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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

How to Keep Cool While Working On Your Classic Car This Summer

Summer is in full effect and parts of the country are already experiencing record breaking temperatures.  Summer is most common time for classic car and truck owners to break out their tools and start wrenching around outside of their winter-heated garages.

You ever hear the term “Shade Tree Mechanic”?  It implies a mechanic works on his or her car in the shade of a tree in their yard rather than inside the garage.  It can get extremely hot in a garage without air conditioning, so the only obvious cool place is out in the yard under the shade of a tree where a breeze can blow if you’re lucky.  If the tree is large enough, it may also provide a strong enough limb that can be used as a make-shift engine hoist.  Just kidding. We don’t suggest you try this.  Please don’t!

In most homes, it isn’t that common to have an air-conditioned garage so enthusiasts are endlessly looking for alternative places and solutions that will make for a cooler workspace.  You also might not have that big tree in your yard that can shade you while work.  We’ve come up with a couple ideas that just might help you beat the heat without breaking the bank.

Our fist suggestion is to look into the square or triangle shaped sunshade sails.  These are relatively cheap and are not too difficult to install.  If you do not have solid points to attach the sunshade, you may need to get creative.  A few 4×4 posts, a post hole digger and a few bags of concrete can create the uprights you need to get a sunshade in place.  Make sure you call the utility company to come out and mark gas lines before you start digging.   A rebar frame might also work but will only be temporary.  One good storm and that shade will sail away!

For right around $200, you could purchase a pop-up canopy tent like you see vendors using at swap meets and other events.  We purchased a 10×10 Ft Euromax tent to provide us shade when we go to events and couldn’t be happier with it.

It can be put up and taken down in minutes and is stable even in a steady breeze due to the tent stakes on each corner.  There are also weights you can purchase to help stabilize each corner if stakes aren’t an option.  Once summer is over, you can easily take it down and store it in the roll away bag that is included.  You will also likely find other uses for this like we have.  It is great for backyard parties and other outdoor events where they are allowed.

If you are lucky enough to have enough garage space to work in, we have some suggestions on how to keep it cool in the hot summer months.

If you have a window in your garage, you might want to consider splurging for an A/C unit if you can afford to purchase and operate it.  An AC unit with at 10,000 BTU minimum is what you will need for an average 2 car garage.  There are plenty of affordable A/C units online but skip the cheap ones.  You are looking at least $300 and up for one that will keep you cool and run efficiently.  An inefficient A/C unit will need to run a lot more and your electricity bill will pay the price.

If you live in a dry climate like Arizona, you can purchase an inexpensive swamp cooler.  There are many portable swamp coolers that you can simply roll over to your work area and let it do its job.  They work great as long as there isn’t too much humidity in the air.  This Hessaire evaporative cooler is a good choice and can cool down 950 sq ft.

Speaking of humidity, you might want to pick yourself up a dehumidifier for your garage.  Dry air always feels cooler than humid air.  It is also nice to get all that moisture away from your classic car.  Dry air is a friend to both your comfort and your classic car.  Only problem is that good dehumidifiers can be really expensive.  Make sure you do your research to find out which one will work best in your climate and for your workspace.

Another way to keep your garage cool in the summer (and warmer in the winter) is to insulate the garage door.  Doesn’t make much sense to spend a ton of money running an A/C unit in your garage if the cold air is just going to escape.  The initial cost of insulation will certainly be offset with your first electric bill.

Our last piece of advice is the cheapest method of cooling your garage, but also is usually the least effective.  Depending on where you live, you might be able to get away with a set of box fans to cool your garage.  Chances are you will need to keep the garage door open or at least partially open to keep the air flow moving.  Strategically place box fans diagonally in the garage can help you stay cool.  A pitcher of ice water nearby can also provide a quick sense of relief and keep you hydrated.

One other solution might not be ideal, but it almost always works…  buy lots of lights and work at night.

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