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Can Lightning Strike a car? Can You Be Hurt By Lightning In a Car?

Lightning Strike Car

Many people wonder if they can be hurt by lightning in a vehicle. Most of us think about finding a safe spot to wait until the lightning storm is over, but is that a safe option if you find yourself in your car?

Lighting can quickly strike a car, but you should be safe inside—although your vehicle will probably get ruined. Of course, that depends on various factors we’ll mention in the article. Commonly, when lightning strikes a car, it travels through the metal frame and discharges to the ground.

Of course, being in a car during a lightning storm might not be the best option, but here’s what you need to know about the possibility of you being inside the vehicle when lightning strikes.

divider 5 What happens to a car when it gets struck by lighting?

The damage that happens to the car depends on the strike’s energy. The most common damage is to the antenna, tires, electrical system, and rear windshield. The lighting will surely melt any antenna due to the heat, and if the strike is strong, it could damage the whole electrical system so that the car is no longer usable. Also, lighting can find ways to reach defrosting wires embedded in rear windows, resulting in windows cracking.

Lightning Strike Car
Image By: Nancy Tripp Photography, Shutterstock

Damages depending on the energy of the strike

Since every lighting strike will be different and have different intensities, the damages will vary. We have divided the damage into groups for low-energy, medium-energy, and high-energy strikes.

Low-energy strike

Low-energy strikes are the most common lightning strikes that occur. They will not do much harm to you or your vehicle. If your car gets hit by a low-energy strike, it will travel through the metal frame directly into the ground. While it might leave marks and scratches—you and your car should be okay if this happens to you.

thunderstorm with long lightning
Image Credit: eyeonicimages, Pixabay

Medium-energy strike

Medium-energy strikes will leave significant noticeable damage to your car, while you should still be safe inside. They can cause metal melting, fuel tank explosion, fuse burning, minor fires, or damage to the ignition system.

High-energy strike

High-energy strikes are the most dangerous ones. They can hurt you while destroying your car. It could set the vehicle on fire, while for you, it can cause heavy burns or even death. Luckily, these sorts of strikes are very rare.

Why can’t rubber tires protect you from lighting?

There are myths that rubber tires can protect your car from lightning strikes. That is untrue, as rubber tires have nothing to do with protecting your vehicle from lightning strikes. They actually remain incapable of giving enough resistance to the lightning bolt, so they might even melt depending on the strike’s energy.

The most crucial vehicle component that keeps you safe from lightning is the metal frame that absorbs the energy and transmits it back to the ground.

cropped man pressure washing the tires
Image Credit: HutchRock, Pixabay

Can you get electrocuted?

This question also depends on the strike’s energy, and the answer can be both yes and no. Although the lightning can travel safely through the metal frame, sometimes it accesses the wiring and conductive surfaces, leading to injuries to the person inside.

If your car has a solid metal frame, you should be okay, but other vehicles like convertibles are more likely to have more damages, and the outcome for the driver or passengers can be fatal. Your car should be completely closed, the doors and windows need to be shut, and you shouldn’t touch anything inside to lower the chances of electrocution.

Should you remain in the car during a lightning storm?

If your vehicle has a metal frame, you might have the best chances of remaining safe if you stay inside the car. There are some safety precautions you should follow if you find yourself in your car during a lightning storm.

  • Pull off on the side of the road and turn off the engine
  • Close all doors and windows
  • Do not touch the metal components in the vehicle
  • Do not touch electronics
  • Wait for the lightning storm to pass
  • If your vehicle got hit, try to visually inspect the damage before starting your car

divider 5 Conclusion

If you find yourself in your car during a lightning storm, keep calm, and stay inside. Try to remember some of the things we mentioned, and do not touch anything until the storm is over. If your car gets stuck, wait for the power to travel back to the ground before inspecting your vehicle. There’s nothing to be afraid of, so just take deep breaths, use common sense and you will be fine.

Featured Image Credit: Maximilian Pawlikowsky, Shutterstock


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