Is It Dangerous To Turn On Your A/C Immediately After Starting the Engine

Is It Dangerous To Turn On Your A/C Immediately After Starting the Engine?

It has been a common belief that automobile components emit dangerous fumes, specifically high levels of cancer causing benzene. However, this claim is not true. Most drivers have a misconception that they don’t need to turn on their A/C immediately they start their car engines. Instead, they should open windows.

The truth is that, drivers are advised to roll down their windows immediately they enter their car because of one main reason. What is that? Components such as air freshener, sofa and dashboards allegedly do emit small content of benzene- dangerous cancer causing fumes. This is contrary to the myth that A/C systems do emit these dangerous fumes. Once a driver enters their car, they should roll down windows to allow accumulated fumes to disperse first. Later, a driver can then start his or her engine and turn on the A/C.

How Much Truth Is There To This Warning?

According to a study carried out in Korea in 2001, experts found some relationship between the use of automobiles and exposure to benzene. However, these claims were not really proved to be right since some observations differed from the original claim that automobiles produce benzene. Some of the differing observation included:

  • The study concluded that the use of cars did expose drivers to deleterious compounds which included benzene. However, the primary factor was not the dashboards and upholstery as claimed but rather the type of fuel used.
  • The study made an observation that benzene levels were higher in old car models than the newer cars. This observation concluded that the “new car smell” was not in any way associated with emission of benzene in a car.
  • The same study observed that exposure levels were high during the winter seasons which suggested that the car’s A/C was not a major factor in benzene exposure.

What Other Experts Say

Another study carried out by Germans found that new cars had volatile organic compounds when the car was parked in direct sunlight. They dismissed the claims that dashboards and upholstery had nothing to do with the content of benzene found in new cars. However, they did agree on one finding. A driver is supposed to roll down the windows upon entry in his car simply to let out the hot air inside. They concluded that this practice is important in order to allow in cool air before turning on the A/C to allow the vehicle to cool much faster.


As discussed, there is nothing wrong with turning on your A/C immediately you start your car’s engine. However, experts advise you to roll down your car’s windows for a moment to let the warm air out especially on warm seasons. This not only keeps your car cool, but it also saves you from using up too much fuel when you turn on your A/C.

Does that mean that the A/C is not accountable for the emission of benzene in a car? This point is yet to be proved. It is true that benzene fumes are found in minimal amounts in a car, but with proper maintenance, these levels go down considerably.