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Beating The Heat: Do Car Sunshades Work?


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We’ve all experienced the stifling, oven-like heat that greets you when you open your car door after it’s been parked in the sun. The seats are too hot to sit on, the steering wheel feels like hot lava, and the air inside is suffocating.

It’s not just uncomfortable—it can also harm your car’s interior. So, what can be done to combat this common summer problem?

Do Car Sunshades Work?

Absolutely. Whether you call them “windshield shades” or “car sunshades,” they are designed to reflect sunlight and insulate your car, reducing the internal temperature. They also protect the interior of your vehicle, prolonging the life and aesthetics of your car’s interior.

The best sunshade for you depends on your specific needs and vehicle type. But, like any product, it’s essential to use sunshades correctly. 

So, let’s go for a ride and explore the science behind car sunshades, their benefits, how to choose the best one for your vehicle, and address common questions and concerns.

If you want to protect your car and make your summer drives more comfortable, read on!

Why Should You Use a Car Sunshade?

Using a sunshade is not just about immediate comfort but long-term protection and preservation. Here are the key benefits of using a sunshade:

  • Temperature Regulation: Sunshades significantly reduce the internal temperature of your car, making it cooler and more comfortable upon entry.
  • UV Protection: Sunshades block harmful UV rays, which can cause skin damage if you’re exposed for extended periods.
  • Interior Preservation: Windshield shades protect the dashboard, seats, and other interior components from fading, cracking, or degrading due to direct sunlight.
  • Electronics Protection: Reduced heat means your car’s electronics, like the radio and GPS, are less likely to overheat and malfunction.
  • Privacy: Sunshades can provide an added layer of privacy, preventing prying eyes from seeing inside your parked car.

The relentless summer sun wreaked havoc on my truck, especially when we were traveling around Florida (check out our adventures at @peaceloveandfamilyadventures). It’s just one of the many challenges of RV life.

Direct sunlight and Florida heat can cause the truck’s interior materials, especially plastics and fabrics, to fade and lose their original color.

The heat can strain the car’s air conditioning system, and electronics, too, are vulnerable. Devices like GPS systems or dashcams can malfunction when exposed to high temperatures.

That’s why one of the first things we did when we got to Florida was purchase a sunshade to aid us when we’re on the aid full time with our RV.

Are There Potential Concerns with Sunshades?

When considering a car sunshade, it’s natural to have concerns or questions. One prevalent myth is that a sunshade can cause your windshield to crack.

The theory is that the sunshade might cause uneven temperatures across the windshield, leading to stress and cracks.

However, this is largely unfounded. Windshields can withstand significant temperature variations, so a sunshade is unlikely to cause any harm.

Sunshades can help reduce the overall temperature inside your car, potentially reducing the risk of heat-related damage. While it’s always good to be informed and cautious, sunshades, when used correctly, offer more benefits than potential concerns.

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Which Kinds of Sunshades Work the Best?

Always consider the design when choosing a sunshade. Custom windshield shades offer a snug fit that ensures maximum coverage and optimal sun protection.

Accordion-style sunshades have a reflective material on one side that effectively bounces back sunlight, and that’s what we use.

Pop-up sunshades are versatile and can fit various windshield sizes, and roll-up sunshades are adjustable in width and suitable for various cars.

Is The Color Of The Sunshade Important?

The color of a sunshade plays a significant role in its effectiveness. Lighter colors, especially silver or white, reflect sunlight effectively, reducing the amount of heat absorbed.

Darker colors can absorb heat, making them less effective in keeping your car cool. When choosing a sunshade, choose a reflective or light-colored surface to maximize its cooling effect.

Our sunshade is silver, and it works great.

How To Choose and Use the Best Car Window Sunshade

Choosing the right sunshade for your vehicle is crucial for comfort and ensuring the longevity of your car’s interior. Here’s a concise guide to help you make an informed decision:

1. Size and Fit:

  • Measure Your Windshield: Before purchasing, measure the height and width of your car’s windshield to ensure a snug fit. A sunshade that’s too big or small won’t provide optimal protection.
  • Vehicle-Specific vs. Universal: Some sunshades are designed for specific car models, offering a perfect fit. However, universal sunshades can be just as effective if chosen correctly.

2. Material:

  • Reflective Surfaces: Sunshades with a reflective outer layer are best for repelling sunlight and reducing heat.
  • Insulating Layers: Look for sunshades with a foam or bubble insulation layer, which helps maintain a cooler interior temperature.

3. Ease of Installation and Storage:

  • Pop-up vs. Roll-up: Pop-up sunshades are easy to fold and store, while roll-up shades can be more compact. Choose based on your storage preferences.
  • Suction Cups or Clips: Some sunshades have suction cups or clips to keep them in place. This can be especially useful on windy days or if the fit isn’t perfect.

Tips for Ensuring Sunshades Stay in Place:

  • Positioning: Ensure the sunshade is flush against the windshield without any gaps.
  • Use the Visors: After positioning the sunshade, pull down your car’s sun visors to help hold it in place.
  • Check for Slippage: On hot days, check periodically to ensure the sunshade hasn’t slipped down or become dislodged.
Truck with sunshade
The sunshade we use on our car

Should You Use A Sunshade In The Winter?

While sunshades are primarily associated with summer heat, we also use ours in the winter. A sunshade can act as an insulator, keeping the warmth inside your car and reducing the time it takes to heat up.

On sunny winter days, a sunshade can prevent the dashboard and seats from becoming uncomfortably cold to the touch by reflecting away the direct sunlight.

Which Side of the Car Sunshade Faces Outside?

Most sunshades come with a shiny, reflective side and a dull side. The shiny, reflective side of the sunshade should face outward toward the sun.

This side, often made of a material like aluminium foil, is designed to reflect the sun’s rays away from the car. Doing so prevents these rays from penetrating the windshield and heating up the interior.

The science behind this is rooted in the properties of sunlight. When sunlight hits the sunshade’s reflective surface, most of it is reflected back.

The non-reflective side absorbs and dissipates any residual heat. This combination of reflection and absorption ensures that the car’s interior remains cool and undamaged.

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Additional Tips for Keeping Your Car Cool

While car sunshades play a pivotal role in maintaining a cool interior, they’re just one piece of the puzzle. Here are a few quick, complementary strategies to enhance their effectiveness:

  1. Shady Parking: Whenever possible, park in shaded areas. Even a little shade from a tree or building can significantly affect your car’s internal temperature. My family loves it when I drive an entire parking lot looking for a shady spot.
  2. Ventilation: Leave your windows slightly open to allow hot air to escape. Leave them open enough for airflow but not enough for someone to get in. Even the smallest crack can promote airflow and prevent your car from becoming a sauna.
  3. Steering Wheel Trick: Turn your steering wheel 180 degrees before leaving your car. This way, the side you touch is shielded from direct sunlight, keeping it cooler for your return. This is another thing my family picks on me about every time we park.
  4. Seat Covers: Consider using seat covers, especially for leather seats. They can prevent direct sunlight from heating up the seats and provide an additional layer of insulation.
  5. Tinted Windows: While an investment, window tinting can block a significant amount of UV rays and heat, further helping to keep your car cool.

Combine these strategies with a quality sunshade for the best results and a more comfortable summer driving experience. Car covers are worth using too, if you’re not going to be using your car for a while and you want to keep it cool and safe.

Wrapping Up: Do Car Sunshades Work?

In summer’s scorching summer, entering a parked car can feel like stepping into a furnace. The question on many minds is: Do car sunshades, or windshield shades as some call them, genuinely make a difference?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Car sunshades effectively reflect sunlight and insulate vehicles, reducing the internal temperature and making the environment inside considerably more bearable.

Beyond immediate comfort, they protect the car’s interior from the damaging effects of prolonged sun exposure, such as fading and degradation.

While there are various types of sunshades, each with unique benefits, the key is choosing one that fits your vehicle and needs. You don’t have to break the bank either; there are plenty of affordable options out there.

And while sunshades are a primary defense against heat, complementing them with strategies like parking in the shade, ensuring proper ventilation, and considering window tinting can further enhance their effectiveness.

So, if you’re seeking a more comfortable summer driving experience and wish to prolong the life of your car’s interior, investing in a quality car sunshade is a decision you won’t regret.


Brandyn Shoemaker


I'm Brandyn, a contributing writer here at The Road Trip Expert. Over the past three years, my family and I have embraced the nomadic lifestyle, traveling across the U.S. in our RV. We've journeyed from coast to coast three times, making memories in 26 states and countless National and State Parks. From the crystal-clear waters of the Florida Springs to the towering Sea Stacks off the Oregon Coast, we've seen some truly amazing sights.
I'm excited to bring my experiences and travel insights to The Road Trip Expert community. So buckle up, and let's hit the road together!