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How Air Conditioned Car & Truck Seats Work (The Basics)

Heated & Cooled seats have been around for a long time, and they're just now getting common in cars. This article will illustrate the broad strokes of how these seats work. A more in depth explanation will be available at a later date.

Most manufacturers offer air conditioned seats in their nicer models. A few examples include:

  • Ford Fusion Titanium
  • Ford F-Series Lariat
  • Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium
  • Hyundai Sonata Limited
  • Ram Laramie
  • Dodge Challenger Hellcat
  • Dodge Charger SXT
  • Chevy Malibu Premier
  • Cadillac Escalade

It's important to note that there's a very significant difference between 'ventilated seats' and 'cooled seats'. Some manufacturers have put out ventilated seats that simply blow ambient temperature air. Truly air conditioned seats have become more common recently and they do actually cool the air before blowing it as opposed to simply moving it.

To avoid using a refrigerant, the air is cooled using the peltier effect. Air is pushed by a fan to a peltier unit (also known as a Thermo-Electric Device). This unit features 2-sides. One side of the unit gets hot and one side gets cold. The hot/cold side is determined by the polarity of the charge applied. Air passes over the peltier and is split into two streams. One stream of the desired temperature air gets pushed into the seat and through some creative ductwork, while the other stream of waste air gets pushed out of the seat (typically onto the floor underneath the seat). The switch and computer dictate both the fan speed (voltage), the hot/cold layout of the peltier (polarity), and the intensity of the peltier heating/cooling effect (voltage). In addition to what's shown in the illustration below there are also numerous safety sensors measuring temperature of the system throughout, as an overheating peltier unit can fail quickly and the fix can get quite expensive. 


More of a visual learner? Check out our simple infographics below!

Traditional ventilated seats use a fan and a switch.

Ventilated seats function using a simple fan and some ductwork.


True air conditioned seats can both heat and cool using the same system. They actually change the temperature of the seat.


The following example shows the cooling mode.


The following example shows heating mode.