How to Set Car Window Openings for Extreme Vortex Cooling

Photo:Attribution Some rights reserved by Marcus Pink

If you like fresh air, the sounds of the open road, or hypermiling as you drive, you’ll want to open your car (van, etc.) windows. If your air conditioner died, you’ll pretty much have to. Opening your windows may seem easy – turn a crank, pivot a latch or push a button – but there is a best way to do it for a strong, quiet breeze and minimal air resistance.


  1. Don’t just open all of the windows.When all of the windows are open, or the windows on both sides are open, the outside air rushes in more or less evenly from each side, pushes on the interior of the car and the air from the other side, and rushes out the same side leaving the interior not well cooled. This happens unstably, for loud, annoying, hair-tangling wind buffeting.
    • Large interruptions in the car’s sleek sides increase air resistance and decrease mileage. Highway driving with windows open is said to use more gas than the air conditioner.
    • Dogs or children may escape.
  2. Don’t just open a window all of the way. With a place to go in, but nowhere to go out, or vice versa depending on whether it’s a front or back window that’s open, there will be a similar buffeting problem.
  3. Instead, just open both of the windows on one side an inch or two.This will set the air inside the whole car spinning as some rushes past and mixes in fresh air along one side removing the old, eventually warmed air. The small opening won’t let in much road noise or even much light rain.
    • The vortex will be strongest on the side opposite the open windows. So, if the driver is too warm or trying to stay cool and alert, and the passenger wants to doze or keep hair styled, the windows on the “passenger” side should be open.
  4. Experiment with more complicated vehicles. Try opening two back windows on a long van, or a few, separated pairs of windows along a side of a school-type bus.

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