Also known as a swamp cooler, a car cooler is a type of device that is used to help cool the air in a vehicle. This type of evaporative cooler is normally mounted on one of the windows of the vehicle and aids in lowering the temperature of the interior space using the process of evaporation. This type of device was a forerunner to the air conditioning systems that are commonly found in most cars today.
Developed around 1930, the design of the water-powered car cooler included a storage tank that was filled with water. While several designs were developed between that year and the 1960s, the basic idea was to allow the water to evaporate and transfer heat from the interior of the car. The warmer air is expelled via the window while cooler air is directed to the interior of the vehicle. Some models included fans that allowed the device to work even when the car was not in motion, or traveling at a low speed.
One of the benefits of the car cooler is the inexpensive operation of the device. The components in most designs were very simple and since the cooling technology relied on water to function, maintenance and usage costs were almost nil. Car coolers were especially effective when humidity levels were low, making it an ideal way to stay relatively cool when traveling through deserts or any other areas where very little moisture was present.
At its height, the car cooler was produced and offered by a number of companies. Most models were designed to be detachable and easy to install, making it easy to store the device during the winter months. In addition to being available at garages and auto supply stores, the coolers were also offered for sale via mail order from some of the major department stores of the day.
While the car cooler did help make a trip during hot weather more comfortable, the device was not able to compete with the emerging air conditioning devices that increasing became available with newer automobiles. By the early part of the 1970s, sales of the devices had decreased dramatically as internal air climate control systems became part of the standard equipment on many makes and models of vehicles. Today, a small number of manufacturers continue to produce coolers of this type, usually for use on antique vehicles.