We live in Florida, and in the summer, our poor old Honda Civic air conditioner struggles to pump out luke cool air, at best. When we're driving on cloudy days, or when a cloud passes across the sun, the A/C is downright chilly. But when the sun's beating down on one of those 90+ degree days on that big black dashboard, the air turns decidedly warm.
On a lark, recently, I tossed one of our folded circular window screens up on the passenger side dash - the ones that spring open and you wedge into the inside of your windshield to help keep the interior cooler while you're parked. Although it made a bit of a reflection on the passenger window, it seemed to at least relieve the some of the relentless heat coming off the dash a bit, and it got me to thinking.
I looked at the springy window cover device and considered if that could be re-purposed, and also at those shiny, crinkly accordion fold versions. But neither was quite what I was looking for. Then I found some silvery gray satin fabric at Walmart. It looked just like the stuff on my springy cover, and was soft and shiny. At $6/yard, I figured it was worth a try.
It took about 10 minutes to create a working prototype and to my great delight, the results far exceeded my expectations! On a 90 degree afternoon, with my super simple dashboard cooler, my vehicle A/C circulated cold air without any trouble at all. I could physically feel the difference between the two sides of the dashboard, with the area under the satin cover considerably cooler.
What follows are the instructions for my little prototype. Results may vary, but if you've got a similar problem, this simple solution could make your summer driving a cooler experience.
Step 1: Materials
- 1 yd of light gray/silver satin fabric
- A sheet of newspaper (for pattern making)
- Fishing line or heavy duty thread
- Upholstery needle or heavy duty sewing needle
Step 2: Make Your Dashboard Pattern
Lay a sheet of newspaper across your passenger side dashboard, and trace out the shape of the dashboard. This will be the pattern for your satin dash cover.
Step 3: Cut Pattern
Cut out your pattern and then lay it out on your dash to double check the fit. I chose to only cover the passenger side of the dash, because I wasn't sure about reflection issues with the satin fabric, and the passenger side seemed like a safe test case.
Step 4: Cut Your Satin
Make sure you cut your fabric so that the finished product lays shiny side up on your dash. So if you lay your pattern right side up on the fabric, make sure you've got your fabric right side up underneath it. Conversely, if you prefer to cut on the "dull" side of the fabric, flip your patter over.
Step 5: Double Check Fit
Lay your cut satin across your dash, and trim where necessary (around A/C vents, etc.)
Step 6: Attach Fishing Weights
Attach a small fishing weight to each of the top corners, to help anchor your cover to the dash.
Step 7: Keep Vents Clear
The cover is pretty light and shouldn't really cause any problems here, but make sure your final fit doesn't block the vents across the top of the dashboard.
Step 8: Stow and Go!
Your Dash Cooler is super easy to fold up and store in the glove box or the center console, and then use as needed. When I toss it up on the dash, the little corner weights open it right up to the right place and it stays in place the whole time.
Step 9: Reflection
My biggest concern was reflection on the windshield from the dash cover, which is why I only tried it on the passenger side. It actually wasn't a problem, especially when wearing polarized sunglasses, which almost completely eliminated the reflection. I don't know how it would appear to a passenger (that's the next test), but I do know that enjoying a drive with a well functioning A/C that makes the drive 10 degrees cooler is totally worth it!
Next steps can include:
- Taking some temperature readings, with and without the cover, for some actual metrics
- Trying out some different satin fabric hues
- Finishing the cover with clean edges and customizing artistically
- Creating a full dash cover, if I can find the least reflective fabric color
Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the result of my homemade dashboard cooler. I'd love to see what others can do with this idea, and hope you'll share back some of your own versions.