Keeping It Cool

By Sharon Naylor

January 21, 2011 5 min read

During the summer months, it can get dangerously hot in your car's interior, including not just the air but also surfaces, such as seats, buckles, plastic items and the steering wheel.

According to a recent study conducted by Axius, a division of Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., on a 95-degree day, the air inside a parked car can reach about 145 F, with the car seats reaching 162 F and the dashboard reaching 181 F. The website of BabyBeeCool, which makes products to shield babies from heat, reports that the color of your car's interior affects your interior's temperatures:

--A white interior can generate temperatures of about 135 F.

--A red interior can generate temperatures of about 154 F.

--A blue or green interior can generate temperatures of about 165 F.

--A black interior can generate temperatures of about 192 F.

Those scorchingly high numbers can cause myriad health dangers, including heat stroke, burns and even fatalities of children and pets. (BabyBeeCool reports that skin that touches a car seat surface of more than 150 F can be severely burned in just one second.) It's vitally important, then, to take every step possible to prevent your car, minivan, truck or SUV from becoming a veritable oven. Here are your must-have car cooling supplies:

--Window sunshades: According to the experts at Axius, the simple installation of manual sunshades can lower your car's temperature by more than 48 F. You have your choice of installing permanent or semi-permanent (pop-in) pull-down sunshades on side windows or applying easy-cling sunshades to side windows for blockage of the sun's hot rays. Choose side window shades and shields made from semi-sheer materials, because it's important for the driver to be able to see out of all car windows while driving.

A common sight on a summer's day is the propping up of portable sunshades in the front window of a car. These portable sunshades come in a range of materials, from cardboard to insulated plastic, and they may be tri-fold designs or accordion-style. You can buy these shades on a budget and in creative designs at discount stores, such as Target and Walmart, or you can buy specially designed ones through your car dealer.

An added perk of window sunshades is that many are formulated to block ultraviolet rays, which can damage and cause fading in your car's interior fabrics and dashboard. Some window shades contain a dyed polyester, and some contain heavier polyester with reflective metal embedded in the darker-colored material.

--Car window tinting: Some drivers, particularly those who live in regions that get very hot throughout the year, choose to have their car windows tinted to a shade that has been determined legal. Fully tinted windows that cannot be seen through from the outside are illegal in many areas, so though it might seem to be a good solution, you could be pulled over, ticketed and instructed to replace your expensive window tinting. Talk to your car dealership or a window tinting specialist about the legal shading levels possible for your car or truck.

--Seat belt covers: In a hot car, the length of your seat belt can get uncomfortably hot to the touch, and you don't want anyone choosing not to wear a seat belt because it hurts her bare shoulders. A simple, inexpensive solution is to attach 6-inch or longer seat belt covers that the passenger can slide up the length of the fastened seat belt and place against the skin that the belt is touching. Brookstone is one store that offers seat belt-attached lambswool covers that stay in place and have tested well for safety and comfort. Always choose official, tested seat belt attachments, skipping do-it-yourself crafts, which may not stay in place or provide optimal protection in case of an accident.

--Steering wheel covers: You can find online a variety of insulated covers and wraps for steering wheels, designed to reflect the sun's rays off wheel materials. If you drape a towel over your steering wheel to block the sun's rays, always remove the towel before driving.

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