The Aftermath of a Lightning Strike on Your Car: Common Damage and How to Protect Your Vehicle

Many people believe that the rubber tires of a vehicle protect its occupants during a lightning strike, but it is actually the metal structure that keeps them safe. This is known as the "skin effect," where the outer surface conducts most of the electricity and the vehicle acts as a Faraday cage to protect those inside.

While it’s good to know that you will be safe in case of a lightning strike, your car probably won’t come out of it unscathed. The electronic components within the vehicle are the most likely to be damaged during a lightning strike, as is damage to the antenna, electrical system, rear windshield, and tires. In some cases, the heat from a lightning strike even ignites a fire that can destroy the vehicle.

It’s important to know what to do when you and your car get caught in a lightning storm and what the possible damage can be.

What to do if you are inside a vehicle during a lightning storm?

When you get caught in a lightning storm while driving, look for a safe spot to pull over and switch off the car. Avoid touching any metal components or components that connect to the outside of the vehicle such as the door or window handles, radio, gear shifter or steering wheel. The best thing to do is to put your hands on you lap and wait patiently until the storm passes.

Identifying damage done by lightning

If your new car or used car has been struck by lightning, it's important to identify the locations and potential faults that may have occurred. One of the first places to check is the wheel rims, wheel nuts, and tires. Look for electrical arcing marks on the wheel nuts and white marks running from the rim to the outer end of the tire, with arc marks on the rim. These tires and rims should be inspected on both sides. If you find white marks, the tires should be replaced as the rubber may have been damaged, which can lead to a flat wheel or blowout in the future.

Another area to check is the vehicle's antenna, roof, and wiper arms. The antenna may have arc marks on it or be completely destroyed. The roof may have more pronounced arc or burn marks. Additionally, there may be problems with the vehicle's electrical system such as the engine not starting, the instrument panel not functioning, or some of the instrument panel functions not working. Connection to control modules with diagnostic equipment may also not be possible, there may be CAN Bus errors, most common DTC on the control modules and most modules connected to the CAN bus may be faulty, ABS sensors may be faulty, and Fuel rail pressure sensor may be faulty.

It is always best to book your vehicle in at one of our CFAO Mobility Peugeot centres where a professional technician can diagnose and repair any damage caused by a lightning strike. You must remember that any damage cause by lightning will not be covered by your car’s warranty but most car insurances do.