How can I avoid generating so much static electricity in my car during winter months?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

How do you stop the "Charge" you get when you slide out of your car on winter days? The spark from me to the first metal object (usually the driver's door) can jump about six inches!

RAY: C'mon, Steve. Six inches? I think you're exaggerating a bit. How about half an inch?

TOM: However far it jumps, static electricity can be annoying, if not painful. And it's pretty common in the winter because the humidity is so low. Here are our "anti-static" tips.

RAY: 1) Stop wearing those powder-blue, polyester leisure suits with the white piping. Polyester and some other synthetic fabrics seem to increase the buildup of static electricity between your butt and the car seat. Besides, my brother will pay you top dollar for them.

TOM: 2) See if you have Michelin MXV4 radial tires (or some other "low rolling resistance" tires designed to increase fuel economy). For the first year or so the MXV4s were out (before they were redesigned), people who used them complained of excessive static electricity buildup in their cars, presumably because the MXV4s weren't dissipating static electricity as well as higher rolling resistance tires. Several 1994 model cars (including Honda Accords) came with MXV4s as standard equipment. And other "low rolling resistance" tires may have similar effects on static buildup.

RAY: 3) If all else fails, use your ignition key to dissipate the charge. As you slide out, touch the tip of the key to the driver's door. That way the key will get the spark and you won't.

TOM: Oh, now you've done it. Now we're going to get letters from the SPCI: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ignition keys.

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