How do I keep my iPhone from overheating on a long road trip?

CNET reader Meghan asks Sharon for her advice on keeping her iPhone cool during a long road trip to Comic-Con. Here's what she suggests.

Sharon Profis Vice President of Content, CNET Studios
As the Vice President of CNET Studios, Sharon leads the video, social, editorial design, and branded content teams. Before this role, Sharon led content development and launched new verticals for CNET, including Wellness, Money, and How To. A tech expert herself, she's reviewed and covered countless products, hosted hundreds of videos, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and the Today Show. An industry expert, Sharon is a recurring Best of Beauty Awards judge for Allure. Sharon is an avid chef and hosts the cooking segment 'Farm to Fork' on PBS nationwide. She's developed and published hundreds of recipes.
  • Webby Award ("How To, Explainer, and DIY Video"); Folio Changemaker Award, 2020
Sharon Profis
4 min read



I have a how-to question for you:

Last summer I drove from Colorado to San Diego to go to Comic-Con, and I used my iPhone 4S for both navigation and playing media. I had a lot of trouble with the phone overheating and either shutting down or not charging.

I've been trying to figure out a cooling solution for my drive next summer.

The image I have in my head is to mod a liquid cooling system from a PC in such a way that I would attach the cold plate to the back of the Ram mount I use for the phone and then run the hoses down into one of the a/c vents.

Do you have any thoughts/better ideas?

Thanks in advance.

Meghan F.

Hey Meghan,

Let's back up for a minute and talk about why your iPhone is overheating to the point of shutting itself down and refusing power.

Considering the existence of a temperature warning screen, we know that Apple is well aware of its iPhone's overheating issues. In fact, there's a lengthy Apple Support article about this very topic, where a few obvious facts -- like overheating because of warm weather, or leaving the device in direct sunlight -- are stated.

Those temperature-increasing conditions are obvious, but there are a couple other culprits that may surprise you. Apple explains that simply using GPS-dependent apps and playing games (what?!) can cause your iPhone to shut down.

It's frustrating, but just like a computer, phones heat up when they're in use. And, while the iPhone is connected to a power source, it becomes more and more overwhelmed with every running feature. At some point, the phone just needs a few minutes to take a breather and cool itself down again.

Which raises the question: If Apple is so aware of this issue, why hasn't it been fixed?

Based on a recent patent, it looks like maybe the company is working on a solution. Besides, the more robust its hardware becomes in the future, the greater the need to efficiently cool it down.

But my gosh, Meghan, your solution is really intense. I can tell you've been thinking about it for some time, though, since it's a complex (albeit logical) solution to your problem.

Before you start rigging this thing, first consider these practical solutions to your issue of overheating:

Disable all but the necessary location services. When combined with an active car adapter, GPS takes the crown as the greatest temperature offender. So, head on over to the location settings on your phone and disable any location services you don't absolutely need for the journey.

Better yet, don't use turn-by-turn directions (which constantly ping GPS for up-to-the-second location). The ideal situation here would be for you to simply generate the driving directions and save them for offline use. Or, if you are traveling with others, ask a passenger to force close Maps when you know you'll be cruising on a long stretch of road.

Get a new car adapter. If you purchased a third-party car adapter, there's a chance it could be outputting too much power, causing your iPhone to overheat. If you're using an Apple-approved adapter, or are absolutely certain this is not the problem, consider removing the charger from the iPhone from time to time. Many users have reported that just having the iPhone connected to the car charger warms it up.

Do the obvious. Considering you've already gone to great lengths to come up with a solution, I have a feeling you already thought of these no-brainers. But, just in case:

  • Completely erase your phone and set it up as a new device. (Do not restore from backup.)
  • Do not use a case while charging your iPhone.
  • Turn off all unnecessary services, like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even push e-mail and notifications.
  • Lower the display brightness when possible.

Put all of these best practices to use and I bet you'll see a significant decrease in your iPhone's temperature.

But, if you're like, "Sharon, come on. I've tried all of these things," I strongly urge you to go to the Genius Bar and see if they'll replace your phone. Overheating can be caused by the hardware itself, especially a faulty battery or a micro-SIM that's been nudged out of place.

Assuming you're under warranty, and you explain that you've tried everything, there's a good chance they'll replace your device.

However, if that's not an option, I'd definitely like to know more about this cooling system. It all makes sense in theory, up until the moment when you put the hoses down the A/C vent. Where are they going, and how will the liquid be circulated?

And, hey, Meghan? If you're successful, I want step-by-step photos. (Pics or it didn't happen!)

-- Sharon

What do you think Meghan should do? If you've fixed this very issue, share your solution in the comments.