How to keep your car cool on hot days

Hot summer days can make your car feel like a sauna on four wheels. Here are some quick tricks to keep it cool on hot days.

Andy Baryer/CNET

At the peak of summer, the interior of your car can heat up to dangerous temperatures making driving almost unbearable. Not everyone has the luxury of A/C, but there are a few things you can do to keep you, your children and your pets safe from the heat.

Find shaded parking

Nobody likes to enter a car that's been parked in direct sunlight. Take extra time to find shaded parking spots under trees, building, or underground parking lots. If your car's been parked in direct sun for a long time, open all the doors for a couple of minutes before entering. Glass windows insulate heat inside, so it's important to get the hot air out. Better yet, allow hot air to escape by leaving the windows slightly open while parked.

The opening should be less than the width of a person's arm so no one can get into your car. If security is a concern, purchase window vent visors that attach to the top of the car's window. These visors are tinted so people will have a hard time telling if your windows are open or not.

Use a blanket and sun shade

Purchasing a sun shade, or a UV heat shield, is a great investment for those who can't escape parking outdoors on hot days. Not only do they reduce interior temperature, but sun shades protect the car's interior from harmful sun rays that penetrate windshields. If you live in a climate with months of hot weather, look into spending a little more and purchasing a custom-made sun shade online to cover the entire windshield. These will fit your windshield like a glove, and virtually no light and UV rays can get it.

Use bottom vents

Most people who enter a hot vehicle open the windows right away to immediately cool their upper body. Since heat rises, the best method is to push the hot air out from the bottom to cool the vehicle as quick as possible. Adjust the fan setting to "max" and close the upper vents so only the bottom vents closest to the ground are functioning. Pushing the air from the bottom to the top helps the stale hot air escape through the open windows. Once the hot air is pushed out, switch to the upper vents to stay cool while driving.

Toggle A/C settings

If you're lucky enough to have air conditioning, make sure you set it to "fresh air" and not "recirculation" when you first enter your vehicle. Recirculation draws in the interior air and typically works best once the vehicle has reached its desired temperature.

Recirculation is also great when you're stuck in traffic as it prevents carbon monoxide emissions from other vehicles being pulled into your car. Get into the habit of switching to fresh air when you first turn your A/C on, and then switching to recirculation after 5 or 10 minutes.

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