My Car Keeps Electrically Shocking Me

My car is a 2002 Buick Century. I can start my car, but as soon as I touch the outside metal of my car, I get a shock. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s quite powerful. It doesn’t happen unless I try to start my car. Also, if I try to start my car and it doesn’t quite start or I just shut it off, I can’t start it for the next 5 minutes or so, unless I just barely had turned it on. Then it’s only a couple of minutes, but It doesn’t like to start at that point.

You have 2 problems…one is related to static electricity and the other the charging system(battery,cables,spark plug wires etc)

What’s happening is actually two discharges. When you start to get out you are charged to the potential of the car. Then your foot touches the ground and you discharge to the ground. Then you touch the car door and you become the path for all of the car’s charge to discharge to ground. It’s this second discharge that you feel - the first one happens through footwear and often is unnoticed, also your body doesn’t carry as much charge as the vehicle, so the first discharge is relatively small.

A conductive strap hanging below the car works to eliminate this problem entirely. When travelling quickly, the air pushes the strap up so it doesn’t wear on the road all the time, but they do have to be replaced periodically. These disallow high charges to develop on the car, and don’t themselves create sparks because the potential is simply never allowed to get that high.

I touch the door with the back of my hand or fingers after I get out, so the discharge occurs on the back of my hand or fingers. This is much less sensitive than my fingertips where I’d usually contact the car to close the door.

In theory you can weld small needles to the metal frame of the car pointing toward the ground. When the car is at a high potential, these will emit electrons and discharge the potential more quickly than the rounded, painted edges of the car. I don’t know if this discharge would be fast enough to eliminate the shocks you feel, though, since you stop the car and immediately exit, but it should reduce them without the ground contact of a strap. You’ll need to choose a metal, alloy, or conductive covering that won’t rust, or you’ll be replacing them frequently.

If there’s a part of the car you hold onto as you exit, attaching a wire from that part to the frame will also work. So on my van I hold onto the door handle as I exit the vehicle. It’s plastic, though, so it doesn’t conduct the vehicle’s charge to me until I touch the outer edge of the door frame. There are screws in the handle, so if I touched the screws, or attached copper tape along the inside edge of the handle to the screws then the discharge would happen at my feet as I left the vehicle, rather than between the door and my hand.

Lastly, you can get some plastic edge guards for the door frame. If you install one and train yourself to only ever touch that as you close the door you should find the discharges go away. If your trip away from the car was short, though, you’ll get a shock as you touch the door handle or door when you return.

The conductive strap, however, is a cheap simple solution, available for $10 including shipping from some online stores, and can probably be found or ordered at your local auto parts stores. Hang it well under the vehicle where it won’t be easily seen if you don’t want well meaning people to constantly notify you that you’ve got something hanging under your car!


I agree there are likely two things going on, but they might not be connected. I think your starter might be close to complete failure, and wearing anything wool, like a suit, sweater, or coat can create the potential for spark. The only time I get a spark problem is when I wear my Navy peacoat, so I don’t wear it as often as I used to.

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I think whitey is right that there are two seperate problems.

As to the static, try wearing clothing made of cotton without polyester. Cotton won’t build up a static charge. Polyester will.

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I had a truck that I got a static shock from often when entering or leaving the vehicle.
Just about drove me nuts. Ok…more nuts than I normally am!!!

I realized that it only happened to me when I wore a pair of boots that were fleece lined.
I stopped wearing those boots and never got another static shock.


Back in the day; when almost all seat upholstery was nylon or similar, stactic shocks were very common. I remember seatcovers for Rayco and similar stores were often very bad. I grew up in the rust belt where Winter humidity was very low; increasing the shocking.

We would install " Static Straps" which were reinforced rubber with a cool lightning bolt logo. They had a metal grommet for bolting to the undercarrage. Some people just welded chain to the frame letting it drag on the ground.

OP, explain the exact conditions when you get a shock. Is it that you get in the car, close the door, start the engine, then when you touch something metal on the outside of the car (by putting your hand out the window) you feel a shock? And this only happens if you start the engine first? Have you tried doing the same thing, but not starting the engine? I don’t get static shocks much here in San Jose b/c the humidity is higher, but when I lived in Colorado I got them all the time. On my VW Rabbit on really dry days I’d sometimes get a static shock when I entered the car, closed the door, and inserted the key into the ignition switch. Right as the key approached the ignition switch, zap. Didn’t need to start the engine for that to happen.

Anytime I put the key in the ignition and turned it to start up the car, it would start building charge and when I would touch the outside of the car, it would shock me. One time when I first found out about having to start it a little bit later, I sat there and tried to start it for a good while and when I stepped out, my leg touched the bottom edge of my door frame and electricity jumped into my leg through my jeans, then jumped around the OUTSIDE of my shoe into the ground. You could smell the electricity and definitely could hear it.

start by eliminating simple things first

spray your car seat with an anti-static spray:

I get bad static shocks myself, especially at work where we have no humidifying system in the air handlers anymore. I am usually in the habit of touching metal door handles with the side of my hand after walking over the carpet with my rubber heeled work shoes. I don’t really feel these sparks. But I sure do if it happens at my fingertips!

The reason it’s unlikely starting the engine has anything to do w/it is b/c for static electricity to jump very far through the air it has to be a really high voltage, like 10,000 volts or more. 10,000 volts per centimeter is a number I’ve often heard for static sparks through dry air. For a spark to jump an inch you’d need 25,000 volts. There isn’t anything in the car that produces that kind voltage except the ignition system coils. And it seems unlikely the coils could be connected to anything you are touching. No harm however to have your shop remove and inspect all the coils, make sure none are cracked or the rubber insulating material damaged. Before doing that however, suggest to repeat the experiment a few times, doing it first when you start the car, then again, do the same thing , but don’t actually start the engine. My guess is the static is building up as you slide across the seat to get into position. One idea, put a couple of 100% cotton towels on the seat, see if that helps. Cotton isn’t able to build up much static electricity by friction.

You can also hold the metal part of the key to touch the body of the car first, the spark will ark at the key and you will feel nothing

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I’ve done this too, got some nice sparks off my old Saturn when I started driving!!