PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Have you ever jumped into a car that was sitting in the sun and jumped right back out? Wow, it can get dangerously hot inside a car quickly in the summer.

Depending on the material inside the car, it can really burn. The summer heat can really sneak up and with 90 degree temperatures in the forecast this week, let’s learn how the sun warms up a car.


Sun is beaming down and offering a lot of energy to the earth’s surface. The visible waves of light go directly into your car and your car absorbs that energy. It then emits heat back off the surface of your seats and dashboard and that heat is trapped inside of the vehicle. This is an ongoing cycle and it is an example of the greenhouse effect.


Greenhouse effect: is a term used to describe the warming of a greenhouse due to the sun coming through the glass panes and the infrared radiation which is heat that is then trapped mechanically. This is the same process that is occurring with your car. It is essentially a one way street, where the energy comes in but it can’t go out.

If you cycle through the graphics below, you can see how quickly a car can warm up in the summer sun on a hot day. Not only does it warm up quickly on a hot day, but even when the temperature and the sun angle is lower, it can get dangerously hot.

Weekend Meteorologist Joseph Dames

When temperatures are in the 90s and the car is parked in the sun, in a short 10 minute span, it can reach the triple-digits in there. Your internal car temperature can top off in the 130 degree range after an hour of sitting in the sun. That is very dangerous and harmful for life and products inside your car. Every summer we make sure to remind the public that you should double check your car to make sure it is clear before it is exited. Even your electronic devices, like an iPad, can be damaged if it is sitting in the sunlight in a car.


Small Window Gap

You may think that you can help this problem by cracking the window of your car. Well that small gap is not large enough to allow flowing air to get in and for that hot air to escape. You would need all the windows open and flowing air to help alleviate the heat, but it will still be hot inside that car. That is why air conditioning pumping at full speed is the way to get the air circulating and the cooler air into your car during the summer.

Sun Shade

You may notice that in the summer folks will put up a sun shade to help prevent some of that sun from making a way into your car. Although the sun shade can help prevent a car from warming up quickly, the car will still absorb that sun and you can expect a hot car. Parking in the shade will also help lower the temperature but it will still reach extremely hot temperatures with the windows closed and the sun still finding a way inside.


Spending too much time in the heat can really mess with your body. This can happen just being outside in the sun for too long without taking breaks, drinking water and getting into a cool area. Heat exhaustion can cause a person to get muscle cramps and feel real lightheaded. These as signs that your body is needs a break. If you look at the graphic above, it breaks down all the alarming signals that your body gives off as your dealing with the danger of heat.

Who’s ready to cool down?