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7 Tips For Keeping Your Car Cool When Your Air Conditioning Breaks

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It’s sweltering outside and all you want to do is hop in your car and crank the air conditioning up. Unfortunately, all you get is a blast of hot air from the dashboard vents. Suddenly, you discover your vehicle’s A/C has stopped working. There might have been warning signs that you ignored or it just decided today was the perfect time to break down.

Whether you knew it was coming or suddenly having no air conditioning, it’s still an unpleasant surprise. Now, you have to figure out how to stay cool in your car. Here are a few tips to help keep you cool until your vehicle’s air conditioning is fixed.

7 Tips to Stay Cool in Your Car When Your Air Conditioning Breaks

You can roll your windows down to get a hot breeze and wind-blown hair but there are other things you can do to stay cool in a car with a broken air conditioner.

  1. Plan your trips

One of the simplest solutions to staying cool is to plan your trips. You already know that the afternoon is the hottest time of the day so try to run your errands in the morning or evening.

If you find that some trips have to occur in the afternoon, consider using a rideshare or taxi service instead. It might cost a little more than the gas you would’ve have used but sometimes it’s difficult to put a price tag on comfort.

  1. Avoid congested areas

Depending on the breeze from open windows won’t do any good if you’re stuck in unmoving traffic. Every city, town, and even neighborhood has at least one area where traffic also builds up. Getting stuck in traffic congestion is never fun, but it’s even worse when your vehicle’s air conditioner is on the fritz.

Avoid driving during morning and evening rush hours, if possible. You might also want to take the time to plan alternative routes if congestion is common on the roads you normally take.

  1. Dress for a hot vehicle

Long sleeves might be your normal attire but it’s impractical to wear in a car with a broken air conditioner. Your work dress code may require a dress shirt, coat, and tie but this doesn’t mean that you have to wear it in the car.

Both men and women often have a dress code that they must follow for their jobs, however, this doesn’t mean that it has to be worn in the hot car.

Instead of wearing your work clothes, which will be wrinkled and sweaty by the time you park your car, pack the outfit in a gym bag. You can stay cool on your way to work wearing shorts and a breathable t-shirt. Once your there, simply change into your work attire.

  1. Don’t park in the sun

It should be obvious. If you park in the sun the inside of the vehicle will heat up. Garages and covered parking spaces will shade your vehicle, keeping the interior cooler.

Parking underneath a tree may mean a trip to the car wash, but it will also provide shade on a hot, sunny day. If you can’t park underneath any shade, you can create your own with a dashboard cover.

These covers are inexpensive and a breeze to set up. The cover is designed to block and often reflect sunlight off the windshield, keeping your vehicle cool inside. You can also find covers for rear windshields and even ones on the side.

  1. Bring a mini fan along

There are mini fans that are designed specifically for use in a vehicle. Some are battery-powered, while others plug into the vehicle’s charging ports. You can also find solar-powered mini fans.

On the bottom of most mini fans is a suction cup that attaches to the dashboard. You can get a constant breeze even when you’re stuck in traffic. Best of all, mini car fans are extremely inexpensive and you can find them almost anywhere.

  1. Use a “cooling-cushion”

Just like there are cushions that warm you up, there are also some that help you stay cool. Some cushions are designed to help keep you cool with a gel lining but these are also priced above some budgets and aren’t always effective.

A cushion with a mesh covering or even a beaded seat covering will help keep you cool without the high price tag. What you’re looking for is a breathable cushion.

  1. Cover metal and leather surfaces

There are a lot of surfaces in your car that will get hot to the touch. It also doesn’t take a lot of time for it to get hot enough to burn your hand. This applies even when your air conditioning is working great.

Any metal surfaces that you regularly touch getting into the vehicle should be covered. You also want to pay attention to leather/vinyl seats and steering wheels. Hot seats will burn more than your hands, and this can be painful and occasionally embarrassing.

There are plenty of inexpensive covers, in a variety of colors and styles, to choose from. You can also use a large towel to cover the seat. Another trick is to keep a spray water bottle in the vehicle to spritz down hot surfaces before getting in.

Bonus Tip

It’s simple, easy, and probably something you already do. Bring a cold drink with you or get one on the way. If it’s a longer drive, pack a small cooler with ice and cold beverages. It’s surprisingly cool and refreshed you’ll feel sipping on a cold drink.

Signs a Vehicle’s Air Condition is ‘Going’

There are times when your vehicle’s A/C will ‘go out’ without warning but sometimes there are a few warning signs. Here are some of the common signs that could indicate it’s time for you to get your vehicle’s air conditioning fixed.

  1. Air conditioning is cooling properly

Your car’s A/C is blowing out barely cool air instead of cold and/or air movement from the vents has significantly dropped. Warmer air from the A/C could indicate a low coolant level or a more serious problem with the component’s compressor.

Loss of airflow might only mean your vents need a good cleaning or an issue with the evaporator and condenser. Regardless of the issue, you will want to find and fix the problem before you’re A/C goes out.

  1. The car’s A/C makes ‘noises’

Sometimes vehicles have louder compressors in the air conditioners but regardless of the noise difference, all run in a continuous cycle. This means that the A/C should sound the same every time it’s running until it’s shut-off.

The continuous cycle will put wear and tear on the compressor but there are a few warning signs. One is a loud grinding or squealing noise. If you hear this when the A/C is on, it’s time to take your vehicle to a mechanic.

  1. Strange smells from the vehicle’s A/C

If you smell foul or musty odors every time you turn your vehicle’s air conditioning on, there could be a problem. Often it indicates that mold could be growing in the A/C unit. It might not affect the unit’s ability to cool your car but it can cause problems with your health – primarily respiratory problems.

  1. Water not leaking underneath your vehicle

It’s not often that you want to see liquid dripping from underneath your vehicle. When it comes to the vehicle’s air conditioning, it’s a good sign to see water dripping after it’s turned off. It indicates that the A/C is working properly.

If you don’t see any water dripping there could be a problem. Water from the A/C could be backing up into the vehicle. Often it pools near the floor mats, underneath the dash. When this happens, you’ll want to have a mechanic check your vehicle.

  1. Air conditioning leaks

It’s difficult to tell if your vehicle’s air conditioning is leaking. The leak is often small and only emitting air. The loss of air results in lower pressure and this means that the vehicle’s interior isn’t being cooled.

The easiest way to find an air leak is to take the vehicle to a mechanic. They’ll insert dye into the A/C and then follow along until they find the leak. You can also do this at home but it is easy to go to a certified mechanic.


Unfortunately, chances are your vehicle’s air conditioning is going to go out at least once. When it happens, it’s usually during the summer. There are ways to keep yourself cool before you get your A/C fixed, other than rolling down all the windows.

Most of the time you can stop the A/C in your vehicle from ‘dying’. Just pay attention to any warning signs, and don’t wait until the air conditioner breaks before taking the vehicle into a mechanic. You’ll be glad you did when your car’s A/C is working great on a hot summer day.

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