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Is It Possible for Your Car to Be Struck by Lightning? What Would Happen?

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Lightning Thunder rain storm clouds

Being in the right place when a thunderstorm hits can have life-or-death importance. If there’s lightning travelling between the sky and the ground, it’s imperative to escape to a location that makes you less of a target for lightning—not more.

Is a vehicle a safe place to hide during a thunderstorm? Or is a car a more likely target for lightning? The answer is…both.


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The Likelihood and Effects of Your Car Being Struck by Lightning

Experts actually recommend that if you don’t have access to a building to hide from the storm, you should head to a car with a hard cover (not a soft-top convertible). Even though lightning has a higher likelihood of striking a car than other objects (actually passing through trees and such obstacles to reach the vehicle), a car is generally a safe shelter.

Many people assume that cars are safe during lightning strikes because of their rubber tires, but that’s not the case. In actuality, the lightning hits the vehicle (either its roof or antenna) and travels through the metal frame of the vehicle before flowing into the ground. This current’s path travels around the outside of the car, like a Faraday cage that blocks electrical charges by distributing them across the exterior.

If you are hiding in a car to escape from lightning, make sure you don’t touch metal parts that are attached to the frame (like the doors and pedals) or electrical components (like the steering wheel). Stay off your phone and be prepared if the air bags are triggered to deploy. Wait for the storm to pass and any remaining charge to disperse before touching or exiting the vehicle. Check for damage to the vehicle, such as flat tires, leaks, or fried interior components.

In worst-case scenarios, the lightning could spark a fire, and you should exit the vehicle quickly before an explosion occurs if you notice signs of a fire—even if the storm hasn’t passed.


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Sources: Weather.com, Storm Highway