You Should Totally Keep Some Cheap Window Shades In Your Car

I always thought those suction-cup window shades people put on Camrys and kid-carrying cars looked stupid, and I mean, they do. But they’re also pretty useful. And the ones that pull down around the door frame are even better.

Driving from California to Massachusetts in my ’90s SUV with its enormous greenhouse in August was fairly warm most days. When the air conditioning compressor’s polite squeal escalated to a desperate cry for help, I decided we had to run without A/C from Toledo, Ohio onwards and the cabin temp got a little rough even by my lizard standards.

But before we left Los Angeles I bought two kinds of window shades and now I have strong opinions about both.

Suction Cup Window Shades

Photo: Andrew P Collins

Shades that suction on to your windows from the inside shouldn’t need much explanation–what you see is what you get. They provide just enough sun protection to keep you from getting a single-arm sunburn, according to my anecdotal testing, and conveniently cram down to about the size of a CD if you get foldable ones which you should.

I liked how they could be quickly mounted without any real visibility disruption.

Sock-Style Window Shades

Photo: Andrew P Collins

I didn’t even realise these bad boys existed until I stumbled upon a pair, but the idea is as straightforward as the suction shades. Except with sock-style shades, you get better coverage and you can still roll your windows down.

These things are basically fine nets you pull over and stretch over your door frame while the door’s open. Shutting the door locks them in place, and now you’ve got two layers of net between you and the scary world.

I loved running these with the windows down, because they dramatically reduce wind noise in the cab, making it possible to drive 105 km/h with the windows open and have a conversation at the same time.

Even better: In light to medium rain, you don’t really get wet with the window down and this in place, which lets you soak up the sweet smells of sky water while you’re cruising around.

I would recommend trying both in your car if you haven’t already, they’re cheap enough to be worth carrying even if they only come in handy once. Clearly, the ones I found aren’t even well-sized for my Montero’s big doors, so I’m guessing if I’d taken a few extra seconds to consider the measurements I could have gotten ones that fit properly. But frankly, “close enough” is just fine here.

I’m sure some brands are better than others but they’re all easy to find at most auto parts stores, truck stops, or even petrol stations if you don’t have time to wait on shipping.