Car Air-Conditioning: How to Maximize the Cool Air

Call it climate change, a heat wave, or the effects of bad karma, the fact is that temperatures are breaking records everywhere. 

Riding in your car with the air conditioning on high can seem like the only way to stay cool. But sometimes, even that isn’t enough. Your car’s cooling system can only do so much to counteract the sweltering heat outside.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can help it along and maximize the cool air your AC unit produces. Follow these easy tips, and you just might make it through these unusual temperature spikes with a little less sweat and a lot more patience.

1. Leave Your AC Off Until You’re Driving

We know that sitting in your car on a hot day before it cools down feels like roasting in a sauna. However, starting the A right away means it actually takes longer for you to cool down.

Turning your AC unit off until you put the car in gear will run faster and more efficiently. Since the AC compressor has the engine’s rotating parts working alongside it, it works better and cools you down immediately.

Go ahead and roll the windows down for a few minutes to let the stuffy heat out of the car. Then, put it in drive, turn the AC unit on, and crank the air to full blast. You’ll notice the difference in the coolness.

2. Let Your Car Wear Shades

You know how you’re cooler when you’re out of the sun’s direct rays? So is your car.

When you put window shades up or use tinted glass, these accessories block some of the sun from getting inside your vehicle. The interior will be cooler with less sunshine than it would be without any shades.

Starting your AC when the car is already a few degrees cooler prevents the unit from working extra hard. It can use its energy to disperse the heat faster and maximize the cool air it produces.

3. Maintain Your AC Unit

You go for oil changes and tire rotations, but when was the last time you had the AC unit checked?

Your air conditioner works overtime when it’s exceedingly hot for prolonged periods. This can cause leaks in the refrigerant, which reduces the performance and efficiency of the AC system. 

The condenser and AC filter are other parts of the system that should be monitored for optimal performance. The condenser gets rid of the heat in the engine, pushing it into the airflow and cooling the refrigerant. 

When it, or the AC filter, gets clogged by dirt and debris, they don’t do their jobs as well. The end result is a harder-working AC unit and less cool air for you.

Ask the mechanics to check the air conditioning unit when you go for an oil change. They may suggest cleaning or replacing the refrigerant or filter or cleaning the condenser. If you want to maximize your AC system’s cool air, let them do the upkeep for you.

4. Use Recirculation Mode

There’s a button on your AC operating panel that looks like the outline of a car with an arrow inside it. That’s your recirculation mode.

This button cools the car down using the air inside the vehicle instead of the hot outside temps. Once you roll the windows down and let the hot air out of the car, recirculating the interior air can optimize your coolness and reduce the AC system’s work so it can run more efficiently.

This is a lesser-known tip, so if you’re riding with a friend or in a rideshare, and the car is staggeringly hot, let them know about this handy button. Heat stroke can happen to anyone in a hot vehicle for too long, even when it’s running. 

It’s especially crucial to ensure your interior is cooling down when you have little passengers who can’t advocate for themselves or moderate their body heat. It doesn’t take long for a child to overheat. Their bodies heat up five times faster than an adult’s.

Who knows, you might prevent someone’s heat stroke and help them avoid an accident!


It’s hot outside, and your car is your refuge from the sweltering temperatures. Until that AC system starts working, it can seem even hotter in your car than out of it. 

With these tips, your cool air will refresh you quickly and last longer, giving you a chance to refresh your body before you head back into the blistering heat.

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