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Where did the vent go?

It’s a simple question, though some context might be needed. You see, when I first started driving (many eons ago), every car I had any experience with had a setting on the heating/cooling control panel labeled Vent. When you set the system to Vent, you basically opened a channel from the dash-mounted air vents directly to the outside airflow. If it was 60F degrees outside, you got a stream of 60F degree air. If it was 30F, you got 30F degree air. The car’s system was basically bypassed, though you could also turn on the fan to increase the speed of the outside air. In many less-expensive cars, air conditioning wasn’t even an option; Vent was it as far as (theoretically) cooling airflow went.

Hence today’s ranting question — where has the Vent gone? No car that I recall driving in the past 10 or so years has had a vent setting. If you want airflow, you have to have the air conditioning or heater on. The newer the car, it seems, the worse this problem is. Cars with so-called automatic temperature control are perhaps the worst. My car (since sold) had such a system; you’d simply dial in the temperature of the air you’d like in the cabin, and the system would do the rest. Fine in theory, but in practice…if I picked a temperature below 65F, the air conditioning system would switch to ‘Max A/C’ mode, kicking the fans up to full speed. I couldn’t set a lower temperature than 65F, and why, oh why, is the speed of the fan tied to the temperature of the air? I didn’t tell the system I wanted a full-power blast of 65F degree air, I just wanted 65F air at the current fan setting.

But that’s actually not what I really wanted. What I really wanted was to not waste gas and horsepower running the A/C system when the outside temperature was 63F. I just wanted to vent some of that temperate outside air into the cabin. Alas, no such choice is available, not on my car, and not on any car of recent vintage that I’m familiar with.

So where oh where did the Vent go, and are there good reasons for its demise? Or am I mistaken, and there are lots of cars still out there with Vent settings on their A/C panels? Anyone who can enlighten me, please do so. In this era of looking to save gas whenever we can, this seems like a simple way to do so. And since I’m presently auto shopping, I’d love to know if the option still exists.


  1. Well Rob, on my Toyota Echo I have a choice of recirculating the air in the cabin, or taking air from outside. It's not called vent (had forgotten about that!) but it does the exact same thing. I then have a choice of heating the incoming air or not. Since i don't have air conditionning, putting the dial to cold essentially gives me straight outside air. Although now that I think of it, it probably passes through the heating system... so i guess it may not be an actual vent after all... you have me puzzled ;-)

  2. In my car (92 Saturn), if I run my a/c with the switch set to fresh air (instead of recirculating) and then turn the fan off, the vents stay open, and I still get the air from outside blowing into the cabin - with the fan and a/c off. A similar process works in my wife's 01 Camry.

  3. Multi-million dollar lake home on Oswego, fancy cars with climate controlled systems, uh… gold plated Might Mice. You make all this money by telling people to defaults write to_11 true???

    Man, I remember when MacOSXHints was about the hints. Now, it's just about the money and the cars and the drugs and the fabulous babes. Whatever happened to the simple things? To the simple pleasures? Things like rolling the car window down on a warm January day and sticking your hand out in the globally warmed air, whatever happened to all that? Well, you can keep your fancy semi-luxury automobiles. I'll be driving my '78 Datsun out west with just me and guitar and tip for how to get the Finder to display tooltips more quickly. It may not be as fancy as some co-authored book by David Pogue and all his glamorous pals at the Grey Lady or a fancy magazine deal or three sets of blogs, with one reserved only for 'insiders,' but it'll be honest, and it'll be real.

    And it'll have "vent."

  4. To add on to the above thoughts, generally I've found that you have three types of control on the ventillation system: Recirculation (yes/no), AC (Yes/No), and Fan Speed. If you run AC, then the system will cool your air with your refrigeration setup. If you run the fan, the system will force air through the system. If you have recirculation on, then no air will come from outside, but if it's off, then it adds the outside air to the rest of the system.

    The tricky bit in the cars I've driven is that, if you have recirculation on then turn the fan off, you will not get any breeze. If you have recirculation off, so you're mixing air, and you turn the fans off, then you will still get air through the system proportional to your velocity. Of course, AC is independent of the air flow.

    I've driven a few cars with climate control, such as my current 97 Volvo, and I can still disable the climate control with a combination of the above controls, I just also get a temperature control in addition to the three mentioned above. Two of them in my case.


  5. "Multi-million dollar lake home on Oswego, fancy cars with climate controlled systems, uh… gold plated Might Mice. You make all this money by telling people to defaults write to_11 true???"

    Umm ... I'm hoping that was a nicely done sarcastic post, which is how I read it :). But just in case it wasn't ...

    I don't live in Lake Oswego, and our home is not worth anything near millions of dollars ... my fancy car with a climate controlled system was purchased before I ever started, and it wasn't *that* fancy to begin with ... I don't have a Mighty Mouse, gold plated or otherwise ... and the Pogue-co-authored book sold so well that they haven't yet asked me to do a Tiger edition :).


  6. Well, I can remember when cars had a real vent window. You grabbed the handle, turned it forward, and pushed the vent window out. But then you're too young to remember that. BTW said car did not have air conditioning, well it did, we called it four sixty. Sixty miles and hour with the four main windows opened.

    I can't remember why vent windows went away--easier to break into, fewer parts, styling (one piece of glass). Ah, now I remember, the main reason was A/C with the aforementioned items contributing.

    Now let's have a posting about before there were cars!

  7. Ah, I do remember the vent window. Our 62 Ford Galaxy had them, in fact.

    And regarding #3, our Honda Pilot certainly lacks an A/C off mode. It's got Automatic and Full Automatic. But nowhere on the panel can I find an option to simply let outside air in...


  8. ...and come to think of it, where have waterfountains gone? You know, the handy drinking fountains that were installed at any school. Here, they’re gone -- many years ago. The Coke machine, however, is annoyingly easy to find.

  9. I drive a Jeep with no top or doors, so the idea of using a special porthole to get outside air is a little strange to me :)

  10. I had an '85 Cavalier that had a handle under the dash that you could pull to open a floor vent. If you cracked a rear window you could get a tornado effect howling through the car. As such it wasn't air blowing in your face, but rather on your feet. That's the only thing I miss about that car. *sigh*

  11. When I need to bring air from the outside into the car, I open a window...

  12. #12:

    Yea, I do that, too -- except that here in Portland, it's often raining. Opening the window tends to not only cool one off, but to give one a shower as well :).


  13. I was just talking the other day about wishing I could get a car with the window vents. My '62 Chevy II had them and they friggin rocked.

    My current ride has a/c but I almost never use it unless it's 90 deg. or over.

    Love driving with the windows down.


  14. Rob, you mention you have a Honda. My Honda (and in fact every car I've owned in the past ten years or so -- none of which had auto climate control, admittedly) has a little AC on/off button that operates independently of all other fan speed and temp controls. So if I set the fan at its lowest speed and AC off, I'm getting a little fresh air. Even with the fan off, there's still slight air coming through the vents when the car's in motion -- which might be a government-mandated fresh-air safety thing.

    Even an auto climate control system should have an AC off setting though, I would think.

    Oh, and I too remember the "Vent" setting on my parents' cars in my youth.

  15. I drove out to Phoenix, AZ from Michigan just after Christmas, 1975 in a 1972 Honda Civic. No A/C. Didn't need it in Michigan. I had that car until 1978. My age was 20 when I drove out and 23 when I got my 1978 Civic...WITH A/C!

    105 degrees fahrenheit is hot when you're not moving very fast and getting that evaporate effect. You see, Phoenix is a dry desert climate and sweat evaporates creating a cooling effect.

    At that time A/C was still an option because of all you cold-weather-weanies populating half of the country. In 1997 my wife's vehicle's A/C compressor broke and we were broke and in debt. I drove it for one year until we could get it fixed. I got heat stroke and can't spend more than a couple hours out in the heat without becoming ill.

    I'm back in Hondas since 2000. When the temp outside is below 90º F and I'm going to some event where my hair can't be blown every which way I push the A/C button to turn off it's light, press the Recirculation button to turn it off, turn the Temperature dial to its coldest setting, turn up the fan, and open the sun roof. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

    Right now in Phoenix it's staying below 65º and I've got all the windows close, the air recirculating, and the heat all the way up until it's about 100º in the car. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

  16. I too am a big stickler about the Vent. My '86 Mazda 323 has it, and when I've gone car shopping, that's one of the main features I look for. Luckily, the Mazda 3 [the next, next generation of Mazda 323] still has the Vent.

    I am glad to know I'm not the only one who likes having outside air inside, and not by 100% means of the window [it does rain here too, in Asheville, NC!].


  17. I just took over my mother's GMC Envoy, as she got a new car last month.

    I was looking for some kind of vent setting too; down here in Georgia we've had mostly 65 degree days, no reason to run the a/c but for some reason I didn't want my windows down.

    The Envoy has one of those thermostat type systems, and as I've had it for only three weeks, I'm stil figuring it out.

  18. In my 05 Ford Focus, If I turn off the AC (a button), set the temp to cold, and leave re-circulate off (also a button), I get outside air. At that point, I can choose to turn the fan on to push the air in, or leave it off to let it flow in.

    I sometimes turn the recirculate ON doing this, in heavy traffic, just to keep nasty smelling car fumes out if the car ahead of me stinks.

  19. Mostly All cars has vents , air fresh flows in it, According to everyone need it. I also use it as well as air fan.

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