As the summer season heats up, temperatures are soaring across the country. If you glance at your car’s “outside temperature” reading on the instrument panel, you might be greeted with triple-digit numbers. However, it’s not uncommon to find that the car’s outside temperature reading shows 111 degrees Fahrenheit, even though the weather app on your phone forecasts a much lower temperature of 95 degrees for the day. The disparity in readings might leave you wondering why the outside temperature gauge is so inaccurate.
As the summer season heats up, temperatures are soaring all over the country. When you check your car’s “outside temperature” reading on the instrument panel, you might be surprised to see triple-digit numbers. However, it’s not uncommon for the car’s outside temperature reading to display 111 degrees Fahrenheit when the weather app on your phone indicates a lower temperature of 95 degrees for the day. This discrepancy in readings might leave you wondering why the outside temperature gauge is so inaccurate.
Why is my car showing the wrong outside temperature?
The temperature reading displayed on your car’s instrument panel or dashboard is not provided by a traditional thermometer; instead, it comes from a thermistor. Unlike a thermometer that uses liquid mercury, a thermistor measures the change in electrical current resulting from the addition or removal of heat.
Thermistors themselves are not inherently inaccurate; they provide accurate temperature readings. However, the placement of your car’s thermistor can affect the accuracy of the outside temperature reading. Many automakers position the thermistor in the front bumper near the grille, which exposes it to heat from the asphalt. Consequently, when the car is parked in a garage or stopped at an intersection, the outside temperature reading may be higher due to the thermistor picking up the heat from the hotter asphalt.
When are the car’s reading most accurate?
The car’s thermistor is most accurate at nighttime when it is not influenced as much by heat from the asphalt. Additionally, it tends to provide more accurate readings on cloudy days and when the car is traveling at higher speeds.
However, it is crucial to consider the potential impact of inaccurate temperature readings, especially during the winter months. For instance, if the temperature gauge shows 34 degrees while driving down a snowy road, but it is actually below freezing, there could be black ice present without the driver realizing it. This situation poses a serious safety risk, as driving on black ice can be extremely hazardous and lead to accidents.
Therefore, despite the thermistor’s accuracy improvements under certain conditions, it remains essential for drivers to be cautious and aware of the limitations of the outside temperature reading. It is always wise to take additional precautions, especially during adverse weather conditions, to ensure safe driving on the roads.
How can you get an accurate outside temperature reading?
If you want a more accurate outside temperature reading while driving, relying on the weather app on your phone might be a better option. Official temperature readings are taken from a standard height of six feet off the ground and over grassy areas, making them more reliable and accurate as provided by the National Weather Service.
However, if having a real-time temperature reading in your car is important to you, consider investing in an external thermometer that you can easily connect to your vehicle. Many aftermarket thermometers are available for purchase online at affordable prices, often costing less than $20. Installing these external thermometers is straightforward and hassle-free.
With an external thermometer, you can have greater confidence in the accuracy of the temperature reading displayed in your car. So, if you see that it’s 111 degrees outside, you can be more certain that the reading is reliable. In such extreme temperatures, parking your car in the shade might be a wise decision. If you’re interested in alternative storage options for your car, check out these five garage alternatives for safeguarding your vehicle.
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