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Summer heat can make cars dangerous

Published On: May 13 2011 12:31:25 PM CDT

It's blisteringly hot out outside and you've just spent a long day at the beach. You're worn out and hungry and anxious to get home, so you open your door and jump into your car without thinking. YOW!

Those leather seats can really heat up after a long day in the sun, whether you're at the shore or in your office parking lot. And that steering wheel? You're lucky that your hands didn't melt into it.

"People can get hurt when they get into a hot car," said Lauren Fix of the. "They'll think, 'I'll just sit on the seat,' but they'll get actual second-degree burns if they're wearing bathing suits or shorts."

Cooking Cars

In these dog days of summer, it's important to remember to take care of your car while it's parked in the hot sun. Failing to do so can lead to dangerous consequences for yourself, your children and the interior of your car.

"On a 90 degree day, in a couple of hours your car can get up to 180 degrees inside," said Fix.

Fix said she's baked food in a hot car left in the sun to demonstrate how ridiculously scorching it can get.

"I've done cookies, and they're edible. They'll actually cook up as if you put them in the oven," said Fix. "They brown up and everything on a little metal tray, and you'll actually have a meal when you come back. I've done bacon, which is really disgusting, and it actually cooked it crispy. And also I've done eggs. Frying an egg is not a problem."

Does Cracking Windows Help?

Fix also said most drivers spend little time thinking about the dangers of leaving a car in the hot sun without taking precautions.

"I'd say most drivers are not aware of it. If it's hot, they might crack the window a little bit or leave their sun roof open a little bit, but I think that's where it ends," said Fix.

People with children or pets need to be especially aware, because both will typically just jump into the back seat of a car without checking the temperature of the seats first.

The heat can also cause severe damage to your upholstery and dashboard, causing them to crack and fade. It can also damage any electrical items you might accidentally leave in your car, such as cell phones and digital cameras.

"It also fades carpet and steering wheels," said Fix. "Think about anything you might leave in your car, like lipstick or CDs. We've seen CDs actually melt while in the radio."

So, what can you do to keep the interior temperature down and your skin safe from hot seats?

Get Some Shade

The first thing you can do is invest in some seat and steering wheel covers and a windshield screen. The seat covers will keep the seats and steering wheel safe to the touch. Windshield screens, which cost an average of $20 to $50, will only take a minute to put up each day but can drastically reduce the interior temperature.

"They can actually lower the temperature in your car by 50 degrees, and that can make all the difference," said Fix.

Another option is to buy a window fan, which will blow the hot air out of your car all day. You can get one that can plug into your lighter and there are also solar fans available.

Permanent Solution

One permanent option is to have your windows tinted. Costs vary, but a decent tint job can be found for a few hundred dollars. There are also many do-it-yourself tinting kits.

"If you don't like going into your car when its all hot and stuffy, and you don't like touching your steering wheel when it's already 110 degrees, or waiting for the AC to finish cooling your car before you can drive it, window tinting is an excellent choice," said Harrison Hung of

Tinted windows will keep the temperature down in your car while it is parked and also add many benefits while driving.

"With window tinting, you get an add-on, because your AC is not working as hard when your car isn't as hot, and you can save maybe one or two miles per gallon," said Hung.

Tinting laws vary state by state, so make sure to check the particular target="_blank">laws where you live</a>.

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