Winter electrostatic shock

Every time some asks about winter electrical discharge you talk about tires, clothing and grounding strips. Great but a much easier solution is to simply hold on to the metal part of the ignition key as you exit the car and with the key touch any metal part of the car once you have exited. If you are worried about cooking the electronic whatever on the car key use another all metal key likely to be on the same key ring. The spark that we all hate will pass harmlessly and painlessly from the tip of the key to the car.

That method is still resulting in a sparking discharge. There is a better way and even simpler than the key method. First though, the number one reason for the static shocks while exiting a car is the friction of our clothing against the seat as we slide across. The reason you often hear mention of only one person getting shocked (usually the driver) is the natural tendency to support ourselves when we rise from the seat. The driver grabs the closest object which is the steering wheel and not grounded while the passenger will grab the door or door frame which is grounded. The easist way to eliminate the shock is for the driver to use their left hand to grab the pillar where the door latches or possibly the upper part of the front pillar with their right hand if the particular car makes that easier and hold onto it until you have fully exited the car and your feet are on the ground then, you can let go and there will be no shock. The key is to make sure you are holding any piece of the metal body of the car until you are out of the car with your feet on the ground. As soon as your buns leave the seat and your feet are on the ground, you can let go. This will work 100% of the time! One note: Do not use the door itself to lift yourself from the car as it places undue stress on the hinges and bushings and your door will sag over time. This is why I use this method all the time to force myself away from my door and help it last longer. Also, the grounding strips mentioned are great for discharging the energy generated by the car but, are useless for seat-generated static.

The key method does result in a static discharge and so does grabbing a metal part of the car while exiting. In both cases, the discharge is spread over a larger portion of the skin so it doesn’t burn a tiny spot.

One of the brothers made a joke about shoes, but shoes can be designed to dissipate the discharge over a longer time frame, milliseconds instead of microseconds. These shoes known as ESD shoes are common in the electronics repair and manufacturing industries. Unfortunately, they are all steel toed. I can see the need for steel toed shoes in most manufacturing plants and repair facilities, but in electronics, how much damage can dropping a microchip on your toe do. Just joking here, some amplifiers and electronics equipment can be quite heavy.

But ESD soled shoes could benefit the rest of us who find ourselves in various shocking environments. They have an added benefit of providing some protection in case of contact with household voltages. Don’t grab a power line though.

The key method causes your body to hold a static charge which must be dissipated by arcing which is what hurts. The grab method dissipates the charge from your body without arcing.

I accidentally solved my electrostatic shock problem by leaving my Navy peacoat in a company truck. It disappeared. When I went back to Burlington Coat Factory to buy another one, they didn’t have any. So I replaced it with a leather jacket. I also sometimes wear a canvas shirt with a fleece lining. I don’t get shocked anymore. I still miss the peacoat, but I don’t miss getting shocked. Eliminating wool from your wardrobe will go a long way in eliminating electrostatic shock.

Jesus, what a damn hassle to go through just to say that spraying Static Guard on the seats works really well. If I had enough presence of mind to remember to ground myself every time I left the vehicle, then I probably would have solved the problem by now.

Move to New Orleans were it is humid enough all year so you won’t have this problem. So what if for 10 months out of the year it is too hot and humid to go outside. It is a small price to pay.

An alternate way to prevent an arcing discharge is to discharge using a resistor. Materials like wood, paper, or cloth are commonly called “insulators”, but in reality they do conduct electricity, just very slowly. So you could just wear cloth gloves and touch all you want, but you’ll need to touch the metal for a couple of seconds longer if you want to get rid of the electrical charge in your body. You won’t be able to pull this off with actual insulators such as glass, rubber (*), and many plastics.

  • To be honest, I don’t remember if rubber is as insulative as glass. When in doubt, use an ammeter/ohmmeter.

Both methods discharge the same amount of energy in the same timeframe. Both methods protect from pain by dissipating the shock over a larger area. The key method does not hurt, I use it, or a coin all the time. I also use the “grab the body” method for cars, but you can build up a static charge in places other that getting in and out of a car.

Do the ESD soled shoes come in assorted colors? Do they make steel toed high heals for the office?