Tis the Season for Subaru Static Shocks


Mr. T

If you live in a Dry Climate and own a Subaru, tis the Season to learn
how not to be shocked when you leave your car.

I've been on a quest over recent days to solve this, and here's what
I've found. Static Guard does work, and you can make "Static Guard", by
mixing a teaspoon of liquid fabric-softener into a quart of water. Spray
this lightly on your seat, and Presto, no more shocks for a few days to
a few weeks.

To prevent sparks entirely, we must somehow stop the charge separation
process between You and the Seat. This can be done by:

* Changing your shoe soles to another type (try leather)
* Raising the humidity in the car.
* Installing a balanced-polarity ionizer fan (try the $50 static
eliminator # MI9957, from C&H Sales) http://snipurl.com/jsy8
* Wearing metal-coated shoe soles (try alum. foil, but it's slippery)
* Change seat covers to Cloth. The type of Fabric Subaru uses is
much of the problem. Leather seated Subarus don't suffer this issue (as

Much more info here, good reading, some of the article is posted below.


The Cause, Stopping the Pain, and "Electric People"

"Static electric" sparks can be irritating and their cause sometimes
seems mysterious. Most people have encountered painful car-door sparks,
as well as those wintertime sparks from doorknobs and large metal
objects. What causes these? What can be done to stop them?

As children, most of us learn the trick of scuffing our shoes across the
carpet in order to charge our bodies. Then we go to search for victims
to "zap" with our electric fingers. Sparks from rug-scuffing are
familiar. If you scuff your feet on the carpet, you expect to be zapped
by the next doorknob you touch. But why do our bodies sometimes become
charged from simply walking around?

Actually, no friction or rug-scuffing is required in order to
electrically charge your body. The need for friction is a widespread
misconception. While it's true that the friction will increase the
charge-separation process, friction isn't the cause. Whenever two
different insulating surfaces touch together, opposite charges found
within the two surfaces become separated. Simply walking across certain
rugs or plastic flooring will cause your shoe soles to touch the
dissimilar material of the rug. This is enough to separate the negatives
from the positives and create imbalanced electric charges on the bottoms
of your shoes.

"Static" electricity ( more correctly called "net electric charge" )
appears whenever the normal quantities of positive and negative
electricity in a substance are not perfectly equal. Remember that
everything is made of atoms, and atoms in turn are made of positive and
negative electric charges. In other words, your body is just a
collection of positive and negative electrical particles. Normally the
positives cancel out the negatives, and everything behaves electrically
"neutral." No mysterious sparking. But if you ever end up with more
negative than positive, or with more positive than negative, then you
have a charge-imbalance on your body. You will get zapped the next time
you touch a large metal object.

Exactly how can this imbalance occur? Whenever we walk, the soles of our
shoes steal some negative charge from the floor. We leave behind
electrified positive footprints, and our bodies aquire an overall
imbalance of negatives. (Or sometimes vice versa with the negative and
positive, since polarity is determined by the type of shoe soles and the
type of rug.) After many footsteps, our bodies attain a high level of
electric charge and a high voltage. Body-voltage can easily rise to
several thousand volts, and the next time you touch someone else...
ZAP!, the imbalanced charge gets shared between you and the other
person. The spark is painful because it's extremely hot. It drills into
your skin like a white-hot needle, creating a microscopic burned area.

The simplest cure: before touching a doorknob, a car door, etc., first
touch it with a metal car key. The fiercely hot spark will blast the tip
of the metal key rather than blasting your sensitive fingertip, and it
will painlessly discharge your body's charge. (Grip your keys firmly so
no spark appears between the keys and your skin.) Once you've been
discharged, you can safely grab the doorknob. However, if you walk
around some more, or if you sit upon a plastic car seat, you'll again
need to use the keys discharge yourself.

As with the car keys, the problem can also be prevented by discharging
your excess body-charge in some way that doesn't cause pain. This can be
done by:

* Grabbing the metal car door as you climb out of the car.
* FIRMLY Holding your car keys, a coin, or a metal pen, touch it to
grounded metal objects.
* Knocking your knuckles against doorknobs (fewer nerve endings, less

The sparking problem is usually found in low-humidity locations, such
as in air-conditioned office buildings. High humidity prevents the
charge-separation which causes sparks. Raising the humidity in the
environment stops the sparking. High humidity makes the surfaces of
shoes and rugs slightly conductive, so the separated charges can
instantly flow back together. Usually all of the "static electricity"
will vanish when the RH is above 60%.

Or, if we spray the floor with antistatic liquid, this can do the same
thing as raising the humidity. Antistatic liquids aren't magical, they
simply make surfaces slightly conductive so the charge-separation cannot
occur. Make your own antistatic spray by mixing a teaspoon of liquid
fabric-softener into a quart of water.

Simple solution: whenever sparking is possible, carry a metal object
such as a pen or a set of keys. Hold them firmly and use them to touch
any large metal objects. If the spark is blasting the end of your car
keys, then it isn't burning a hole in your finger. And right after the
spark has occurred, you can grab that metal without a problem.

For car-door sparks: if you touch the metal shell of the car as you
climb from your seat, there will be no high-voltage buildup and no
painful spark. This is good news for the passengers in your car who
might not be carrying any keys or coins.

Another solution: always knock your knuckles against doorknobs before
grabbing the knob. This won't stop the spark, but the spark is less
painful when it bores into your knuckle rather than into your delicate
fingertips. If you whack your knuckles hard, you barely feel the spark
at all. After all, you're EXPECTING the small pain of your knuckle
impact, and you are controlling the impact, so the pain of the spark
isn't uncontrolled and unexpected. For some reason, unexpected sparks
hurt far more than the ones you produce intentionally.

If you REALLY hate sparks, you might consider wearing a metal sewing
thimble upon one finger at all times. Touch the thimble to the doorknob
(or to other metal objects) and you'll feel no huge "zap." The spark
will still occur, but the pain is gone. Note that the metal of the
thimble MUST touch your skin, otherwise you won't stop the spark. If you
want to experiment with thimbles in the ends of gloves or mittens, put
the thimbles INSIDE the fingers of the gloves.

If you keep getting zapped at work, or if you keep crashing your
computer, consider wearing a wrist strap with a wire connected to an
electrical "ground." These are inexpensive on ebay.com, typically less
than $10, just search for keyword "electrostatic" and you'll find some.
While you wear a grounded wrist-strap, your body cannot charge up at all.

The cause of car-door sparking is well known: contact-electrification
between insulating surfaces, followed by separation of those surfaces.
But what does this mean? Well, *YOU* are one surface, and THE CAR SEAT
is the other. When you sit on a plastic car seat in dry weather, the
contact between your clothes and the seat's surface causes the
electrical charges within atoms of the material to transfer between the
surfaces. This is our old friend "frictional" or "contact" charging. One
surface ends up with more negative charges than positive, and has a
negative charge-imbalance. The other surface has fewer negatives than
positives, so it has a positive imbalance. This is nearly same thing as
rubbing a balloon upon your hair: both surfaces become electrically
charged. But rather than rubbing just your hair, instead you're rubbing
your entire back, but, and legs upon the car seat surface.

However, nothing happens as long as you remain seated. Just keep
yourself in one place and you won't get zapped.. As long as the surfaces
remain near each other, the positives and negatives cancel out, and no
overall "electricity" appears and no sparks are possible. But when you
open the car door and step outside, you take just one polarity of charge
along with you, while the car seat has the opposite polarity. At the
same time, the charged-up car seat causes the whole car to become
charged (by a process called "Faraday's Icepail Effect.") As you step
out of the car, the voltage between your body and the car becomes huge,
up to 10,000 or even 20,000 volts. Your shoes are probably insulating,
so the charge has no opportunity to leak into the earth. You reach out
to close the car door and ZAP!, the opposite polarities rejoin by
leaping through the air while giving you a tiny, deep burn on your

How to prevent this? One possibility: change the surface materials.
Identify and avoid the specific clothing which makes the problem worse.
These materials are usually wool sweaters and pants, certain manmade
fabrics, plastic raincoats, etc. Or, replace your cheap plastic car
seatcovers with cloth (stains easily!) or with leather (expensive dead
animals.) Another method: mix up some anti-static solution and spray
your car seats. This solution remains slightly damp for weeks, which
halts the contact-charging process. The formula: a teaspoon of fabric
softener mixed in one quart of water. This tends to work well at first,
but after days it wears off and needs a re-coating. Another sillier
method: always drive barefooted, so the charge will leak away when you
step outside the car. Not good in winter! You could cover your car seats
with a conductor such as aluminum foil, which screws up the
contact-charging effect. Have a tailor make some custom clothing out of
black conductive carbon cloth? Or you could eliminate the problem by
eliminating your clothes. Skin is fairly conductive, so it doesn't
create charge-separation when held against plastic. Driving while nude
might cure the sparking problem (unless you are a very hairy person!)

A less frivilous method: the car-keys trick I mentioned earlier. Develop
the habit of holding your car keys as you leave the car, then grip the
keys firmly and touch the metal car door with the tip of the key. The
spark will still jump, but it will not be painful, since it blasts a
little hole in the tip of the key instead of in your finger. Or simply
grasp the car door as you climb out, and this will drain off the
charge-imbalance faster than it can build up on your body.

Another solution is to hold a metal portion of the car door while your
your feet are in the car. While you move your feet to the ground,
maintain your hand's contact with the door. This will avoid a shock.
Tom said:
Another solution is to hold a metal portion of the car door while your
your feet are in the car. While you move your feet to the ground,
maintain your hand's contact with the door. This will avoid a shock.
Yep, this what I retrain myself to do every winter.

If you live in a Dry Climate and own a Subaru, tis the Season to learn
how not to be shocked when you leave your car.

I am in a VERY dry part of the country on the edge of the Mojave
desert in the Las Vegas NV area. I have never had a problem, summer or
winter, with static and the leather seats in my Forester.
Another solution is to hold a metal portion of the car door while your
your feet are in the car. While you move your feet to the ground,
maintain your hand's contact with the door. This will avoid a shock.

Just mix a spoonful of fabric softener with a few
ounces of water and spray seats & carpets. No
odor, no shocks. Might have to repeat a couple
of times before the dry season's over.

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