If my car gives me static shocks whyis it a good place to be during a lightning storm?

06 September 2016

Question

During lightning the best place to be is in your car?
If that is correct why do i get a static shock sometimes when i touch my car?

its not grounded due to the tyres ( note i disconnected the battery earth wire and it still happens thanks

Answer

Caroline clears up confusion about cars in thunder storms...

Caroline - It is a good idea to be in your car in a lightning storm. So, static shocks happen when two materials rub against each other and charge transfers from one to the other. So this could be when you sat in your car wearing some synthetic material and it rubs against a car seat and you build up a negative charge and then you innocently reach out to grab your car door handle and the negative charge from you discharges through the car and makes a sort of nasty shock. But lightning, it's a good idea to be in your car if there's a lightning storm because if lightning were to strike the outside of your car, the lightning would travel through your car body and not actually harm you. That's because the car - well provided your car is made of metal - the current will want to travel through that because current likes to go through the path of least resistance so it will travel through the car, to the ground, shielding you. This is often referred to as a faraday cage.

Kat - You've got rubber tires as well. Is it something like you're meant to wear wellies as well in an electrical storm?

Caroline - So, the rubber tires thing is quite often - it's been a myth. It's an easy answer to why you should get in your car but that's not really why because the current does still flow through the tires to the ground. It does discharge. But yes, if you're wearing rubbing shoes, rubber is an insulator so you're slightly more protected from an electric shock. Because it just makes a bit more of a resistive path for the current to travel and it's less likely to travel through you.

Kat - Adam.

Adam - How do I stop getting shocked by my car?

Caroline - So, you could buy a non-metal car which is an option.

Caroline - Or you could wear clothes that sort of build-up static charge less. The cheaper more plastic clothes build up stuff that charge more.

Kat - You're wearing like nylon. Stop wearing the nylon '90s.

Caroline - Yeah, nylon is bad plan. I remember I used to have a dressing gown that I could build up such a static charge on by rubbing it against the carpet that if you turned off the lights, you could actually see the little electric discharge if you touched it, so don't wear that dressing gown.

Adam - No driving with dressing gown.

Caroline - No driving in dressing gowns. Go for sort of - I'm not sure what materials are not good at building up charge.

Kat - Linens, cottons.

Caroline - Imagine stuff like silk and things like that would be fine. You can get silk suit.

Adam - Silk trousers.

Caroline - Silk suit and a wooden car, and you're absolutely fine.

Kat - No chances of electric shocks.

Adam - Thanks very much.

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