Isolate the Car Cockpit to Boost Air Conditioning

Introduction: Isolate the Car Cockpit to Boost Air Conditioning

I almost never have passengers in my van. Instead, I have either empty space or boxes of stuff in the back. But the air conditioner has to deal with that huge volume of air. The AC is designed to have separate controls for the 'cockpit' in front and the passenger area in the back, so I am not piping cool air back there, but still it is a huge volume of hot air to be cooled while driving.

I wanted to install a barrier to keep the cold air in front, and largely ignore the back. The easiest way I found to do this is to use spring-loaded curtain rods and a sheet of clear vinyl to make a partial barrier. It is definitely not air tight, which might be undesirable anyway, but it does cut nearly all air exchange between the two zones. While driving, the front feels comfortably cool while the back, felt by sticking my hand behind the vinyl curtain, is definitely much hotter.


Two spring-loaded curtain rods of sufficient length to reach from the floor to ceiling of the car, and a sheet of clear vinyl to form a barrier curtain.

Step 1: Curtain Rods and Vinyl

These supplies can be found at many different stores. Look around. They are inexpensive.

You need two curtain rods, and enough vinyl to block the interior of the car, with a generous margin.

Step 2: Adjust and Place the Curtain Rods.

Set up the curtain rods vertically, with enough tension so they will stay firmly in place.

Be aware that this may leave a mark or depression in your car's ceiling. It may even damage it. Be careful.

Step 3: Place the Vinyl Curtain

Inspect the pictures to see how it is done. I imagine it is pretty self-evident.

If you make it too tight, the vinyl may cause the rods to slip, so be ready to live with a wrinkled or sagging look.

Step 4: Adjust the Vinyl to Remove Wrinkles

Now you can see the barrier fully installed. There is very little cool air escaping to the back.

Step 5: I Hope You Will Have a More Comfortable Ride Now

I believe this curtain has made my drive more comfortable in the desert summer, while demanding less of the car air conditioner. Maybe it will work as well to retain heat in the winter!

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