dog waiting in car

Hot Cars and Guitars

Summer Temperatures in Cars

Heat in vehicles kills kids, dogs, and destroys cherished instruments every summer. Because of the human deaths, a variety of studies have been done that are instructive.

“Even on relatively mild-temperature days,” noted Catherine McLaren, lead author of a Stanford University study, “the internal temperature of a vehicle left in the sun quickly gets very warm – the average rise in one hour is 22º C (72º F).”

If the vehicle starts at a moderate 75º F, within an hour the temperature inside the car can easily reach 147º F.

The Stanford study found that regardless of the outside temperature, cars heated up at similar rates, gaining 80% of their final temperatures in just 30 minutes. Keeping the windows cracked 1.5” had a negligible effect on the final temperatures, varying the final temperatures by only one or two degrees.

The Louisiana State Medical Society [LSMS] published a study, Heat Exposure in an Enclosed Automobile in 1995. In their study, on a 93º day in New Orleans, the vehicles reached 125º F within just 20 minutes, arriving at their maximum temperatures of 138 and 140º F within 40 minutes.

Leaving an instrument, a kid, or a dog in a car in the summer – even for ten or fifteen minutes – is dangerous.

In the LSMS study the elapsed time, average temperature rise and interior temperatures were:

10 minutes ~ 19º F rise = 112º F
20 minutes ~ 29º F rise = 122º F
30 minutes ~ 34º F rise = 127º F
60 minutes ~ 43º F rise = 136º F
2 hours ~ 50º F rise = 143º F

At the upper range of these temperatures, the bonding strength of glues commonly used in instruments can fall by as much as 60%. Glue in the joints can melt. The thin pieces of wood in the body of the instrument can also be deformed by heat. The entire structure can be compromised.

In short, your guitar can explode.

So, with summer conclusively here, don’t leave your guitar in the car. Take your guitar to lunch, dinner, coffee or the restroom.

If you’re lucky enough to have them with you, take your spouse, grandmother, the kids and the dog, too.