What Causes a Car Door to Give You an Electric Shock After Driving? | YourMechanic Advice

What Causes a Car Door to Give You an Electric Shock After Driving?

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Have you ever found driving to be positively shocking? For example, you have just driven a long distance on a cold, wintry day, in a car with leather-covered seats. Wearing a heavy woolen coat, you get out of your car and, as you put your hand onto the metal door handle, “ZZZZzzzztttt!” - a jolt of static zaps your finger with pain. You have just been shocked by your car door.

Why you get shocks from your car

Winter, leather seats, woolen car coats and car doors all conspire on super-cold wintry days to deliver static shocks that can run up to 300 volts or more. At that level, the jolt is pretty good; at night you should be able to see the blue spark leaping from your hand to the metal. Even a tiny 100-volt jolt is enough to cause you to wince.

You might wonder why it happens. The reason involves the differential potentials of materials in your car. Wool is a natural static electricity generator as is leather. As you slide across your car’s leather seat to get out and go on your way, your coat, rubbing on the upholstery, builds up an electrical charge. Your car’s body remains at ground, or negative charge.

Since static discharges usually happen from positive to negative, the charge that has built up on you and your clothing naturally wants to seek a ground path, it uses the first contact it finds with your car’s body, usually you hand. That’s why you feel the zap.

There are three external factors that make winter the prime time of year for static shock:

  • Cold temperatures
  • Low dew point
  • Super dry air

Winter air is naturally quite dry because cold temperatures drive moisture out of the air. As the air gets colder, more moisture is driven out, lowering the dewpoint substantially. The air, in turn, becomes even drier. This is a great environment for static as the dry, cold air with low dewpoints encourages static electricity buildup.


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Chris

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21 years of experience
Mini Cooper Clubman - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Silverado, California
He arrived early, went straight to work, and it should have been quoted higher as it’s a Mini which takes longer than the average break job. He didn’t try to get more than the quoted amount. He even set out to replace a running light for me when he was finished. I thought there would hard sales telling me I needed more work but there wasn’t. Because he didn’t try to sell me more work, I will use him again. When I hired a mechanic I don’t want a salesman. 
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Chris again has provided great Service. Everything was great. I was very happy with the work and will definitely have him return for any other work.

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Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Indianapolis, Indiana
Bryant has done great work on my car before, the latest work is no exception. He's very flexible, and goes the extra mile to get you back on the road.
Scion iA - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Carmel, Indiana
This is my first time using this service. I am very happy with it. Bryant was very knowledgeable and did quality work. I will use this service more regularly.

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Edmar always does a very good job. He's done a few different things on my car the last two years. Each job was performed very fast and top quality. Thank you once again.

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He was early, courtesy and actually helped me save some money since i didn't need all the work that i thought i needed done. Honest guy. Very knowledgeable. Great attitude.

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