Are Cars Fitted With Lightning Arrestors? Here's Are the Facts

A photo of vehicles driving through a thunderstorm
A photo of vehicles driving through a thunderstorm.

Nairobi motorists were, on Monday, March 23, treated to an unpleasant surprise after the majority of the roads were flooded following heavy downpours experienced in the city.

The Kenya Meteorological Department had warned the country to brace for an El Nino. Despite the warning, motorists lamented that they were unsafe, especially in the rainy reason.

While major concerns were raised on the potential damage that the still or running water could inflict on their cars, lighting flashes raised questions about whether cars were safeguarded from the phenomenon.

A section of Kenyans argued that cars are fitted with lightning arrestors and hence are safe. sought to debunk the claims. 

An image of a car driving through a thunderstorm.
An image of a car driving through a thunderstorm.

According to automobile experts, vehicles are not fitted with lighting arrestors. However, the entire outer metallic shell acts as a conductor, which transmits the electrical charge around the car.

This concept is known as the Faradays Cage, where the electricity chooses the path of least resistance around the vehicle rather than going through it.

The windows and windshield are insulators in this process since glass does not conduct electricity. However, this safety cage only exists if all windows are completely shut.

If any windows are open, or in the case of convertible cars, the charge will choose the easiest path to travel to the ground and, more often, be the tallest object.

The lightning could strike electrical components of the car, such as the radio or defrosting lines and cause damage, including fires depending on the strike's intensity.

Any theory justifying that the wheels of the vehicle act as lightning arrestors is thus misguided. Here's why. The rubber material does not conduct electricity and hence cannot perform the earthing role.

In some incidences, the wheels have been struck by lightning, resulting in fire outbreaks. Experts advise motorists to avoid touching the metallic surface of a vehicle during lightning and thunderstorms.

Motorists are also cautioned against touching electrical parts or operating cell phones when using convertible cars or when the Faraday Cage is broken.

A collage of shark fins.
A collage of shark fins.
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