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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Michael

15 years of experience
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Michael
15 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz GL450 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Atlanta, Georgia
Micheal was punctual and friendly. Work was completed within promised time. Will definitely use again.
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Michael was SUPER QUICK with doing my brake and rotors. Great communication throughout the whole process. Will always recommend

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19 years of experience
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Kenneth
19 years of experience
Toyota Sequoia - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Newport Beach, California
Kenneth did a great job and very knowledgeable. He has a great attitude and I will for sure be using him again.

Chuy

13 years of experience
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Chuy
13 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Cicero, Illinois
Excellent work on doing the breaks for my car and the break and steering system flush I’ll definitely recommend and take into consideration for chuy’s work whenever I need a fix on my car

Richard

16 years of experience
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Richard
16 years of experience
BMW 328i - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Dublin, California
Richard was an outstanding mechanic. After he arrived, the first thing he did after taking the initial pictures of the car is an assessment into what work was asked. He quickly verified that I did not need brake fluid and my front brakes even-though it affects his personal commitments and time, which I think is highly appreciate and thorough professional. He was detailed oriented - took time to make sure that all the issue are fixed. He paid attention to detail in overall car assessment- he goes above and beyond. He was also teaching me through the process which I found highly educational and appreciate him providing the information ensuring and making me comfortable what he was doing and explaining patiently all the questions that was thrown at him. When he works - you know he's highly skilled and experienced and knows his stuff. He is highly experienced. He is a "Master" mechanic in true sense :)

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