As things start to heat up in Northern Colorado, you may notice that the interior of your car feels extremely hot after being parked out in the sun for a while. Your only thought when you get inside is to roll down the windows and crank up the AC to cool things off as fast as possible. Once you feel like you can breathe again, you might wonder—how hot do cars get in the summer? Can the interior really reach deadly temperatures?
You’re not imagining things—the interior of a car parked in the midday sun is likely the hottest place you will ever step foot (at least while fully clothed, if you enjoy saunas). The reason why your car gets so much hotter than your house is because of all those windows. Cars have a much higher percentage of glass than the average building, only a few of which face the sun at a time.
Cars are more like greenhouses, which are specifically designed to absorb and hold heat. Sunlight pours in through all the windows at once, heating the dashboard and seats, which radiate heat as a result. With the windows rolled up, fresh air can’t get inside to circulate the heat out. Vehicle manufacturers understand this, which is why a typical car’s air conditioner is as powerful as an AC unit used to cool an apartment or small house.
The exact answer varies depending on the outdoor temperature, whether the car is parked in the shade or sun, and the color of the paint and upholstery. Here’s a breakdown of the question, how hot do cars get in the summer?
The fastest rise in temperature occurs as soon as you turn off the AC. If the car is parked in the sun, the mercury can rise by more than one degree per minute for the first 30 minutes. This means if you spend half an hour in the store on a 90-degree day, the inside of your car could be around 120 degrees when you return.
After an hour, the average in-car temperature is 43 degrees higher than the outdoor temperature. After 90 minutes, this rises to 48 degrees higher. Therefore, when it’s 90 degrees outside, it could reach an incredible 138 degrees in your parked car. That’s hotter than any outdoor temperature ever recorded on earth!
If the car is parked in the sun, these average temperature rises are about the same no matter how hot or cold it is outside. Even on a mild 70-degree day, it could reach nearly 120 degrees in the car after 90 minutes. And if you’re passing through Phoenix this summer, a sunny, 110-degree day could heat the car interior to nearly 160 degrees.
When you consider that the temperature in a parked car can rise by 30 degrees in 30 minutes, you realize it’s never safe to leave your kids or pets in the car while you run an errand, even on a cool day.
Consider that a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s. Your child is also strapped into a seat, and the lack of free movement heat them up even more. A body temperature of 104 degrees is enough to cause heat stroke; 107 degrees is usually fatal.
What about leaving the windows cracked or keeping the AC running? First, opening the windows a few inches doesn’t allow enough airflow to lower the temperature to safe levels, especially on hot days. Then, keeping the AC running requires you to leave the car on, which could encourage dangerous mischief from your children.
While you should never leave your child or pet alone in the car—ever—you can follow these tips to keep the interior cooler any time you park outside:
Are you ready for things to heat up here in Northern Colorado? Check the air conditioning system and have it recharged if necessary to help you keep your cool. Of course, your comfort isn’t the only thing at stake—high temperatures also put an extra strain on your engine. Keep your vehicle running cool all summer long with cooling system maintenance at Scott’s Fort Collins Auto.
Please stop by our Fort Collins or Loveland location anytime between 8 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday or until 1 pm on Saturday for the services you need. You can also set an appointment online or by calling (970) 682-4202.