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How To Keep Your Car Cool Without AC

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The best way to cool a car without AC is to open all the windows and doors and use a high-powered portable fan.  Parking your car in shaded or covered parking and using a windshield sunshade will also reduce heat.  Cool down in the car by using some frozen water bottles as ice packs and invest in tinted windows to compensate for the lack of AC. 

Summertime and the car’s AC is out? No problem, we’ve got some great advice on how to keep your car cool in summer without air conditioning.

Beat the summer heat and enjoy your journey by using these car ac alternatives and budget tips!

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1. Freeze water bottles to make ice packs

Keep some frozen water bottles in your cooler (along with your bowl of wet hand towels) to hold against your chest or the back of your neck.  The best part is that as they melt, you have an ice-cold drink to refresh you.

For something more durable, you could consider these cooling towels.

Sukeen [4 Pack Cooling Towel (40'x12'), Ice Towel, Soft Breathable Chilly Towel, Microfiber Towel for Yoga, Sport, Running, Gym, Workout,Camping, Fitness, Workout & More Activities
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Sukeen [4 Pack Cooling Towel (40″x12″), Ice Towel, Soft Breathable Chilly Towel, Microfiber Towel for Yoga, Sport, Running, Gym, Workout,Camping, Fitness, Workout & More Activities
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  • KEEP CHILLS – The towel stays chilled for up to 3…
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2. Portable car cooling fan  

Air circulation via a portable car air conditioner is a great way to reduce heat in a car that doesn’t have built-in ac.  We recommend installing a fan on the driver’s left-hand side facing the back right of the vehicle.  Two fans are even better; install the second one on the passenger’s right-hand side facing the back left.  This will create a cross breeze in the car and keep that air moving.

A high-powered car cooling fan is an effective option because they are easy to move around the car and have a few settings to choose from. It’s one of the simplest car ac alternatives on the market.

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3. Bring ice-cold beverages

Ice-cold drinks are highly refreshing when you are feeling a little too hot in the car. They help to keep your body cool even if it’s getting too warm in your vehicle. I like to freeze a drink and then drink the liquid as it melts. You can also use it as an ice pack as suggested earlier!

4. Cooling seat covers

If you are going to be doing a lot of driving in the summer months with no AC, it’s worth investing in a quality cooling seat cover.

We recommend Zone Tech Cooling Seat Covers because they are a universal fit and allow you to control the level of cool.

Zone Tech Cooling Car Seat Cushion – Black 12V Automotive Comfortable Massager Cooling Car Seat Cooler Pad-Air Conditioned Seat Cover.
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Can’t quite get over the price? Placing a towel over your seat when you aren’t in the car can help keep it cooler for when you come back!

5. Open all the doors before getting into the car

Don’t just dive into your car; roll down all the windows and open all the doors to help that trapped heat escape.

Pro Tip:  Roll down all the windows, but only open the doors on one side of the vehicle.  Then pump the doors open and close to push the hot air out the other side faster.

6. Dashboard sunshade

The best defense against heat is a good offense!  Cover the dashboard with a cloth to keep the surfaces of your car cool and reduce the amount of heat it releases.  A sunshade will reduce the sun rays that enter the car in the first place.

We recommend EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade as it is effective and easy to store.

EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade | Reflector Sunshade Offers Ultimate Protection for Car Interior | Cool Reflective Sun Blocker Fits Small Sedans, Mini SUVs, & Hatchbacks | Medium (64×32 inches)
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If you really want to keep the heat out, add these side window sunshades to your vehicle too!

Enovoe Car Window Shades for Baby (21″x14″) – 4 Pack – Sun Shade Blocker, Cling Window Cover – Glare Shield and UV Rays Protection for Your Child – Side Window Screens for SUV- Mesh Car Window Shade
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7. Park in shaded or covered parking

Get ahead of the heat by being smart about where you park.  If you can’t find free shaded parking, it may be worth paying a few extra dollars to get in some covered parking. 

Pro Tip: Think about the time of day you are parking and the time you plan to return to your car. Shaded in the morning is not the same as shaded in the afternoon.

8.  Place a wet cloth over the center air vent

Sounds strange, but it works!  Keep a few cloths in a bowl of water in a cooler within arm’s reach. Drape one over the center air vent and turn up the airflow for a refreshing breeze.  Trade them out as they dry out and remember to wash them regularly to prevent mildew. 

Pro Tip: Drape one over the back of your neck to get a quick shock of refreshment.  

9. Open the windows

Opening the windows is a great way to keep cool, but knowing WHEN to open the windows is even better.  Driving at lower speeds around town?  Keep the air off and the windows down, it is more fuel-efficient.  Getting on the freeway?  Time to put the windows up and blast the air. 

10. Drive with wet hair

Before hitting the road, take a shower or even just dump some water over your head. If you have longer hair, it is worth putting it up before wetting to keep it from dripping down your back and soaking the seats.

11. Invest in tinted windows

tinted windows

Do tinted windows reduce the heat inside your car? They do, significantly. Probably the most expensive option, but definitely worth the cost if you live in a hot area and spend a lot of time in the car.

We stand by our tips to keep you cool in the car without AC, but we can not overstate the importance of keeping your car protected from the sun in the first place. Read How to Keep a Parked Car Cool for more advice on beating the summer heat!

We also have another post that is useful if you plan to leave your car parked during hot weather. This article explains how to leave a laptop in a hot car.

Let us know your thoughts on this article in the comments!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.

Lisa Hurd Profile Image

Lisa Hurd


Lisa Hurd is a born and raised Californian currently living with her husband, daughter, and labrador in the UK. She enjoys road trips with her family and has fond memories of cross-country adventures with her 3 sisters while growing up. She loves to write about a variety of camping-related and road trip topics. In her spare time, she’s an avid reader of books. She misses the sun… send vitamin D and quality Mexican food ASAP!