How to protect your car from the sun

8 ways the sun and extreme heat can damage your car and 7 tips on what to do about it

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Why protect your car from the sun?

As the summer heat intensifies, safeguarding your vehicle becomes increasingly important. Besides taking a toll on your energy bills (and your will to ever leave your house again), extreme heat can do a number on your car. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can lead to interior damage, affect its performance, and even diminish its overall value.

Last summer brought unprecedented heat across much of the country, breaking records in many states and cities.[1] Even globally, the summer of 2023 was the hottest on record.[2] In this guide, we'll explore the effects leaving your car in the sun can have on your car as well as effective strategies and tips to shield your car from the sun's harmful effects, ensuring it stays in top condition for years to come.

Is it bad to leave your car in the sun?

Leaving your car in the sun isn't inherently bad, but it can have several adverse effects on your car, potentially leading to various mechanical and cosmetic issues.

Here are some of the common car-related problems associated with extended direct sun exposure:

  1. Battery damage: High temperatures can cause the electrolyte in your car's battery to evaporate more quickly, leading to reduced battery life and performance. It may also increase the risk of battery corrosion and even failure. Car batteries typically last between three to five years, but in southern regions the average can be closer to the lower end.[3]
  2. Tire damage: Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can lead to tire degradation, including dry rot, which weakens the rubber and reduces tire life. Tire pressures increases with higher temperatures. Overinflated tires can be more susceptible to blowouts in hot weather.[4] 
  3. Fluid evaporation: Extreme heat can cause various fluids in your car, such as engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant, to evaporate more rapidly. This can result in decreased lubrication and cooling efficiency, potentially leading to engine damage or overheating.
  4. Overheating: Higher temperatures can cause your engine to run hotter than usual, increasing the risk of overheating. This can lead to engine damage, warped cylinder heads and blown gaskets if not addressed promptly.
  5. A/C system strain: Your car's air conditioning system has to work harder in extreme heat to maintain a comfortable cabin temperature. This extra strain can lead to increased wear and tear on the A/C components and reduce its overall lifespan.
  6. Paint and interior damage: Prolonged exposure to intense sunlight and high temperatures can cause your car's paint to fade, peel, or crack. The interior can also suffer, with dashboard components, upholstery and trim materials deteriorating over time.[5]
  7. Electrical system issues: Extreme heat can affect the performance and longevity of electrical components in your car, including sensors, wiring and electronic systems. Heat causes expansion which in turn creates separation that leads to compromised operation. This may result in various electrical problems, such as malfunctioning sensors or even electrical fires in extreme cases.[6]
  8. Fuel system problems: High temperatures can cause fuel to evaporate more quickly, potentially leading to vapor lock, reduced fuel economy and engine performance issues.[7]


Is it bad to drive a car in 100 degree weather?

Yes! Cars undergo rigorous testing to ensure they can handle various temperature extremes. Toyota reports, for instance, tests vehicles in temperatures exceeding 120°F externally, with road temperatures reaching 167°F, and internal temperatures climbing to 176°F.[8]

However, extremely high temperatures can strain your vehicle, affecting performance and driving experience. Overheating, tire blowouts, and battery issues are common in such conditions. According to AAA, heat is the most common cause of battery failure.[9] To prevent problems, ensure your fluids are topped off, your battery and cables are clean and well-connected, and you maintain good pressure in your tires and confirm the treads aren't overly worn.

How to protect your car from the sun

To mitigate the effects of sun exposure on your car, consider taking the following precautions:

  1. Park in the shade or use a car cover to protect your vehicle from direct sunlight.
  2. If you live in a place that experiences extreme temperatures for prolonged periods of time, it’s worth having your battery load tested annually after it hits two years of age. 
  3. Maintain proper tire pressure and inspect your tires regularly for signs of damage or wear.
  4. Ensure your cooling system (radiator, coolant, and fans) is in good working condition.
  5. Keep your car well-maintained with regular servicing, esepcially fluid checks and changes.
  6. Use sunshades or window tints to protect your interior from heat and UV damage.
  7. Be mindful of your A/C usage and have it serviced if it's not cooling efficiently.

Will car insurance cover the effects of extreme heat?

Unfortunately, no. Even the most comprehensive coverage is designed to protect against things outside of your control like animals, floods, hail and theft. However, heat, even at its most extreme, is not a covered peril. Damages from heat are considered regular wear and tear.

  1. Heat dome over Central U.S. could bring hottest temps yet to parts of the Midwest. NPR

  2. NASA Announces Summer 2023 Hottest on Record. NASA

  3. How Hot Weather Affects Your Car Battery and What to Do About It. Consumer Reports

  4. Can Tires Melt From Heat? How to Protect Your Tires in the Summer.Firestone Auto Care

  5. How Do Sun and Heat Affect Auto Paint?Paint a Part

  6. 5 reasons why summer heat is hard on a vehicle. DB Electrical

  7. How Extreme Heat Can Affect Your Engine. AmSoil Blog

  8. Toyota - Extreme Temperature Heat Testing. Toyota Australia

  9. Car Care Tips for Extreme Heat. AAA