What Would Happen If Lightning Struck Your Car?

Recently, North Carolina has been experiencing some pretty extreme weather. Hot sunny days and vicious afternoon lightning storms have become a weekly event. So far we’ve received lots of inspiration from the harsh elements, and our newest dose of weather knowledge comes from high in the stratosphere.

lightning strikes car

Lightning is one of the many things in life we enjoy because it kind of scares us, like roller coasters and sky diving. But safety is always our main concern, which got us thinking on our drive home through one of the recent thunderstorms:

What would happen if our car was struck by lightning?

First off, it’s very unlikely that you will be struck by lightning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the chance of being fatally wounded by a lightning strike is 1 in 1,900,000. That’s a pretty low probability, and the chances are even lower if in a car.

Being inside a car is much safer than being uncovered and on foot in a lightning storm. The metal body of your car dissipates the lightning strike around the person like a modern day “Faraday Cage.” A “Faraday Cage” is a metal cage that protects its contents from static electric fields. (link to article). So, when a car is struck by lightning, the electricity is channeled throughout the metal car, rather than into you. Contrary to popular belief, your rubber tires actually have little responsibility for this protection.

Lightning strikes car

With that being said, your car is far from lightning-proof. Any piece of metal is going to have trouble handling over 100 million volts of electricity (compared to 12v in a car).  Touching any metal or electric components can result in a shock if struck. Here’s what you can do to reduce the chance of injury during a lightning storm.

  • If you find yourself driving through a lightning storm, turn your hazards on and pull over to wait out the storm.
  • Keep your hands, feet, and body off of any metal in the car. Lightning can travel through the chassis and into you through any metal objects you’re making contact with.
  • Stay off your phone, unplug any car chargers, and avoid touching your car’s electrical components– lightning tends to travel throughout the wiring of a car when struck.
  • In the unlikely event that you are struck, don’t get out of the car. Remain inside your vehicle until the storm passes. The metal and electrical components are safe to touch if they’ve been struck, since they won’t hold a charge, but we still recommend waiting until the storm has passed.

Although your car isn’t lightning-proof, it is actually one of the safer places to be during a lightning storm. Next time you find yourself in one, follow these tips and stay safe. Your car may sustain some minor electrical and cosmetic damage if struck, but we at Jaguar Land Rover Cary can handle even the most unusual service issues. Don’t wait to be struck by lightning to come see us, though. We hear changing your oil on a regular basis reduces the chance of lightning strikes (just kidding).

What Would Happen If Lightning Struck Your Car? was last modified: July 20th, 2015 by Jaguar Land Rover Cary


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