Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. What Causes a Car Door to Give You an Electric Shock After Driving?

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

StaticElectricity

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

Rules of the Road For Iowa Drivers
Driving on the roads requires knowledge of the rules, many of which are based on common sense and courtesy. However, even though you know the rules in...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...
P0359 OBD-II Trouble Code: Ignition Coil I Primary/Secondary Circuit Malfunction
P0359 code definition The P0359 code indicates that a fault has been detected in one of the vehicle’s ignition coils, generally the number 9 coil. This code can also be associated...


Related questions

Q: Headlights go out randomly, will come back on after

As silly as it sounds, the issue is most likely caused by an intermittent failure in your Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM). Of course it’s important to have the circuit and connections checked, but the TIPM is the most common...

Q: Sporadic issues with eletrical system of the car

Your vehicle has many technical bulletins that pertains to wiring issues with pins and connectors to various modules and control units in the vehicle. This issue is one that is hard to track down since it is an intermittent connection...

Q: What Does Cold Weather Do to Engine Hoses?

Engine hoses are constructed of rubber compounds (EPDM) that are designed to operate in a wide variety of adverse conditions, including temperature variations. Cold weather (above 0 ℉) has the effect of stiffening the hose material. When combined with the...