When it comes to the safety of our vehicles, we can be pretty confident about managing through different kinds of weather. Rain, snow or winds, most weather patterns are unlikely to deter us from driving.
But lightning? That’s another matter entirely. And it’s the times we need to brave through a thunderstorm that we ask ourselves the question: do tires protect you from lightning? Well here’s what you need to know.
Do tires protect you from lightning?
While it is correct that rubbers an electrical insulator rather than a conductor, the reality is that the voltage of a lightning strike is far too powerful for even the biggest tires to handle. Once you take into account that your tires will also likely be wet from the storm, that pretty much guarantees that they will be useless in the face of a lightning strike.
In fact, if your tires are steel belted then not only will they not protect from a lightning strike, but the will all but certainly get blown out too!
Why do people think tires protect you from lightning?
The idea is that rubber is an insulator. An insulator is a material that does not conduct electricity which would theoretically mean that it would protect you from a lightning strike. However, the problem is that rubber is not a very good insulator. While it certainly is made of rubber, the make up of a tire will also include metals like steel.
On top of that, the rubber in your tires really isn’t thick enough to withstand the power of a lightning strike, in much the same way as set of rubber boots won’t save you if you’re out walking in a storm.
Does that mean you aren’t safe in your car from a lightning strike?
However, that doesn’t mean you’re a sitting duck when stuck in a storm, because the metal frame of your vehicle likely will protect you from lightning.
The way it works is that the metal will conduct the electricity from the lightning strike around the outside of your car, rather than through it. The frame of your car acts as a faraday cage and ensures you will be safe on the inside.
This is a similar idea to a lightning rod which conducts electricity and becomes the lightning’s path of least resistance and so it ends up avoiding the passengers inside.
However, it should be noted that this is only true of you have a hard-topped metal frame on your vehicle. Something like a convertible will be completely at risk and will serve no protection from a potential lightning strike.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can lightning pass through tires?
Yes, a lightning strike is far too powerful for even the biggest tires to handle. The voltage of a lightning strike is too great for any kind of rubber, including that in your tires, to protect against.
Is it safe to be in a car during lightning?
Most cars are absolutely safe from lightning strikes due to their metal frame. However, cars without metal frames of without a top at all (convertibles) and absolutely at risk. It is worth noting that while a passenger will be protected from a lightning strike, the vehicle’s circuitry will likely be fried.
Tires do not protect you from lightning despite being insulators as the sheer force of the lightning bolt is just too much for a meagre tire to handle. However, if you are in a closed top vehicle with a metal frame, then you are likely safe from a lightning strike as the metal will conduct the electricity around the outside of your car.
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