Do darker colours absorb more heat? We test it out with Perodua Myvis under the hot Malaysian sun

Do darker colours absorb more heat? We test it out with Perodua Myvis under the hot Malaysian sun

While a vehicle purchase is largely made on the basis of design, tech and branding, buyers also tend to be pretty partisan about exterior colours because, well, it’s going to be that dress you’ll be looking at every day, for a good while.

A preference for a particular shade is mostly down to taste, but expression – or lack of it – also determine why people choose car colours the way they do. Safe, flashy, not calling attention to yourself, shouting out for the world to see, take your pick – there’s something that’s bound to work for you, like the clothes you wear, an expression of your individuality.

Some also work better than others at keeping you cool in this particular tropical climate, which is more often than not brain-melting hot. Coming back to a parked oven after it has been basking under the sun for hours isn’t new, but did you know that the level at which you – and your vehicle – bakes can be alleviated or amplified by its colour?

Simply put, much of it is down to how colours work in reflecting or absorbing the wavelengths of light that they are exposed to, with the level of associated energy being converted into heat. You’ve probably experience it in clothes you’ve worn – hotter in black (and we don’t mean visually), cooler in white.That’s because darker shades such as black absorb all wavelengths of light, while lighter shades such as white reflect them.

The same principle applies everywhere, and metal, being a rather good conductor, means that car surfaces retain heat far better than say, the fabric clinging to your body. While glass and cabin materials – and their colour – play a part in defining interior temperatures, thermal soak contributed from radiating external surfaces also contribute to it, given enough time under the sun.

All things being equal, how much hotter is a dark-coloured car than a white one under the sun?

We put this to the test, utilising three Perodua Myvis (dark grey, white and red) and measuring (with a portable industrial thermometer) just how hot they would be – both inside and out – when parked under the sun for determined periods. All three cars did not have window film applied, and measurements were taken in the same areas, both externally and internally.

In the shade, parked under a canopy, both the dark grey and white examples had an external surface temperature reading of 38.1°C, while the red Myvi was slightly warmer at 39°C. Inside, the dark grey Mvvi registered a 34.2°C reading, while that for the red Myvi was 33.7°C, and the white was the coolest, at 33.1°C.

Temperature measurements. Click to enlarge.

Next, the cars were moved away from the shade. After sitting under the sun for one hour, the external surface temperature of the dark grey Myvi had more than doubled to 74.9°C, which was 18.5°C higher than the 56.4°C reading obtained on the white car. The red Myvi sat halfway, at 67.3°C. Inside, there was less variance, with reading on the white car the lowest at 46°C, nearly four degrees less than the dark grey (49.8°C).

Switching on the air-conditioning at maximum cooling for 15 minutes brought the temperature down in the cabin, with both red and white Myvis then registering 35.9°C, while the dark grey’s cabin had gone down to 39.1°C. External readings, meanwhile, were down by nearly four to five degrees.

So, as shown by the numbers, dark-coloured cars do absorb more heat.

Do darker colours absorb more heat? We test it out with Perodua Myvis under the hot Malaysian sun
Do darker colours absorb more heat? We test it out with Perodua Myvis under the hot Malaysian sun

Now, if you’re thinking of changing the colour of your vehicle to make it cooler (both figuratively and literally), why not get it done at the Carro Care body & paint centre? Carro Care’s respray service is presently running a promo where you can get your car repainted with a 40% discount! On top of that, it comes with a three-year warranty. Book your respray service here.

Carro Care currently has two Body & Paint centres are located in Taman Perindustrian Subang in USJ and Ulu Tiram in Johor. A third Body & Paint centre will be soon available in Seremban.

Click here to submit your details to make a booking. Just key in your name and contact details in the form and you’ll be contacted.

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  • 3-year warranty – if you notice any defects, you can send it in for rectification
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Anthony Lim

Anthony Lim believes that nothing is better than a good smoke and a car with character, with good handling aspects being top of the prize heap. Having spent more than a decade and a half with an English tabloid daily never being able to grasp the meaning of brevity or being succinct, he wags his tail furiously at the idea of waffling - in greater detail - about cars and all their intrinsic peculiarities here.



  • Ben Yap on Jul 02, 2024 at 3:16 pm

    change car colour need to get JPJ approval. might as well get a lighter colour car upon the next purchase.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5
    • Anonymous on Jul 02, 2024 at 4:43 pm

      I did change color of my car a few years back. Doesn’t need JPJ approval at all. You just need to update the car color to the JPJ office. They didn’t even check the car and confirm on the new color. Plus, they just crossed out the old color and wrote the new color on the registration card. I expected to get a new registration card. This was the A4 sized registration card, not the current one that is smaller.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0
    • Paul Tan on Jul 02, 2024 at 5:41 pm

      its not really “approval” but “notification”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0
  • YB Albert Albata Batu Bata on Jul 02, 2024 at 3:22 pm

    good to see stuff like this. we like this. please do more topic like
    – best way to cool down your cabin under hot heat sun
    – best way to go in and out of your car during rain
    – etc etc

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 51 Thumb down 0
    • yes, this approach is simple and direct.
      very acceptable standard.

      hope to see Tinted vs No Tint for next.
      15mins and 1hr difference – No A/C on.
      5min, 10min, 15mins and 1hr difference – A/C on.

      – JPJ Spec VLT.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0
  • Awesome to see this kind of article from Paul Tan. The average/everyday Malaysian and us car enthusiasts love these practical articles. May I suggest a video to walk through the popular ADAS suites on most mainstream brands OTR like Perodua vs. Honda vs. Toyota vs. BMW vs. Merc vs. Volvo, with their dizzying array of acronyms?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2
  • More content like this please! Really informative and interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2
  • Good test…should do more such interesting test, good article to read.

    This test result mean we see will more white car on the road. Well all 4 of my cars are white too

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  • Ethan on Jul 02, 2024 at 9:29 pm

    Good article! Appreciate the comparison done here. Would love to have the lower temperatures of the white. Unfortunately the lighter colours tend to up with dark crying tears on the sides of the car because of dirt and rain

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • nazman on Jul 02, 2024 at 10:07 pm

    if you are using a IR thermometer, we can probably accept the comparison of the interior temperature, as it is probably measured at the same material and color. As for the exterior, different color have different emissivity value (white reflects more – lower emissivity, darker color absorb more – higher emissivity) which will throw off the IR thermometer reading as it reads the infrared emission rather than actual temperature. IR thermometer typically assume all surfaces that it measures has a fixed emissivity value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
  • Can u test other colours too? like blue vs light grey vs red etc..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Normal_user on Jul 02, 2024 at 11:57 pm

    Perhaps a good reason why so many white colored cars roam Arab and Middle Eastern countries roads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • Anonymous on Jul 03, 2024 at 12:58 am

    I’d like to see these tests run longer. Up to 4 hours. Darker coloured cars heat up quicker. After some time the internal heat would almost saturate so the interior temperatures could be very close, if not the same. The majority of internal temperature is from heating up the interior trims through the glass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
  • @NotBruceWayne on Jul 03, 2024 at 8:43 am

    While you’re at it, please do an article about the working range of AEB in all different marques available in Malaysia. Please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • PT team, next round test with vinyl wrap.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • anwar menang, rakyat dijubokkan on Jul 03, 2024 at 9:54 am

    As a perosn working in quality system, i wouldnt take the data seriously for the below reasons.
    1. Is the measuring instrument calibrated? (Any measurement report must state the date of calibration and the next due date printed on a certificate or a sticker on the instrument traceable to a documented record.)
    2. Holding the thermometer in your hand instead of a jig to ensure accuracy.( Your hand will move when taking measurements, therefore the distance between the point of measurement and the instrument will vary, which will definitely give an inaccurate reading

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 22
    • Perosn of quality on Jul 03, 2024 at 11:02 am

      Nobody got time and resource to perform accurate test, this is clearly a simple test to prove darker color = higher heat absorption

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2
      • anwar menang, rakyat dijubokkan on Jul 07, 2024 at 11:03 pm

        nobody got time?… then why the author wasted his time doing the experiment?
        and everyone wasted their time reading and commenting here…
        trying to prove the wheel is round is it?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3
  • Joel's Friend on Jul 03, 2024 at 1:58 pm

    Asking on behalf of my friend, why was silver color not in the comparison as its more of a common color in the market.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
  • Stryker Wan Ru Hon on Jul 06, 2024 at 8:15 pm

    I see my dark skin friends never carry water bottle also and also never see orang putih do that maybe my yellow color absorb more heat so common to see carry water bottle around. Restoran also dan full blast fan always.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  • Ruzie on Jul 06, 2024 at 8:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing a great info! And while you’re at it, please do a survey on the statistics of accidents according to the car colours as well.

    When buying new car, I avoid grey because to me it camouflage the road colour.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Lexon Loo @ EZ Gadget Simpang Renggam on Jul 07, 2024 at 8:01 pm

    I go Thai massage bcos like a bit tan color not so white not so dark. Some people say choose middle more satisfy one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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