Storing lenses in hot car trunk

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by chuck, Jul 30, 2015.

  1. I am planning a vacation that involves some multi-day hikes and climbs. While hiking I will likely store some heavier AF-S lenses, such as 70-200 f/2.8, in the trunk of the car. The lens will be insured against theft. But would the temperature in the trunk of a car parked in CA sun become a problem for the lens?
  2. Consider keeping the lens in a high-end, "5-day" style cooler. Not with ice, but just as a buffer against that heat. You might even load the cooler with room-temperature sealed plastic jugs of water, which can act as heat sinks. It will still get hot, but it will take longer to happen, and it won't be rapid internal temp swings. And, maybe find a parking place that catches at least some shade during the day?
  3. Interior temperatures in automobiles parked in the sun, can exceed 150 F. Modern lenses have built in electronics. High temperatures can affect electronics causing premature failure.
    The manual for the 70-200 f/2.8 lens does not give a maximum storage temperature. A call to Nikon Support would be in order. They are the only ones who can give you a definitive answer. If they say, "No Problem", get it in writing or a minimum get the technician's name. Lens repairs are not cheap.
  4. SCL


    If you're not going to be using the lens, why take it along?
  5. I like the cooler idea, but possibly in the cabin versus trunk. I found some scholarly debate about it here and here.
    My hunch: the lens would be perfectly fine even baking in the trunk of a hot car, so long as it is not for weeks at a time. If I owned such a nice lens though, I would be thinking like you to take precaution - just in case.
  6. The main concern with lenses getting hot is lubricant seeping onto internal elements. Been there, done that with an 80-200mm and it's not inexpensive to repair. Also, even if your gear is insured, how would the loss affect your vacation? Car break-ins and theft are at epidemic levels in California. Even if I'm just running an errand or stopping at a restaurant, I never leave camera gear in the car.
  7. As an engineer, I basically agree with Matt's cooler recommendation above, but I would make sure that any water/ice heat sinks, if used, were in completely watertight vaporproof containers with dried exteriors to keep the RH down. Any open water could/would result in high RH in an essentially airtight enclosure.
    Without calculations or tests, I think the trunk of a parked light colored car would be cooler than the interior. Not so sure about a dark colored car.
  8. Not sure a car trunk, if it's separated from the vehicle, gets as hot as you think it does.

    I like the idea of a cooler, but I'd never leave camera gear in an unattended vehicle anyway.
  9. Would bubble wrap provide any insulation? How about space blankets?
  10. The cooler is a nice idea, but I'd rather not use any water or ice near the lens, I think the risk of the (melted) water spilling is far greater than the risk of the lens overheating. I live in southern California and while car interiors are often too hot to touch because of direct sunlight, I don't ever recall the inside of a car trunk being too hot to touch, which means the temperature stays under 50C (120F). I would guess that using a black lens outside in full sunlight could get the lens warmer than being in a closed trunk; in other words, I would not worry about the temperature. If you want to be extra-cautious, bury the lens in some clothing/blankets on the bottom of the trunk.
  11. I used a soft sided cooler for film when traveling in summer. The inside never got really hot. The cooler wasn't designed for ice, so it never got wet and I didn't store food in it.
    I suppose electronics could be damaged, but melting grease will put you out of business in a hurry. If the grease separates, oil will get on the diaphragm and make it stick. It could get on the elements too. I think Nikon, and probably others, now use a synthetic grease which doesn't separate. Traditional grease is actually oil mixed with soap to hold it in place, and can separate with age or high temperature.
    Most electronics will function up to 60 deg C (140 F), but a car trunk or glove box can reach that temperature easily in hot sun. The coolest place in a car is under the seat.
  12. My concern with the water-in-the-cooler idea would be to make sure that there isn't enough air in the sealed containers that they pop open as they heat up! (Perhaps keep the camera in the sealed container?)

    Black lenses can absorb a lot of heat (painful to hold, in direct sunlight) - but they also radiate it quite effectively, and airflow helps. Don't forget that Canon went with white lenses allegedly to stop the heat from hurting fluorite lens elements. Inside a car can certainly get very hot - Mythbusters may have claimed it's impossible, but I've had coke cans explode when they've been left in the car, and that's in the not-very-sunny UK. (I actually only found a slightly smelly, but dry, car and a completely empty coke can!) The car boot I'm less sure of, since it won't be acting as a greenhouse like the main body of the car, but I'm not sure I'd be all that confident about how airtight the divide between that and the passenger compartment was. And a black car boot would worry me anyway. On the plus side, your kit is less likely to get stolen if it's not in view, though there's a lot to be said for leaving the windows open a crack as well.

    I've had the grip material come off a D700 that was in the sun slightly too long in Australia - although that's held on by heat-sensitive glue, so that may not have been a surprise. Not too hard to replace, fortunately. But I'd certainly be wary of assuming that everything would just be okay, even if I might be wrong. I'd at least get some of the folding metallic reflectors to put in the windows to keep the heat down.
  13. I've used Matt's suggestion, which I got from him in a thread years ago, and have never had a problem with it. The car trunk was hot, not as hot as the glassed-in car interior, but the temperature in the cooler never rose above 80 F. It's a great way to keep a third camera and lenses in the car when I shot events, just in case the first two fail.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The cooler is a good idea. I might use some blue ice type thing but keep that insulated from the lens. I wouldn't put a jar of water inside the cooler with camera equipment, with the jar sealed or not. Water and camera equipment don't mix. Just in case there is a leak, immersing in some water for a few days can't be good for a lens.
  15. 1. Park car in shade if possible
    2. Insulate the important items with blankets, clothing, etc.
    3. Be aware of shady types watching you while you are placing or removing items in/from storage location.
  16. I have used sealed food cans in place of water, mostly for film instead of lenses. If they do leak, it is usually slow enough. If the film or lens is in a plastic bag, it will be reasonably well kept away from any (rare) leaks.
    And you can later eat the can contents.
    Otherwise, I usually believe that under the seat is the cooler part, less sun and closer to the cool underneath the car.
  17. Why not run a test with a cooler in the trunk? An inexpensive indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer from Wally World displays the current and highest temp recorded from the outdoor component so you can place it in the cooler and watch what happens during a day in the sun.
  18. Nikon storage temperature specification says don't exceed 50 degrees C (122 degrees F).
  19. fwiw, according to Dan's 122F number, if the inside of the trunk probably doesn't get as hot as the cab (which is most likely the case, Check this out:, then the trunk might be the COOLEST part of the car and might be the BEST place to store something like this. There's no sunlight coming in through windows, heat isn't going to build up.

    I still wouldn't do it, though...
  20. You can used sealed ice packs, double bagged in Zip-Lock baggies, and place the lens in a Zip Lock baggie as well. That should be your safest bet.
  21. Living in Northern California I am fully
    aware of how hot it will get in the trunk
    of a car many days of the year. I'd
    leave the expensive lenses at home
    and take a few AIS primes and the AI
    80-200 push pull zoom. The zoom is
    capable of terrific quality - it just isn't as
    fast which you probably don't need for
    daylight shots. It's cheap ( under $80)
    and will survive hours in your trunk
    without a worry.
  22. Ice-packs? GEtting something cold in a place that's gonna get hot?

    Condensation city.
  23. Condensation will then form on the cold thing, i.e. the ice pack, Peter. Not on the lens (which would be packed away in something the condensation would form on anyway). Ice packs will indeed keep the temperature down a bit. But only for a while.<br><br>I don't know that it would be a problem keeping the lens in the car. It has been kept for some time in a sea container and a number of trucks that weren't temperature controlled either, before you got the lens from the shop as a pristine new item.
  24. Nikon storage temperature specification says don't exceed 50 degrees C (122 degrees F).​
    that is certainly possible in California, although the reason the interior of a car gets so hot is all the glass on the windows. so the cabin would be a bad idea as heat can literally cook and have a higher than surface temperature. a trunk would be cooler, but by how much it's hard to say. a double-walled container to trap cool air is the idea. if the surface temperature can't penetrate the inside, the contents won't overheat. watch out for heat-reflective surfaces though -- parking in shade is easily the most-reliable way to keep the car temps down.
  25. Down low on the floor behind the front seats seems to be the coolest place in the cabin. Not sure about that vs the trunk. I tried a regular cooler in the trunk and measured the temps inside it and it really wasn't up to the task. Seemed to make very little difference over a prolong period of time. For a few hours yes, but not several hours.

Share This Page