How to keep cool when driving in hot weather

Keeping yourself and your car cool is vital for safe, reliable motoring when the outside temperature rises. Here are our easy-to-follow tips.

Staying cool in hot weather

The hottest day of 2020 so far is expected this week, as temperatures soar to 34deg C. The heatwave has led the Met Office to issue a level two alert for most of England.

Keeping yourself and your car cool can be difficult in these conditions – but it’s vital in order to drive safely and reliably.

Following these tips should prevent a meltdown when the temperature creeps up.

Keeping your cool

Keeping cool in hot weather

Heat-shielding sun shades

The real winners during a heatwave are those who leave a reflective sun shade in their windscreen. These are great for bouncing back solar energy away from your car’s interior.

Air conditioning

Highway Code rule 237 states: ‘Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness’.

At lower speeds, try opening a window to keep fresh air flowing through the car. You can keep the air conditioning on, too – otherwise, the outside air will soon make the cabin scorching hot – but having a window ajar will prevent it from drying out. Also, heat rises, so a slightly open window will let the warmest air out first. 

What about the extra fuel cost? It will be negligible around town – and the air-con will already be working hard. At speed, however, keep the windows up and air-con on to avoid causing drag and wasting fuel.

Classic Pepsi Ford Transit


Keep hydrated

Your body is reasonably well-equipped to sweat itself cool. Perspiration does use up water, though, so perhaps the most important thing on a hot day is to keep drinking. 

When driving, make sure there’s plenty of water on-board for all passengers. Remember: you can still get dehydrated if using air conditioning. 

Wear sunglasses

Wear a pair of sunglasses to avoid being dazzled, particularly by low morning or evening sun. It’s less of a factor in the summertime, but those commuting out of hours will still benefit.

Indeed, sunglasses can be essential at any time of year. Your car’s sun visors can only do so much, and you never know when you’ll be caught out by glare in a reflected windscreen or shopfront.

A decent pair of sunglasses might even help you look cooler, too… 

Keeping your car cool

5. Plan ahead

So, that’s you feeling chilled – now for your car. These tips will help prevent a breakdown caused by overheating.

Check your car

Your first line of defence is preparation. Make sure your car is well-serviced and topped up with fluids, including screenwash for those summer bugs. Check the oil and water temperature gauges regularly (if fitted) while driving. Forewarned is forearmed.

Plan ahead

This applies to you and your car. Planning ahead and taking a journey at the right time can improve your chances of getting there. Cooler hours of the day and less traffic are a win-win. 

It’s also worth noting that hot weather can affect public transport. So if you’re travelling by bus or train, check ahead of time for weather-related disruption. 

Keep water on-board for your car

Your car needs water, too. Being able to top up the cooling system on the go is invaluable, should the need arise.

If the temperature gauge is edging towards the red zone, pull over when safe and switch off the engine. However, don’t top up the water straight away. The system will still be under pressure and you’ll end up scalding yourself as boiling water sprays out. Allow the car to cool first

Turn the heating on… yes, really

If your car is getting too hot in traffic, consider switching the heating on. This will help evacuate some of that unwanted heat from the engine bay. Just try to aim the air vents out of the windows first.

After you have arrived

7. At your destination

When you arrive, avoid leaving pets in the car. If you must, make absolutely sure that you’re parked in the shade, and that windows are slightly open.

Remember those winners with sun shades from earlier, too. A shade in a windscreen makes for a cooler cabin.

Some cars let you open the windows remotely by holding down the unlock button on the key fob, which can help in high temperatures.

After the heatwave

Highway Code rule 237 also states: ‘If it rains after a dry spell [the road surface] may become slippery. These conditions could affect your steering and braking’.

This is the UK, after all, so expect some summer showers. When they come, remember the roads will be more slippery than in typical wet conditions.


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