How a lightning strike affects your car
The UK has been enjoying a pretty good summer so far, and with a bit of luck it might continue through to September. The warmer weather also brings with it a risk of more thunderstorms though, and as a recent incident in the USA indicates, it’s not unknown for a car to be hit by lightning. Many people think that they’re safe in a car because the rubber tyres will protect them, but that is not in fact necessarily the case. Here’s why:
Lightning will flow around the car like a Faraday cage, so the vehicle does protect the occupants, but only if it is fully-enclosed. That means if your windows are open, if you’re driving a convertible (even with the roof up) or part of your vehicle’s frame is not made of metal, the lightning can get inside. It can also travel along the vehicle’s electrical system and interior metal, such as GPS systems, radios, and steering wheels.
So – if you’re caught driving through a thunderstorm and you’re concerned about a strike, it’s always best to pull the car over to the side of the road, turn the engine off and roll up the windows, and place your hands in your lap and feet off the pedals until the storm passes. If your car is hit then don’t panic, just remain seated and wait for the electricity to pass into the earth. Of course if you’re driving a convertible then really you want to be finding another form of shelter altogether!
If you’ve been hit then the chances are at least some damage will have been done to your car. It’s quite common for lightning to cause flat tyres (another good reason to pull over in a storm), and naturally it can result in significant damage to your electrical system, so assuming the car still runs okay, you should get it into the garage for a check-up as soon as you can.