It happens to the best of cars (and usually at the worst of times): your air conditioner gives out. Maybe your blower motor is damaged. Or maybe your compressor is broken. Whatever the reason, attempting to survive the last few days of summer without an air conditioner in your car can be a sweaty proposition, especially during rush hour or a road trip.

But with a little creativity, staying cool in your car is totally doable. Here are 5 ways to keep cool when your car’s AC is on the fritz. (Just make sure you get a professional to check out your car.)

1. Park in the shade

Whenever you can, look for shady or covered parking options that’ll minimize your car’s exposure to direct sunlight. If you have a home garage, use it to park whenever you can, preferably leaving the windows rolled down or slightly cracked (if you feel it’s safe to do so). If garaging your car isn’t an option, parking in the shade of a tree will likewise keep your standing car cooler. Sunshades and heat shields are another great way to lower the internal temp of your car when you’re not in it.

2. Master your car’s fan and vent system

Even without a functioning air conditioner, chances are you do have a working fan and vent system in your car. Here’s how to move hot air out of your car quickly: open all windows, close your upper vents, leaving your lower vents open, and then turn the fan on to the max. Once most of the hot air is out, open the upper vents and leave the fan going to allow the cooler air to circulate through your vehicle.

3. Dress wisely

If possible, wear clothes that are comfortable, loose-fitting, and light in color (light colors reflect the heat better than darker colors, which absorb heat). If you’re dressed for work or another occasion that requires warmer or less comfortable attire, consider bringing a change of clothes with you and doing a quick wardrobe change at your destination.

4. Use car seat covers

It’s terrible when sweaty skin sticks to hot plastic or leather upholstery. Car covers can virtually eliminate this problem, while also absorbing your sweat on those super sticky days. A beaded car seat cover does you one better by encouraging airflow around your body. No time or money to invest in fancy car seat coverings? No problem. A couple of towels draped across your seat and headrest can get the job done on the cheap.

5. BYO ice

When you’re really in a pinch, some strategically positioned ice can do wonders for cooling you down while you drive. A large bag of ice placed in front of a lower air vent will cool the air circulating around the car. A bag or frozen plastic bottle full of ice placed behind your neck can also help you chill out fast.

DIY hacks | For your car


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.