6 Ways To Keep a Guitar Cool in a Hot Car

acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

It’s not uncommon for musicians to occasionally store their instruments inside their cars. After all, lugging around your guitar while dining in a restaurant can be cumbersome. However, a car’s interior can get blisteringly hot, leading to peeling finishes and warped guitar necks.

Here are 6 ways to keep a guitar cool in a hot car:

  1. Keep your guitar in a hardshell case.
  2. Install a battery-operated air conditioner.
  3. Place a portable fan nearby.
  4. Use a portable dehumidifier.
  5. Put a sunshade on your windshield.
  6. Tint your car windows.

Fortunately, there are several ways to keep a guitar cool while it’s sitting in a hot car. This guide will explore all of your options, helping you choose a solution that fits your preferences and budget.

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

1. Keep Your Guitar in a Hardshell Case

One of the best ways to keep your guitar cool while it’s in a hot car is to keep it inside a hardshell case. A durable hardshell case can also make it easier to travel with your guitar. Most also have storage pockets for picks and capos, which is a great organization tool for guitarists.

How a Hardshell Case Keeps Guitars Cool

A hardshell case with a tight-fitting clasp (or several) can keep cool air from escaping while also preventing hot air from entering. They do this in quite a few ways.

Firstly, hardshell guitar cases are made of several layers of materials. The exterior of a hardshell case is often made of hard plastic or fiberglass. Some also feature a thin coating of rubber. 

The interior is typically a composite of shock-absorbing foams that are shaped to cradle your guitar. In addition, these foams are almost always covered in a thick velvet or felt fabric. All of these elements combine to protect and insulate your guitar.

The best hardshell cases also feature multiple locking latches. These mechanisms cause the sides of the guitar case to clamp down, pressing the interior fabric together to form a seal. This pressure helps prevent airflow between the interior of the case and its surrounding environment.

Features To Look For in a Hardshell Guitar Case

If you don’t currently own a hardshell guitar case, you’ll want to invest in one right away. Not only can these accessories help you keep a guitar cool in a hot car, but they’re also excellent storage and travel tools for guitarists. 

Still, it’s crucial to choose a hardshell case that fits your guitar, budget, and preferences. Otherwise, you might neglect to use your guitar case, potentially leading to accidental damage to your six-string. 

Some of the essential features to look for when browsing for a hardshell guitar case include:

  • Durable materials
  • Locking latches
  • Compatible size

ABS plastic and wooden hardshell cases are some of the most common options, and they’re also relatively rigid. That said, ABS plastic can crack under pressure or when exposed to sustained heat. Wood can also warp when kept in hot, humid conditions.

Consequently, it might be best to choose a fiberglass hardshell case. This material is resistant to extreme heat and can withstand high temperatures

Locking latches are also a vital aspect of choosing a heat-resistant guitar case. The more latches, the better the seal around the guitar while the case is closed. Guitarists that often take their show on the road may want to choose a case with TSA-approved locks and latches.

Lastly, you’ll need to choose a hardshell guitar case that’s correctly sized for your guitar. After all, guitars come in several sizes. Because most hardshell cases feature lined interiors shaped to gently hug your guitar, a case that’s too big might not keep your instrument cool.

Alternatively, a hardshell guitar case that’s too small won’t fit your guitar, making it useless to you. Always double-check your chosen guitar case before purchasing, as it’s only too easy to buy a half-sized case instead of a full-sized model.

2. Install a Battery-Operated Air Conditioner

Another way to keep your guitar cool is to install a portable, battery-operated air conditioner inside your car. These are often affordable, easy-to-use devices that fit neatly into vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

How a Portable Air Conditioner Keeps a Car Cool

Portable air conditioners work in much the same way as large household air conditioners do. They take in warm air and pass it across a cooling element (such as a condenser) or add a refrigerant to the air. Then, these devices output cool air, lowering the temperature of the surrounding environment.

Portable air conditioners come in several sizes, but most have a limited area of effectiveness. As a result, portable, car-friendly air conditioners can only keep a specific amount of space cold. 

While this might not be a significant issue for those with compact cars or sedans, it can be an issue for SUV owners. That’s why it’s a great idea to consider strategic AC placement when using a portable air conditioning unit to keep a car’s interior cool.

Where To Place a Portable Air Conditioner

If your primary goal is keeping your guitar cool while it’s sitting inside your car, you’ll naturally want to place your portable AC unit near your guitar. However, setting this device too close to your guitar can be a bad idea.

Acoustic guitars are made of wood, a material that’s infamous for warping when exposed to varying temperature extremes. It expands in heat and when exposed to moisture, but it contracts in colder environments. 

A guitar in a hot car can crack if part of it is cold while the other part is warm. Therefore, it’s best to place a portable condition at least one foot away from your guitar. If possible, place multiple units around the guitar. 

For example, you can store one portable AC unit in your trunk and place another in the space between the two front seats. This will create a small field of cool air that surrounds your vehicle’s back seat bench.

Features To Look for in Portable Air Conditioners

Are you wondering what kind of portable air conditioner might be best for your vehicle and guitar? If so, you’ll be glad to know that you can zoom through the browsing process by focusing on a handful of features.

For example, some essential factors to think about when choosing a car-friendly portable AC unit include:

  • Unit size
  • Condensation creation
  • Power consumption

The first thing to double-check when buying a portable AC unit for your guitar is unit size. Smaller devices might be slightly less powerful, but they’re far easier to place. This notion is especially true when attempting to keep smaller, compact cars cool.

Condensation is another consideration. Some AC units produce condensation as they output cool air. This water can drip onto your car’s upholstery and add to interior humidity levels. Still, those living in naturally humid climates might not be able to prevent condensation.

Installing a dehumidifier near your portable AC unit (or placing it atop absorbent towels) can help keep moisture-related issues at a minimum. Cleaning your unit’s internal filter may also be an excellent way to prevent condensation.

Power consumption is yet another factor to consider, especially if you’re working with a tight budget. Portable units that consume an excessive amount of energy can cost you hundreds of dollars worth of batteries each year! 

Energy Star certified units and those with low wattage requirements tend to consume the least power. That said, they might be too weak to keep larger vehicles cool. But rechargeable batteries are an excellent, reusable solution that may help you keep battery costs low.

3. Place a Portable Fan Nearby

Portable AC units can help lower your car’s interior temperatures while you’re away, but they can consume a ton of energy and produce unwanted condensation. That’s why you might want to consider using a portable, car-friendly fan instead.

These devices can help keep your car’s interior (and your guitar) cool and safe from heat damage. While they might not lower temperatures as significantly as air conditioners, they often use slightly less power. They also don’t produce any moisture.

Additionally, portable fans come in a wide range of sizes and designs. Guitarists can find suction cup fans that attach to windows, clip-on fans that can secure to headrests, and hooked fans that can hang on your car’s rear view mirror.

How a Fan Keeps a Car’s Interiors Cool

A fan doesn’t produce cool air in the same way that an AC unit does. While air conditioners often use refrigerants to keep air cold, fans rely on evaporation.

When a fan’s blades begin to spin, they force the air behind them forward. This air accelerates as it’s turned across the blades and out through the other side. The result is evaporation, a process that can naturally lower temperatures.

In fact, evaporation is the primary way that humans stay cool in hot weather. When our bodies get too warm, perspiration (sweat) forms across our skin. This mixture of salt and water then evaporates away, making us feel slightly cooler and more comfortable.

Portable circulating fans essentially do the same thing, creating a wind-chill effect that could lower the temperature inside a parked car.

How To Install a Portable Car Fan

The best way to install a portable car fan is to follow the manufacturer’s directions listed on your particular fan. As mentioned earlier, car fans are available in a wide array of designs. 

You can install them nearly anywhere in your car, and they feature a ton of different attachment components and styles. 

For example, the Koonie Portable Fan (available on Amazon.com) has a large clip base that can attach to headrests, seatbelts, and car seatbacks. The large flat clip base is also an ideal place to attach adhesive hook-and-loop strips. These can help you place a portable fan anywhere in your car.

But the WiHoo Handheld Fan (available on Amazon.com) features a different type of attachment system. It uses flexible, tentacle-like rods to stay secure. These can wrap around headrest extension bars, seatbelts, and rearview mirrors. As such, you can also place this fan almost anywhere.

The right portable car fan for you depends on your preferences and budget. There are thousands of worthwhile options, and all of them can help keep your guitar cool while it’s sitting inside of a hot car.

4. Use a Portable Dehumidifier

Heat and humidity often go hand-in-hand, as high temperatures cause water to evaporate. Exposing this warm, moisture-filled air to cold temperatures can cause water droplets to form as the gaseous water condensates.

As you might expect, this process can cause significant damage to both acoustic and electric cars. Consequently, guitarists looking to store their instruments in a hot vehicle should consider installing a portable dehumidifier.

How a Portable Dehumidifier Keeps a Car’s Interiors Cool

A portable dehumidifier won’t technically keep a car’s interior cool. Instead, it can remove moisture from the air inside a vehicle’s interior. This function makes it a great companion device for portable AC units.

If your car’s AC produces a ton of condensation, you can use a portable dehumidifier to remove this moisture. Both acoustic and electric guitars suffer when kept in humid climates. Adding a dehumidifier to your vehicle could help prevent moisture-related damages resulting from high temperatures.

Where To Place a Portable Dehumidifier

There’s a little bit of an art to placing a portable dehumidifier in a car. 

For example, you won’t want to place it too close to surfaces, as these can block the device’s intake. But you also won’t want it sitting precariously in the middle of a floorboard or seat, as it could tip over and spill water everywhere.

Consequently, the best places to place a portable dehumidifier in a car include:

  • A plastic middle console
  • On the vehicle’s dashboard
  • The rear deck/ back dash area

You can use a strip of adhesive velcro to keep the humidifier stable while driving. The Melsan Hook and Loop Strips (available on Amazon.com) are great options, as they’re affordable, easy to place, and surprisingly strong. They also won’t leave a lasting adhesive stain on your car’s interior fabrics or plastics.

Potential Disadvantages to Consider

A portable dehumidifier could be an excellent tool that helps keep your car’s interior mold-free and dry. In addition, it’s a practical companion device for mobile AC units and car-friendly fans.

However, these machines typically absorb and store water.

While this function is the primary point of a dehumidifier (removing moisture from the air and tucking it away safely), it can be problematic when operating a car. After all, a device that’s full of water can easily tip over and leak over your vehicle’s seats or floorboard. 

Those looking to install a portable dehumidifier in their car should take extra care to empty it every time they return to their vehicle. Or, they can create a safe and stable area within their vehicle to keep the dehumidifier. 

A plastic crate with an absorbent towel placed inside could work for smaller vehicles, but drivers may need to get creative when using dehumidifiers in larger cars like trucks or SUVs.

5. Put a Sunshade on Your Windshield

Another way to combat high temperatures inside your car is to install a sunshade. These are temporary, easy-to-remove accessories that fit snugly against the interior of your vehicle’s windshield.

How Sunshades Keep a Car’s Interiors Cool

Sunshades keep car interiors cool by reflecting sunlight into the vehicle via the windshield. Because the largest window in nearly every car is the windshield, blocking it could significantly reduce the temperature inside a parked car.

That’s because sunlight carries a ton of energy, much of which we experience as heat. So when your car lets light in through an untreated window or windshield, it’s also allowing warmth to flood into the car’s interior.

Sunshades are made of reflective materials like aluminum and insulative materials like mylar. This combination allows them to block heat while also reducing cool airflow from escaping through a car’s windshield.

However, sunshades aren’t as effective as other solutions. Unlike portable air conditioners, sunshades don’t actively produce cold air. And unlike hardshell guitar cases, these accessories don’t directly protect guitars from high temperatures or harsh sunlight.

How To Install a Sunshade

Installing a sunshade in your car is exceptionally easy. Most fold out to fit the length of the windshield. In addition, they feature elastic bands or velcro straps that wrap around a vehicle’s sun visors, holding the shield in place.

6. Tint Your Car Windows

Though it might seem like a drastic solution, guitarists can also choose to tint their windows to keep their car’s interior a little cooler. This option incurs few long-term costs and could be a smart way to improve your vehicle’s climate control. 

How Tinted Windows Keep a Car’s Interiors Cool

Tinted car windows are treated with a UV-resistant type of plastic that reflects UV rays. This ability helps keep drivers and passengers safe from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

This is the type of radiation that can increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. It’s also a type of light that produces heat. Consequently, keeping it from entering your car is an excellent way to keep your vehicle’s interior cooler and more comfortable.

Still, not all types of window tints block UV rays. Therefore, guitarists interested in tinting their vehicle’s windows might want to look for tinting services and products specifically designed for UV protection. 

Car Window Tinting Costs

The cost to tint a car’s windows vary depending on the number of windows to be tinted, the chosen tinting product, and whether it’s a professional or DIY project. The type of vehicle (sedan, pick-up truck, SUV) can also influence the final price.

That said, average prices tend to fall somewhere around $500. If you’re looking for budget-friendly window tinting services, be sure to contact your local tinting technicians and compare quotes and estimates. 

Although this shopping process might take a few hours (or days, if you’re communicating with companies via email), it’s one of the best ways to get the best service at the lowest price.

Car Window Tinting Laws and Restrictions

Every state has specific window tinting laws and restrictions, and vehicle owners must stay informed about these regulations. Otherwise, you might incur a hefty fine from your local police department. 
Before you pay for a tinting service, be sure to look up your state’s tinting laws. Doing so could save you hundreds of dollars in fines and service fees. Besides, if your state doesn’t allow tinted windows, you can try one of the many other solutions outlined in this guide!

Guitar In Hot Car FAQ

How do you keep a guitar safe in a hot car?

f you must leave your guitar in a hot car, there are a few steps you can take to minimize any damage. Here are some tips:

  1. Keep the guitar out of direct sunlight. If possible, store the guitar in the trunk or in a shaded area.
  2. Remove the guitar strings. This will help prevent the neck from warping due to the heat.
  3. Loosen the truss rod slightly. This will also help prevent the neck from warping.
  4. Cover the guitar with a blanket or towel. This will help protect the finish from any damage.
  5. If you have a hard case for your guitar, leave the case in the car with the guitar inside. This will provide extra protection and insulation.

How hot is too hot for a guitar in a car?

As a general rule, temperatures above 90°F (32°C) can cause damage to a guitar left in a car. The exact temperature limit can depend on a number of factors, including the specific materials and construction of the guitar, the duration of exposure, and the humidity levels.

It’s generally best to avoid leaving a guitar in a car in any hot or sunny conditions, especially for extended periods of time.

How long can I leave a guitar in a hot car?

Avoid leaving a guitar in a car for more than a few minutes in hot weather. High temperatures can cause the glue holding the guitar together to soften, the finish to crack or melt, and can damage the fretboard and neck. The longer a guitar is left in a hot car, the greater the risk of damage.

Does heat ruin guitars?

Heat can potentially damage guitars, especially if the temperature is too high. Excessive heat can cause the glue to soften, affecting the guitar’s structure, finish, and tonal qualities. High temperatures can also cause the wood to shrink and crack, negatively impacting the guitar’s playability and tone. Additionally, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause the guitar’s electronics to malfunction or fail. It’s best to avoid exposing a guitar to high temperatures and store it in a cool, dry place.

At what temperature do guitars warp?

Guitars are made of wood, and like all wood products, they are susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. High temperatures can cause damage to the guitar’s finish, glue joints, and can cause the wood to warp, crack or split.

The temperature at which a guitar can warp depends on several factors, including the type of wood used, the finish, and the construction of the guitar. As a general rule, most guitars should be kept in a stable environment where the temperature is between 60°F and 75°F (15.5°C and 24°C) with a relative humidity of around 45-55%.

However, the exact temperature at which a guitar will warp can vary depending on the specific guitar and the conditions it’s exposed to. In general, if a guitar is exposed to temperatures above 90°F (32°C), there is a risk of warping or other damage, especially if the guitar is left in those conditions for an extended period.

Is it OK to leave a guitar in the sun?

It is generally not recommended to leave a guitar in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, as it can cause damage to the instrument. The heat from the sun can cause the finish to crack or warp the wood, and excessive exposure to UV radiation can also cause the color of the finish to fade.

It’s best to store a guitar in a cool, dry place and avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or other sources of heat.

How do I know if my guitar is too humid?

If your guitar is too humid, you may notice some of the following signs:

  1. Swollen or raised wood grain: When the wood absorbs too much moisture, it can cause the grain to become raised or swollen.
  2. Fret sprout: This is when the ends of the frets extend beyond the edge of the fretboard. It can be a sign that the wood has expanded due to excess moisture.
  3. String buzz: If your guitar’s neck is too humid, it can cause the wood to expand and warp, which can lead to string buzz.
  4. Tuning instability: When the wood expands or contracts due to changes in humidity, it can cause the strings to go out of tune.
  5. Mold or mildew: If your guitar is kept in a humid environment, it can be prone to mold or mildew growth.

It’s important to maintain a proper humidity level for your guitar to prevent damage and ensure the best possible sound. A guitar hygrometer can help you monitor the humidity level in the guitar case or room where the guitar is kept.

Is heat or cold worse for a guitar?

Both heat and cold can be damaging to a guitar, but extreme heat is generally considered to be worse. High temperatures can cause the wood to expand and potentially crack, while low temperatures can cause the wood to contract and potentially damage the finish.

Humidity can also play a role in the health of a guitar, as too much or too little moisture in the air can cause the wood to swell or shrink. It’s important to store and transport a guitar in a climate-controlled environment to minimize the risk of damage.

What temperature is too hot for a guitar? (acoustic or electric)

The ideal temperature for a guitar is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), and it is generally recommended that the temperature not exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) can cause damage to the instrument, especially for acoustic guitars which are made of wood. In extreme cases, the glue joints can weaken and the wood can warp or crack.

High temperatures can also cause damage to the finish of the guitar, especially if it is a nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Electric guitars may be less susceptible to damage from high temperatures than acoustic guitars, but it is still important to avoid exposing them to excessive heat.

Does a guitar case protect from humidity?

Yes, a guitar case can protect a guitar from humidity to some extent, but the level of protection depends on the type of case and the materials used. Hardshell guitar cases, for example, provide a higher level of protection against humidity as they are typically made of materials that can help to regulate temperature and humidity, such as ABS plastic, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.

Soft guitar cases, on the other hand, may not provide as much protection against humidity as they are often made of materials that are more susceptible to moisture and humidity, such as canvas or nylon. In general, it is recommended to use a hardshell case or a humidifier to protect a guitar from humidity.

Is it OK to leave guitar in car?

Leaving a guitar in a car is not recommended, especially during extreme temperatures. High heat or cold can damage the guitar and its components, such as the neck, strings, and finish. It can also cause the wood to warp, crack or dry out. It’s best to keep your guitar in a temperature-controlled environment, such as a room with stable humidity levels. If you must transport your guitar in a car, it’s best to keep it in a hard case and avoid leaving it for an extended period.

Are guitars okay in heat?

Guitars can be affected by heat, especially if they are exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period. High heat can cause the wood to expand, which can affect the tuning stability and cause cracking or warping. Additionally, high heat can cause the glue used in the construction of the guitar to soften or melt, which can lead to structural damage. It is best to avoid exposing a guitar to high heat and to take precautions to protect the instrument, such as storing it in a cool, dry place and avoiding leaving it in a hot car or direct sunlight.

What to do when transporting a guitar in a hot car?

When transporting a guitar in a hot car, it’s important to take certain precautions to protect the instrument. Here are some tips:

  1. Avoid leaving the guitar in the car for an extended period of time. If possible, bring the guitar inside with you, or find a shady area to park the car.
  2. Keep the guitar in a case, and if possible, in a gig bag inside the case. This can help to insulate the guitar from extreme temperatures.
  3. If you must leave the guitar in the car, try to park in a shady area and crack the windows to provide some ventilation.
  4. If you have a temperature-controlled case or bag, use it to protect the guitar from extreme temperatures.
  5. Consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier to help regulate the humidity inside the car and protect the guitar.
  6. Check the guitar for any signs of damage or warping after transport, and have it inspected by a professional if you have any concerns.

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

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David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others.
Check out my recommended guitar gear!
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