Be Cool! Avoid These 4 Mistakes You're Making With Your A/C

Remember that scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when that dude’s face melts off? Getting into a car that’s been parked for a while in the summertime can feel a lot like that. Your first instinct may be to crank the air conditioning to the max, point the vents straight at your face and hope your ovenlike interior cools down before you need to be basted — but you’d be mistaken.

Related: Video: We Bust Common Car Myths

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2018 Volkswagen Atlas 3.6L SE
73,907 mi.
2018 Volkswagen Atlas 3.6L SE
67,708 mi.

Here are four common mistakes you’re making with your car’s A/C:

1. Blasting the A/C Immediately

A car left in the sun can reach 140 degrees inside, so jumping in and trying to cool down the cabin in a hurry is futile.

Instead, roll down the windows, open the moonroof, maybe even open the doors to let some of that heat escape before turning on the A/C. If you don’t have time for that, at least drive with the windows open for a bit. Also, try parking in the shade, use a windshield screen, park facing away from the sun, and leave a towel on leather or vinyl seating surfaces to keep from scorching the backs of your legs.

2. Pointing the Nozzles Incorrectly

While you’ll be tempted to point the vents straight at you, distributing the conditioned air evenly throughout the cabin will cool things down more efficiently — especially important if you have backseat passengers. Instead, point your vents upward toward the ceiling to facilitate airflow.

3. Not Using the Recirculation Button

The little button on your dash that you’re not really sure what it does? That’s recirculation. As the A/C brings the cabin temp down, the recirc function will recirculate that same cooled air, cooling things down more quickly and efficiently. If your car has automatic climate control, experts recommend using that, as it’ll adjust for multiple environmental factors for optimal effectiveness.

4. Neglecting Maintenance

Like getting the oil changed or rotating the tires, your climate control system requires regular upkeep, such as changing your cabin air filter, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual for manufacturer-prescribed schedules.

So … we cool?’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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