing into your vehicle less of an endurance challenge.
According to NBC, coping with a hot car usually means a little pre-planning. Parking in a spot with shade is an obvious choice, but that’s not always feasible. Instead, you can throw up a sunshade or towel over your dashboard to block the sun from heating the surface and use piece of foam—like a drink cooler—over the gearshift. Moving the steering wheel down or turning it upside-down while the car is parked can also keep it out of the sun and cooler to the touch when you need to handle it.
Once you’re in the car, you can lower the temperature immediately by opening the windows and exhausting the hot air. But don’t try to hit the road running. According to Consumer Reports, using your key fob to pre-start your car and letting the AC run before you climb in isn’t going to help all that much. Your AC compressor works best when your engine is working to move the car, not when it’s idle.
Once you’re inside, set the AC as low as you can. If you set it higher, the car may actually work to reheat air that’s already cooled, which is counter-intuitive as well as a waste of fuel.
Other tips: Make sure you’re not recirculating your interior air if you have back seat occupants, as that can force passengers back there to miss cooler air; turn off auto start/stop, which can interfere with cooling; and check your air filter to make sure it’s not dirty.