Adapting Your Car’s Air Flow to the COVID-19 Era

RAY: Well, I suggest you turn off the “recirculation”, Jim.

There are two buttons on the left side of your air conditioning control panel. There is a diagram of air (represented by an arrow) entering the car from outside the front windshield. This is the “fresh air” setting.

The other button shows the air in a circle, recirculating inside the car. Don’t press that one.

The recirculation button reuses everything but 5% to 10% of the air inside your car. This is useful when you want to cool the car down quickly, as you are not continuously introducing new, hot and humid air from the outside.

The fresh air setting will introduce a lot more fresh air, and that’s what you want. I guess you want to minimize the amount of air you breathe for the passengers. And to be fair, your passengers will probably want to do the same since as far as they know, you’ve just returned from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Group Hug.

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Better yet, regardless of the AC settings, open at least two windows. Open your driver’s window and the window diagonally opposite to it, passenger side to the rear. You don’t have to open them all the way, but even opening them quarter-open will usually create a cross current and move the air around the car. Better yet, crack all windows to a quarter, if your passengers are willing to do so.

That doesn’t mean you have to forgo air conditioning (or heating). You can run them anyway, even with the windows open, and make the temperature in the car more comfortable.

And if I were you, I would explain to your passengers exactly what you are doing and why. I would say: For your safety and mine as well, I follow the safety recommendations and keep several windows ajar. Do you agree?

Most people will say “of course” and be grateful for your consideration. Unless you pick them up from the barber shop, Jim.

Cash in the trade-in value and take advantage of the latest security features

Dear car speech:

I own a 2011 Lexus ES350 with 150,000 miles. The car has been serviced by the dealership from day one and has never been a problem for me. This is the best (reliability) car I have ever owned.

The woman thinks I should trade it in for a 2021 model because of the improved safety features. I think the 2011 is pretty safe and paid for! What you say? –Jesse

RAY: Is that dealer open today, Jesse?

Your wife is right. The deployment of new safety equipment over the past decade has been revolutionary.

Today’s cars have essentially autonomous technologies. Thanks to increased processing power and miniaturization, we now have computers and sensors in cars that can really prevent or minimize crashes.

They’ll stop the car if you’re not careful. They will push you to get back into your lane when you get out of it. They will prevent you from changing lanes when a UPS truck is in your blind spot. Maybe your wife noticed that you may need a little help in some of these areas, Jesse?

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The truth is, we all can. Computers are simply better at some of these things than we humans are. And a computer is never distracted by a text message or a spouse arguing that you need help driving. For older drivers, these things are even more useful, as our reflexes inevitably slow down.

You have covered 150,000 miles without a problem with your Lexus ES350. Go get a new one. Get a hybrid, and on top of the safety upgrades, you’ll get 44 mpg.

You will also be pleasantly surprised at how much you can get for your 2011. With the computer chip shortages caused by the pandemic, used car prices have increased dramatically. So cash it in, use it as a down payment, make your wife happy, and protect the both of you. Enjoy the new car, Jesse.

PS You’re sorry for writing to me now, aren’t you?

A question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or send an email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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