The car really has two ways to «kill» someone, and the sources and solutions are completely different for each. The most common reason people are shocked by their cars is because static electricity . It can happen any time you touch metal, but it’s more common right after driving.

Another way to get hit on a car is to inadvertently act as an attractive breeding ground for the ignition system, which can be both painful and dangerous. Other electrical systems in most vehicles are not dangerous or even capable of shocking you, with the exception of electric and hybrid cars.

How and Why Automotive Static Shock

two women in a car
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When you touch the handle of a car door, door, or any other metal surface and experience a shock, the cause is almost always due to a sudden discharge of static electricity. It’s the same phenomenon behind the old trick of shuffling your feet onto the carpet before touching the neck of an unsuspecting victim to startle them, or magically sticking a balloon to something after rubbing it on. sweater.

Static electricity is generated when an electrical charge builds up in one substance as a result of friction against another material. In the case of the old leg-shuffling trick, the two materials in question are the carpet and your legs. In the case of a car that constantly torments you after driving, the materials are usually your clothes and the car seat, which naturally come into contact while driving.

If your clothes and car seat are exchanging enough electrons, and one side of the equation builds up enough static electricity, it can discharge if you touch a car door or handle. This phenomenon is much more common during periods of very dry weather, as static electricity can naturally discharge into moist air, but dry air does not leave it.

Certain fabrics and some types seat covers more likely to generate static electricity.

In addition to getting in your car when you get in or out of your car, this type of static electricity discharge also poses a very real, albeit highly unlikely, safety issue every time you fill up your car. In fact, there is some truth in the ancient urban legend about static electricity that ignites gas vapors.

Vehicle hit prevention

There are three main ways to prevent static shock when entering or exiting a vehicle. Two of them are related to preventing the buildup of static electricity, while the third is a way to safely remove any buildup of static electricity without any painful bumps.

One way to prevent static electricity from building up in your clothing while driving or sliding through your seat to get out of your car is to spray the seats with an antistatic agent. It may or may not be safe for your seats, depending on the materials the seat covers are made of and the spray formula you choose, so it’s important to find a compatible product and test it on a small, inconspicuous area first.

The way antistatic sprays work is that they essentially create a barrier between the seat surface and your clothing. Because static electricity only builds up when electrons pass between two materials and create an imbalance, a thin layer of antistatic spray prevents charge buildup. And since there is no charge, you will never get hit.

Another way to solve this problem is to install a static strap. These products are belts that you bolt to your vehicle’s frame or chassis. When properly installed, the strap hangs down and touches the ground under your vehicle.

The main disadvantage of static belts is that installing them results in a clearly visible strip of material hanging from the bottom of your vehicle, which some people find undesirable.

The last way to prevent getting into the car is to buy an anti-static key chain. These devices provide a safe and painless way to discharge static electricity from clothing before you touch the door to exit. Typically, they also include some sort of display or light that flashes when static electricity is discharged through it.

Other ways to solve this problem are to first touch the car with your fingers, which are usually less sensitive than your fingertips, or use your elbow or shoulder to close the door.

The shocking danger of automotive electrical systems

Another way a car can kill you is if you’re poking around under the hood and you somehow come into contact with high voltage, passing through the ignition system. While the battery in your car has a low voltage and is not capable of shocking you under normal circumstances, this voltage is raised to keep the ignition system working.

Ignition systems require higher voltages due to the fact that air-fuel mixtures ignite inside internal combustion engines. This process is based on a spark jump through an air gap between two electrodes embedded in a small component that is inserted into each combustion chamber. These components are called spark plugs because they are literally spark plugs with two electrodes through which a spark jumps.

In older engines that use distributors, the corresponding voltages are high and certainly capable of incapacitating you if you touch the wrong thing, but they are usually not dangerous. Higher voltage in distributorless ignition systems is more likely to cause injury, but it’s a good idea to just avoid shock from any type of system.

Most ignition system shocks are the result of a faulty component, such as a spark plug wire, that has worn out due to aging or proximity to a sharp object or hot surface. This type of fault often results in the engine not running very well, as the wire ends up shorting out and delivering its charge directly to ground instead of the spark plug. If you include yourself in the equation, you will probably be shocked.

The best way to avoid electrical shock to the ignition system is to simply be very careful around the ignition components when the engine is running and replace any worn or faulty components.

It is important to note that hybrid and electric vehicles typically use electrical systems with more high voltage, than conventional cars and trucks. So while one of these systems can be shocking, they usually have high voltage wires that are carefully labeled to help you avoid them.

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