Sometimes in our lives we get in situations when we have to leave a guitar in a car. For example, some guitar players who travel a lot often leave their guitars that way. You may be in some similar situation. Anyway, it is always good to be aware of potential risks of having a guitar in a car.
Here in this article I’m going to try my best to answer the question from the headline. Stay with me, let’s go!
Can you leave a guitar in a car?
In most cases, the answer is no. Leaving a guitar in your car will do harm to the guitar itself, whether it’s acoustic or electric.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself would you want to be left in a car for a period of time? Of course not.
There are many reasons for that, from weather and temperature changes, to sunlight exposure etc. All of that affect your guitar’s shape, playability and strength.
Is It OK To Leave A Guitar In A Cold Car?
Do not leave your guitar in a cold car. When the car is cold, the outside temperature is low (obviously). Cold temperatures can cause a rapid humidity changes.
It depends on where you live.
For example, if you live in a dry area, then in winter, the relative humidity will be very low. In this case, leaving your guitar in a cold car means leaving your guitar in the room with a dry air.
Dry air can be very harmful to your guitar, in many ways. For example, the frets on your fretboard can easily get loose from wood. That’s because cold temperatures make wood shrink.
It is directly affecting the shape of the body of your guitar. Everything that’s affecting your guitar physically is bad for your guitar.
On the other hand, if you live in the rainy area, or near the coast, you live in the area with higher relative humidity.
In the winter, in areas with high relative humidity, condensation often takes place in closed spaces. The car is a closed space.
With that environmental conditions, your car windows will get wet, due to condensation process. All of that makes the air in your car more humid. Now you have too high humidity. Wood absorbs everything from the air, including moisture, like a sponge.
When your guitar starts to absorb more moisture than necessary, it will lose its strength for sure. According to the scientific study posted on ScienceDirect page:
The shrinking and swelling can result in warping, splitting, and loosening of tool handles, gaps in strip flooring, or performance problems that lowers the usefulness of the wood product.
It is proved that the higher relative humidity is, the wood will be more strained. If you’re interested about this in more details, check the whole scientific study on a ScienceDirect page, here.
I think those are pretty strong reasons not to leave your guitar in a cold car.
How Cold Is Too Cold For A Guitar?
If it’s cold for you, then it’s cold for your guitar. Keep in mind that whenever the temperature is uncomfortable, it is uncomfortable for your guitar at the same time.
What temperature should a guitar be kept in? Room temperature is the best temperature for a guitar.
Anything below 5 to 10 degrees of Celsius is too cold for a guitar.
Can You Leave Your Guitar In A Hot Car?
No, you shouldn’t leave your guitar in a hot car. Hot summer periods can often bring very high relative humidity that will harm your guitar.
As it’s been already thoroughly described above, the high relative humidity of the air is devastating for your guitar.
But there are a few more reasons not to leave a guitar in a hot car.
For example, the glue on your guitar. Many parts of a guitar are glued together. For example, bridge, or a nut. Those glues are strong, but the glue itself cannot be strong enough to stand heat.
When the heat kicks in, and when the temperature rise up to 125 F, glues are going to melt. Leaving your guitar in a room full of hot air is ar risk. You may end up with a loose guitar bridge or a nut.
Also, with high temperatures materials start to expand. Every material is unique, as every material has its own heat capacity. That means that every material will expand at different rate.
Let’s focus on a guitar neck in this case. Guitar neck is made of wood, but also it has steel frets on itself. Exposed to high temperature for some time, steel frets and wooden fretboard will expand at different rates.
That can easily get your frets loose, and that really sucks.
Not only that, but the strings will get longer due to expansion. It will de-tune your guitar. But that is a minor problem in comparison with other.
There’s one more reason why hot car is a bad place for your guitar. Hottest cars are usually exposed to strong sunlight. Sunlight is really bad for any guitar. Not only guitar, but it’s bad for most materials in a world. Nothing should be exposed to strong sunlight for too long, including guitar.
Why is sunlight so bad for a guitar?
Many reasons. First of all, it could discolor the wood finish on a guitar. Second, it is causing the wood fatigue. It’s because of the process of photodegradation. UV radiation from the Sun is causing that process.
That will certainly shake your guitar neck’s inner structure. Anyway, if you want to know more about the process, check out the scientific study by H. Derbyshire and E. R. Miller, The photodegradation of wood during solar irradiation: Part I: Effects on the structural integrity of thin wood strips. Link leads to Springer page.
Is It Better To Leave Guitar In A Case?
It’s always better to leave your guitar in a case, as long as the case is good. Hard cases are best when it comes to temperature and humidity protection.
If you don’t have any choice but to leave your guitar in a car for some time, it’s better to leave it in a case.
However, the case won’t help if the guitar is going to be left in a car for a days.
Anyway, I got myself one Gator Case (link to Amazon) with TSA approved locking latch.
As it’s been said, hard cases can protect your guitar from environmental conditions for some time. Soft cases are not useful in this case. They are far less effective when it comes to temperature and humidity protection.
If You Don’t Have A Choice Than To Leave A Guitar In a Car…
Sometimes, you just don’t have a choice. In that case, you should comply to a few short tips.
First of all, choose wisely where to park your car. If it’s hot out there, do not park it somewhere where it will be exposed to a sunlight.
Open your windows a bit. That’s perhaps the best you can do in this case. Lower the windows of your car not more than an inch. It will be enough to keep the air flowing through the car. This is extremely important if it’s hot.
Do not leave your guitar for more than a few hours.
Anything more than one day is devastating for every guitar. There have been reports from a lot of guitar owners about totally destroyed guitar they found after it’s been left for days.
Some guitars can just collapse after some time. The glue softens, the neck bends, strings de-tune, geometry and shape screws etc.
Here in this article it has been thoroughly explained why leaving a guitar in a car is a big mistake. I hope that the reasons you read are strong enough. Anyway, if you find the information from this article valuable, I’m more than happy about it.
Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles I wrote on this site!
Cheers, and rock on!