looking for tiny earthing car accessory
January 25, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for a tiny car earthing accessory I had years back. You touched the car with it before touching it with your bare hand, which would "defuse" (?) the static electricity and keep you from getting shocked by the car.

It was a small seethrough glass tube, with metal contacts on both sides. Inside there were some sort of wires that didn't quite touch, and the electricity would "jump" that gap and... not hurt, basically. It was on a little chain so you could add it to your keyfob.

I would LOVE to have one again but I can't find it at local (Brighton, UK) stores and don't know what to search for online. I've tried combinations with "earthing" as advised by one sales assistant, but no luck.

Any pointers or ideas for search terms? Do you even know what I'm talking about? I never saw one of those things again after originally buying one (around 12 years ago) in Luxembourg.

Thanks!

PS I'm not personally interested it "dunno, but here's what worked for me" car stories, as I don't actually have a car, I just get lots of static shocks at the office.
Feel free to add them for posterity tho!
posted by ClarissaWAM to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Response by poster: PPS Of course I would be interested in something like "it's trivially easy to make something that has the same function by..." etc.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:31 AM on January 25, 2011


Best answer: Touch the object with any metal object you like - a set of keys or something. Or carry a metal thimble and use that. There's no reason why you should need a special gadget.

In the absence of a metal object, touch the object with the back of your hand or your knuckles - a static shock will still occur, but there are far fewer nerve endings there and you'll feel almost nothing.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:40 AM on January 25, 2011


Best answer: There are a few here.

I just did a google image search for "static car accessory".
posted by backwards guitar at 5:45 AM on January 25, 2011


Best answer: Those products are just pretty versions of le morte de bea arthur's suggestion. They are conductive materials that you use to initiate contact with stuff that might shock you. They don't eliminate the shock; they just move it away from your skin. A piece of silverware, a key on your keyring, or even the keyring itself would accomplish the same thing.
posted by jon1270 at 5:50 AM on January 25, 2011


Response by poster: Touch the object with any metal object you like - a set of keys or something. Or carry a metal thimble and use that. There's no reason why you should need a special gadget.

Oh. I always thought it was the "gap" that did the magic. Cuz if I touch, say, a metal doorhandle with a metal object, doesn't the static just jump straight over and still touch my skin with just the surface of the key?
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:56 AM on January 25, 2011


Best answer: No. The gap is where the spark happens, and the spark is what has the potential to cause pain, but if neither side of the gap is your skin then you won't feel the spark. The spark will occur between the doorhandle and the metal object you're holding. The charge on your body will flow smoothly and painlessly through the metal object you're holding, and the violent part (the spark) will occur away from your body.
posted by jon1270 at 6:01 AM on January 25, 2011


Best answer: jon1270 speaks the truth. Like you, I'm always getting zapped at the office, but I learned to touch (for example) the filing cabinet with a metal key before I touch it myself. You'll feel a sensation, and you'll know the electricity has discharged, but it won't hurt at all.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:22 AM on January 25, 2011


I find it easiest to discharge static by touching the side of my car with my knee. My knees are much less sensitive to being zapped than my fingers.
posted by Nomyte at 6:38 AM on January 25, 2011


I used to have some crazy tires that made it impossible to exit the car and close the door without getting zapped. Eventually I figured out that if I put my hand on the bodywork as I put my foot down I wouldn't get shocked (or at least wouldn't feel it).
posted by pjaust at 6:48 AM on January 25, 2011


Best answer: If you DO want a pretty device, ThinkGeek also sells one:
posted by Sugar Induced Coma at 8:06 AM on January 25, 2011


Response by poster: Well I never. Have been walking around with a small key and it works. Yay!

Might still get a pretty device all for the fun of it. Thanks all!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:04 AM on January 25, 2011


FYI, the only benefit to the pretty ones (aside from their prettiness) is that they're made from soft materials that won't scratch your car's paint.
posted by jon1270 at 9:07 AM on January 25, 2011


I have no input on the question but I am curious that this appears to be such a widespread phenomenon that there are apparently many products made to counter the effect. I can't recall ever getting a shock from touching a car like this. What is the difference? Type of car? Humidity in the air? I'm from northwest Washington state, so maybe the perpetually damp air reduces the potential for shock?

I've just never heard of this being an issue before and want to know the SCIENCE!! behind the phenomenon.
posted by xedrik at 1:13 PM on January 25, 2011


AFAIK, it has to do with the tires. Apparently the rubber in some tires is formulated in such a way as to cause such charges to accumulate as the car is driven. The Car Talk guys have gone so far as to recommend returning tires if this problem is discovered after a tire purchase.

I wouldn't be surprised if humidity were a factor too.
posted by jon1270 at 1:38 PM on January 25, 2011


Response by poster: I am curious that this appears to be such a widespread phenomenon that there are apparently many products made to counter the effect.

Just to weigh in again, I'm pretty sure it depends on the "recipient" of the shock as well (tho someone may come and refute my claim). I inherited my 2nd car from my mum, and while both she and my dad had never had any issues with it, I was shocked all the time - sometimes so badly that there was an actual visible spark jumping from the car to my hand. (this was a Mazda 323, which incidentally had a reputation for giving off shocks)

I also constantly got electric discharges from our microwave, when neither of my parents did. (and usually I'd be in socks or barefoot at home, so rubber soles couldn't have been an issue). When I held my little gadget to the microwave, it basically glowed continuously, so there must have been some electric leak (?) somewhere. Yet my parents were never shocked (and my mum still hasn't replaced it!).

Aaand just to update about my recent experiments with "any metal object" - while it has drastically improved things, sometimes I still get a slightly painful shock even through a key.

I'm hyper-electric! I wish I could shoot sparks from my hands, that would be such a cool superpower!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:44 AM on January 27, 2011


Could have to do with how you walk. If you shuffle / drag your feet across carpeting, you'll build up more of a charge than would someone who picks their feet up. Do you wear out shoe soles quickly?
posted by jon1270 at 7:31 AM on January 27, 2011


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