How Fast Can the Sun Heat a Car?

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively transparent to the sun’s shortwave radiation (shown as yellow rays in the diagrams) and are warmed little. This shortwave energy, however, does heat objects it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180°F to more than 200°F. These objects – dashboard, steering wheel, child-seat, heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and give off long-wave radiation (infrared), which efficiently warms the air trapped inside a vehicle.

Objects Heated by the Sun Warm Vehicle’s Air


Photos: Courtesy of General Motors and Golden Gate Weather Services


2 thoughts on “How Fast Can the Sun Heat a Car?”

  1. Great post! I’m doing a research project on this topic, and I was wondering, how much heat is transferred through the side windows? They are relatively vertical, so they are not upwards facing during the hottest hours of the day. I ask this because there are some vans that have almost vertical windows.


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