Does the Color of Your Car Really Make It Hotter?

April 27th, 2016 by

Volkswagen Touareg

The color of your vehicle, both inside and out, is highly related to your specific tastes. In this manner, you can express yourself to the fullest and show others your own particular style. However, these colors also have other ramifications. One such aspect is how hot your car feels, especially during the summer months. If you’ve ever wondered what role car colors play in your comfort level, the following should give you some excellent insight.

The Science Behind Heat and Colors

Before diving into the topic of car color, let’s go through the basic scientific principle of thermodynamics. Don’t worry; it’s not as scary as it sounds. Generally speaking, colors are the result of what types of light they reflect. Therefore, a blue car reflects all light but the blue part of the light spectrum. However, black, white, and silver are the oddities. Black absorbs all visible parts of the spectrum, turning that light energy into heat. The more energy it absorbs, the more heat it emits. White and silver, however, behave in the opposite manner, reflecting all light thrown their way. The result here is less energy absorption and less heat emission.

Does This Thermodynamic Principle Hold True for Exterior Car Color?

In short, this thermodynamic principle holds true for all colors, regardless of where they are. If you’ve ever worn a black shirt in the summer, you immediately feel the heat, or at least much more than you would in a lighter colored garment. With cars, this fact holds true to an exponential degree. Because the body of the car is metal, which is an excellent conductor of heat, it’s able to emit more heat than fabrics or other materials. In addition, the energy, and thus the heat, distributes much faster in a dark-painted metal than any other color. Of course, lighter colors follow the same process, but hold heat and distribute it at a much slower pace than darker colors.

How Does Color and Material Affect the Interior?

The color of the interior of your car has the same effect as the exterior, meaning that dark dashboards, steering wheels, and seating all become hotter than lighter colored materials over the same time. The real debate with your interior comes with the materials themselves.

If you’ve ever purchased a new car, you’re usually tasked with the choice of leather or cloth. Typically, leather is usually viewed as more of a luxury feature, while cloth is more of a standard. However, they definitely play a role in how hot your car gets. Due to its higher density, leather is both a better absorber and conductor of heat than cloth. This can lead to the classic scene of an unwary person shrieking in pain when they hop into a leather-upholstered car while wearing shorts. The best remedy to combat extreme temperature change, especially in hot climates, is to invest in either a car cover or window tinting, both of which significantly lower heat absorption.

As far as the other items in your car, plastic and wood are relatively poor conductors meaning that it’s not a crucial factor in determining the interior temperature of the vehicle. Always make sure, however, to check the shift knob and steering wheel if it has a leather wrapping, as it tends to get viciously hot in warm weather.

Touareg Interior

What If I Don’t Have a Black or White Vehicle?

Although black and white remain as two of the most popular colors, many automakers are branching out to develop more vivid and eye-catching shades. For example, Volkswagen offers a plethora of intriguing colors based solely on their name. This includes Tornado Red, Platinum Metallic Gray, or Habanero Orange Metallic. However, determining the difference of heat absorption between colors like red, orange, and yellow is exceedingly difficult, as they are relatively the same. Therefore, unless you have your heart set on a really light or super dark color, it probably won’t make a ton of difference on the temperature of your car.

To answer the question posed, it’s true that the color of your car does indeed make it hotter. However, remedies exist to limit this factor. As mentioned, you can use a sun shade, or more effectively, try to take care where you park or store your vehicle. Not only does staying out of the sun keep you more comfortable on the drive home, it also reduces damage from the sun. Parking under trees is also a viable option. You may just want to decide which is a worse enemy: a hot vehicle or a vicious bombing from birds.

Posted in News