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Can I Leave My Laptop In A Hot Car? (Tips To Keep It Cool)

With 75 percent of workers driving alone to work [1], often for at least 27 minutes one way [2], it has become incredibly common for people to store laptops in their cars.

However, this can leave devices vulnerable to damage in hot car interiors. We crack open the facts behind storing your laptop in a hot car; check out our tips and tricks below.

On mild days or short car journeys, leaving your laptop in the car should not be an issue.

When the weather is experiencing extreme temperatures, however, the ambient temperature in your car slowly rises or falls, which affects your laptop's temperature.

But why is it a bad idea to leave your laptop in a hot car?

Laptop on Passenger Seat

Excessive Heat Can Damage Your Electronic Devices

On the worst summer days, direct sunlight and high temperatures raise the internal temperature of the passenger cabin; this heat can even melt plastic.

Leaving your laptop in these temperatures or direct sunlight at times like these can harm its delicate laptop components.

If these delicate components -  the hard drive, display, cables, and more - get too hot, this can lead to potentially permanent damage that may cost a lot to repair or replace.

Increased Risk Of Fire

Leaving your laptop in hot car while running or in sleep mode causes it to generate heat alongside the direct sunlight.

This, combined with the hot surroundings, creates a serious fire hazard.

We recommend keeping a safe temperature range for you and your electronics and focusing on dissipating heat.

Increased Risk Of Theft

When leaving your car for an extended period, do not just leave your laptop in obvious view, such as on the passenger seat.

Besides the risk of extended direct sunlight, you are inviting thieves to break in and steal it. Try hiding it out of view, such as in the trunk, under a seat, or in the glove box.


What Are The Best Ways To Keep Your Laptop Cool In The Car?

1. Store The Laptop In The Trunk

If you must leave your laptop in your car for an extended period during extreme heat, it is key to avoid leaving it in the open. It may sound odd, but storing it in the trunk or under a cover can help. 

Depending on the model and insulation level, the trunk often heats slower than the main cabin, making it the coolest part of the car to store vital electronic devices.

However, we do recommend being careful if choosing to move your laptop to the trunk; be subtle and wary of potential thieves.

If the trunk is not an option, try storing your device under the driver's seat; heat rises, so the coolest place should be as low to the ground as possible.

Laptop in Car Trunk

2. Make Sure The Laptop Is Completely Powered Off

When in a hurry or simply feeling lazy, it is easy to just close your laptop and put it in sleep mode while you run errands.

However, most laptops generate heat even when in sleep mode, which adds to the unsuitable temperature inside—every degree of heat matters when too much can damage your hard disks and internal components.

To avoid adding more heat to your car, make sure to follow the proper saving and shutting down procedures before storing your laptop and leaving.

Additionally, we recommend letting it cool off to room temperature before turning it back on, which can take 5-10 minutes.

3. Use A Cooler Bag Or Cooling Device

Keeping your laptop cool in a hot car  is vital when storing it in a hot car; cooler bags can help dissipate heat and maintain something close to an ideal temperature.

Insulative bags are available online or in local tech stores.

If you don't want to shell out on a cooler bag, we recommend buying leakproof and sweatproof ice packs and wrapping them in a white towel.

If you own a drinks cooler, putting the wrapped ice packs and laptop inside won't hurt on a hot day.

Other options to consider include running the air conditioning or trying out cooling fans in your car to try to manage the temperature.

This can help keep your computer and vehicle cool and prevent damage.

4. Use A Car Sunshade

Sunshades can be a lifesaver for your car's interior on hotter days.

If you plan on leaving computer in hot car, the necessary precautions above, along with a sunshade, can do wonders.

5. Park In The Shade

If a sunshade is not an option, natural shade on the street can help deflect the direct sun and hot air away from your car.

In extremely hot temperatures, your car interior will heat up slower in a shaded area, such as under a tree or tall building. This will, by extension, keep your laptop cool in a hot car.

6. Keep The Device Out Of View (For Safety, Too!)

As we mentioned above, your device can experience heat damage and adverse chemical reactions when faced with enough heat and direct sunlight.

Keep your laptop cool by hiding it out of view in the trunk, glove box, or under a seat, ideally in a cooler box or bag.

This can both prevent irreversible damage to your electronics but may also prevent your vehicle from being broken into in your absence.

7. Remove The Battery

After your laptop has shut down, removing the battery can help minimize fire hazards.

This is because the lithium-ion batteries that keep your laptop running tend to experience adverse internal reactions to heat.

Temperatures above 77 degrees will see reduced battery life, slow charge times, and even degradation. [3]

We suggest storing the laptop’s battery in the cooler or taking it with you in a bag if you intend to be away for a long time.


Other Considerations To Protect Your Computer From Heat

Try Not To Leave A Laptop For Long Periods

The best way to keep a laptop cool on hot days is to take it with you when you go to the office or run errands.

While this does mean carrying it around, it saves you from having to worry about sun damage or theft while you are out.

Always Back Up Your Data

If you frequently leave your laptop in cars for long periods, we highly recommend backing up your data completely before each trip.

This can help protect you from lost or corrupt data and cover you at work or home.

Make Sure It Is Cool Before Restarting

Another one of our best tips for handling your laptop in a hot environment is to be careful when restarting.

It is best to let it cool back down to normal temperatures in the air conditioning or in front of a cooling fan for 5-10 minutes before starting it back up.

This can help protect your battery's life as well as prevent damage to yourself or the computer.

Using a Laptop in a Car

Leaving A Laptop In A Hot Car FAQs

Can I leave a computer monitor in a hot car?

In short, it is possible to leave a monitor in a hot car for a short period or if you apply our measures above.

However, we do not recommend leaving it there for a long time in case it causes the plastic to melt or internal parts to become damaged.

How hot is too hot for a laptop?

Laptops tend to experience issues when used in temperatures above 95 degrees.

The optimal working temperature for a standard laptop is typically 50-95 degrees - extremes in either direction will cause literal freezing or other damage. [4]

What happens if a computer gets too hot?

If your device gets too hot, your hard disk and other internal components will start to struggle and may even corrode or simply stop working.

This is why it is so vital to keep it in the optimal temperature range and to avoid extremes where possible.

How long does it take for a laptop to cool down?

That depends on the laptop and how hot it is, but it can typically take 10-30 minutes to cool down.

We recommend letting it cool down on its own rather than trying to use cooling pads or something similar to avoid internal damage.


Conclusion

In our busy lives, it is almost inevitable that we will need to store our laptops in a hot car, particularly with temperatures rising as a result of climate change.

By following our tips above, you should be able to minimize the risk of fires or damage to your most valuable devices.

References:

1. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/commuting/guidance/acs-1yr/DY2019-Percent-drove-alone.pdf
2. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/commuting/guidance/acs-1yr/DY2019-Mean-travel-time.pdf
3. https://www.intercel.eu/frequently-asked-questions/temperature-effects-on-batteries/
4. https://www.hampshire.edu/it/user-support/software-and-hardware/basic-computer-care/taking-care-your-laptop/laptops-and