Are Cars Safe In Thunderstorms?

Introduction – Are Cars Safe In A Thunderstorm

Contrary to popular belief, most cars with metal tops and sides do offer a level of protection against lightning, as stated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). However, it’s crucial to take certain precautions, which we’ll discuss below.

Here at ShrinkThatFootprint we talk a lot about electric vehicles. In this article we’ll talk about electricity and vehicles. Namely, the natural electricity that arises from thunderstorms and rain and lightning.

Our first piece of advice is to pull off the road

A thunderstorm is a meteorological phenomenon that is characterized by hail, strong winds, lightning and tornadoes. Almost every person has been through a thunderstorm except for areas of the world where they are very very rare like in desert regions.

Thunderstorms are dangerous and unpredictable, particularly in areas where they occur frequently. When it comes to cars, the safety of drivers and passengers must be considered when thunderstorms are in the area.

Key Safety Tips During a Thunderstorm

1. Choose the Right Vehicle: If possible, seek shelter in a vehicle with metal tops and sides.

2. Avoid Conductive Parts: Once inside, avoid touching metal parts like the steering wheel or gearstick.

3. Stay Inside the Car: If you can’t find a building for shelter, stay inside your car.

4. Avoid Water: Do not drive through standing water, as it can conduct electricity.

5. Stay Away from Windows: Glass can shatter due to the force of hail or lightning.

6. Wait for the All-Clear: Once the storm has passed, wait a few minutes before exiting the car to ensure there’s no further danger of lightning strikes.

Are Cars Safe In Thunderstorms?

A lightning bolt contains so much energy that it can instantly vaporize anything in its path, including human beings. That’s why it’s so important to take cover when thunderstorms are in the area. If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning.

Given the incredibly enormous energies involved during a lightning, cars are safe places, despite the popular myths. Lightning can travel through metal (do not rely completely on the Faraday cage effect), and therefore it can travel through a car.

Water can conduct electricity, meaning that driving in standing water can be dangerous, and windows can shatter due to the force of the lightning. Therefore, it is important to take safety precautions when driving in a thunderstorm.

Insufficient Data To Know Exactly How Lightning Affects Occupants

There isn’t a vast amount of statistical data regarding cars being struck by lightning, but it does occasionally happen. Here’s what we know about what generally happens when a car is struck by lightning:

  1. Safety: The metal body of a car offers some protection to those inside during a lightning strike, due to something called the Faraday cage effect. This principle states that an electromagnetic charge will distribute itself around the exterior of a conductor (in this case, the car’s metal body) and will mostly not penetrate the interior. While the Faraday cage effect offers some protection, it’s important to note that experts like the National Weather Service still advise against staying in a car during a thunderstorm. However, they should avoid touching metal parts inside the vehicle during a storm, such as the steering wheel or gearstick.
  2. Damage to the Car: A lightning strike can cause significant damage to a car. It can fry the car’s electronics, including the onboard computer systems that modern cars rely on, leading to expensive repairs. It can also cause physical damage, including melting parts of the body, blowing out tires, or cracking windows. The damage may not always be obvious at first glance.
  3. Injury: As mentioned earlier, occupants inside a metal-bodied car are largely protected due to the Faraday cage effect, but this doesn’t mean they’re completely risk-free. Lightning can cause temporary blindness or deafness due to the intense light and sound of the strike. There’s also the risk of panic or shock leading to accidents. Lightning can also electrify puddles or wet ground, which can pose a danger if someone steps out of the car without careful precaution.
  4. Aftermath: After a lightning strike, the car should be checked thoroughly by a professional for any physical or electrical damage.

What To Do During The Storm

are cars safe in thunderstorms
Take precautions during a thunderstorm

Pull Off The Road

The first safety precaution to take when a thunderstorm is approaching is to pull off the road and find shelter. Additionally, no one should stand outside the car, as lightning can strike people in open areas.

If You Can’t Pull Off, Then Avoid Water And Stay Away From The Glass

If stuck in the car, drivers should avoid putting the car near anything tall and should avoid contact with water, as water can conduct electricity. It is also important to stay away from windows, as glass can shatter due to hail or force of the lightning.

Once the storm has passed, it is important to wait a few minutes before exiting the car. Drivers should check to make sure that the area is safe and that there is no further danger of lightning strikes. If it is safe to exit the car, it is important to check for any damage, such as broken windows or dents caused by hail.

The Myth Of Rubber Tires Being Protective During A Thunderstorm

The Rubber Tire effect is the idea that rubber tires protect cars from lightning, as rubber is an insulator. This myth is false according to the NOAA despite the fact that rubber tires offer a slight barrier to protect a car from lightning.

What Will Happen If Cars Are Hit By Lightning?

When they are exposed to the elements, cars are typically hit by lightning during thunderstorms. If a car is hit by lightning, the electrical current can travel through the metal of the car and cause damage to the electronics.

This can include frying the computer system, damaging the audio system, and causing the airbags to deploy. In some cases, cars have been known to catch on fire after being hit by lightning.

If your car is hit by lightning, be sure to have it checked out by a professional before driving it again.

If your car is struck by lightning and won’t start, there are a few things you can do. First, check the battery. If it’s dead, you’ll need to replace it. If the battery is okay, then check the starter motor. If it’s not working, you’ll need to have it replaced.

If the car still doesn’t start, then you may have a problem with the fuel system. Check the fuel pump and the injectors to make sure they’re working. If they’re not, then you’ll need to have them replaced.

Finally, if all of these things are working, there may be a problem with the computer system. You’ll need to take the car to a mechanic or dealership to have it checked out.

Can I Charge Electric Cars In The Rain?

Yes, charging electric cars in the rain is fine. Most charging stations are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. Charging electric cars in the rain pose logistical challenges, so it helps to plan out a little.

Charging times will take longer in cold weather, so it is important to have a backup plan in case of a power outage. In addition, charging stations will be crowded if a lot of drivers leave their car there in rainy weather.

You might need to be patient and allow others to charge their vehicles first if necessary. With a little preparation, charging electric cars in the rain is fine: safe and easy process.

As a driver, you should not be in the car during a thunderstorm so get out and head somewhere for shelter until the lightning and thunder have passed.

are cars safe in thunderstorms
Rubber tires don’t protect cars against lightning strikes contrary to common myth

Can I Take My Tesla Through A Car Wash?

A related question – whether its ok to take an electric car through the car wash. Yes it’s fine. Just as a Tesla is protected from the rain, it’s also fine to take it Tesla through a car wash.

Tesla recommends that you do so regularly to keep your vehicle looking its best. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when taking your Tesla through a car wash. First, make sure you choose a car wash compatible with electric vehicles.

Certain models of Telsa even have a “car wash” mode. The car wash mode prepares the car to go into the car wash in a way as much as a gasoline car would be prepared.

Car wash mode closes all windows, checks that the charging port is in closed position and that the wipers aren’t going at the same time which prevents entanglement with cleaning brushes. The Model 3 instructions for car wash are here.

Telsa itself does warn that there are cleaning agents that damage the exterior of the car, and I assume that would be any car not just a Tesla. In particular they call out hydroxides in the cleaning solution.

Some cleaners and car shampoos contain chemicals that can cause damage or discoloration, especially to plastic trim pieces, lamps, or camera lenses. For example, some car cleaning formulas contain hydroxide or other highly alkaline or caustic ingredients that can damage exterior components. Damage or discoloration resulting from cleaning products is not covered by the warranty.

Telsa website

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, it is important to take safety precautions when driving in a thunderstorm. Drivers should pull off the road and find shelter as soon as possible. Once in the car, all passengers should stay inside, avoiding metal, water, and windows.

After the storm passes, it is important to wait a few minutes before exiting the car and checking for any damage. By taking these safety precautions, drivers and passengers can stay safe during a thunderstorm.

Staff Writer
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