How to keep your car cool in summer and stay safe

Melbourne city traffic in sunny weather

Nyasha Jokomo

Posted December 13, 2023

Summer's scorching temperatures can pose a safety threat to drivers and occupants, and lead to the dreaded scenario of engine overheating. Here's a guide on how to keep your car cool in hot weather to stay safe on the road.

As temperatures rise, so does the challenge of staying safe on your journey during extremely hot summer days. In the event your car does overheat and you’re left stranded, there are emergency roadside services available to assist you. However, before that ever happens to you, here are some practical tips to help you beat the heat and keep your car cool this summer.

Tips to keep your car cool and stay safe

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Cars parked with a windshield reflector

Windshield reflectors can reduce interior temperatures as they reflect heat away from the car. Image: Getty

Tips for keeping your car cool when you're parked

Shade your car

Park strategically by looking for shaded parking spots, such as under trees or in parking garages, to shield your car from direct sunlight. To add extra protection, consider professionally applied window tinting to reduce the amount of sunlight and heat penetrating your car. For a more cost efficient option, invest in reflective sunshades for your windshield to minimize the heat entering your car. 

Protect your interior

Windshield reflectors placed on your windshield from the inside can significantly reduce interior temperatures as they reflect heat away from the car. Extend the use of sunshades to cover side windows, reducing overall interior heat.

Covers can help protect and reduce the heat on your seats and steering wheel. Opt for light-coloured and breathable materials to prevent burns from scorching surfaces. Cooling gel pads for your seats can also help to absorb and dissipate heat.


Tips for keeping your car cool when you're driving

Control airflow through your car 

Considering your surroundings, leave your windows slightly open to allow hot air to escape. Be mindful of security concerns and only crack windows enough to promote airflow. Alternatively, before entering your car, open and close the doors to allow hot air to escape.

Using your air conditioner efficiently will help keep your car at a regulated temperature so, if driving at low speeds, consider using the car's ventilation system instead of the aircon to reduce the load on the engine. You can also use portable fans or small clip-on fans to enhance airflow within your car. Ensure you replace your vehicle’s cabin filter every second service to maintain a clean air flow into the cabin.

Monitor your dashboard

Pay attention to your car's temperature gauge on the dashboard. This will help you to adjust things if your car begins to heat up. If the temperature goes up rapidly and unexpectedly, it may indicate an overheating issue. To avoid engine damage, stop driving and seek emergency expert assistance if you are not confident checking the vehicle yourself.

Always watch and listen out for warning signs. If you have a modern car, your car dashboard will likely turn on warning lights which can help you decipher where the issue might be. In an older vehicle without a comprehensive dashboard, you may need to listen out more for any unusual noises, such as boiling or hissing sounds, which could indicate cooling system problems. 


person driving car in hot weather

Schedule your outings during cooler parts of the day to keep safe on the road and avoid peak heat hours and traffic. Image: Getty

How you can plan ahead to keep your car cool

Conduct regular servicing

Ensure your car's coolant levels are adequate as part of your car’s regular servicing for your air conditioning system. A well-maintained cooling system is essential in preventing overheating.

Check your engine oil regularly and top up as needed. Low oil levels or degraded oil can lead to increased friction and heat. Adhere to your car manufacturer's recommended oil change intervals. Fresh, high-quality oil helps keep the engine running smoothly.

Your car’s radiator helps to control the temperature of your car’s engine so it is important to periodically inspect the radiator for any leaks, corrosion, or damage. Make sure to get your radiator repaired or replaced if needed. Ensure that the radiator fins are clean and free from debris, bugs, or dirt. Use a soft brush or compressed air to remove any obstructions. Inspect the radiator cap for wear and tear. A faulty cap may lead to loss of coolant and subsequent overheating.

Manage your time

The time of day you travel will make a difference to your car’s experience on the road. Where possible, schedule your outings during cooler parts of the day, like the mornings or evenings, to avoid peak heat hours. With that in mind, the time you travel will also help you avoid traffic jams. Stop-and-go heavy traffic or long idling periods can put a strain on your engine.

If embarking on a long journey in high temperatures, plan breaks to allow your engine to cool down. If you have a modern car or electric vehicle, you may be able to use it's remote start system to start cooling your car before entering.

Prepare for an emergency

A car emergency kit may help you in the event of a breakdown whilst you wait for assistance. The kit may include basic tools and supplies in your car, such as a flashlight, coolant, and a funnel for emergency cooling system interventions. Additionally, keep a container of water in your car. In case of overheating, you can use it to top up the radiator after it cools down.