What are these car reflector things?
July 14, 2011 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Triangular reflector on a metal bar hanging from the left side of a car's bumper (Pics: Car 1, Car 2). What's it for?

I've seen these on two cars in different areas of my neighborhood (Cupertino, CA). The one in the first picture looks complete, as it has the reflector and a wire also appears to be attached to it. The one in the second picture is missing the reflector and wire. The reflector looks similar to the slow moving vehicle caution triangle, except upside down. I've never seen either car being driven. I haven't been able to get a close look at either one, so I don't know if there are any kind of identifying markings.

WTF are these for? It seems like the bar would scrape the ground if the car went over any sort of substantial bump or dip in the road. Are they some kind of secondary brake light? Parking helper?
posted by zsazsa to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Best answer: That my friend is an anti static strip for a car. You would think the fact that it doesn't actually touch the ground would have a negative impact on its usefulness, but I can safely say that it does not affect its function at all... (/snark)
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 2:44 PM on July 14, 2011

Best answer: These straps, minus the reflector, are supposed to be grounding straps that help discharge static electricity from the car.

That said, I don't think they actually do anything - they're too far off the ground to actually ground the car and most static gets built up by rubbing your butt on your seat as you get in or out of the car.
posted by GuyZero at 2:45 PM on July 14, 2011

Response by poster: Ah, of course. I actually considered that it could be a for dissipating static electricity, knowing that emergency vehicles often have chains hanging underneath them for that purpose. For some reason I discounted that since these straps looked too ridiculous.
posted by zsazsa at 2:58 PM on July 14, 2011

They are anti-static strips. To work, they should be touching the ground, yes. You can see straps flying along the ground on semi-trucks sometimes.

See, 30 years ago, tires were made with a chemical that made them very, very good and conducting electricity into the ground, so, no static shocks during the winter. That chemical has been banned for use in rubber compounds and so unlucky people like myself get shocked going into and getting out of their vehicle during the winter.

It sucks.
posted by InsanePenguin at 2:59 PM on July 14, 2011

The static isn't generated by the car - you get it from moving your butt around on the synthetic fabric surface of your car seat. You're the one with the static charge, not your car.

Apparently some older tires used to insulate the car enough that a charge did build up in the car but that shouldn't happen on any modern car/tires.

The compound that tires used to use is silica in place of carbon but they apparently have either stopped silica or have done something else to improve electrical conductance in modern tires.
posted by GuyZero at 3:24 PM on July 14, 2011

It looks like that person tied their anti-static strip to a plastic bumper.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Those strips used to be very popular when I was a kid growing up in the UK; for some reason I remember them being most common on clapped-out Ford Cortinas.

There is a trick I heard years ago to avoiding static shocks on getting out of the car: hold the top of the door-frame (so that your fingers are touching the car body) before, and as, you step out of the car. This means that you discharge any static charge on the car as your foot touches the ground; rather than *zap* *ouch* when you touch the car door to close it.

Anecdotally it seems to work when I remember to do it.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:23 PM on July 14, 2011

Tiny thing I learned about shocks on the finger...

If you hold a key, coin, or something metal, and use it to touch the offending object before your skin makes contact directly, you feel no shock because the arc does not occur at your skin. Works for bare hands only. The shock can still arc though the fabric of a glove and get you.
posted by colinshark at 5:44 PM on July 14, 2011

InsanePenguin: "... so unlucky people like myself get shocked going into and getting out of their vehicle during the winter. It sucks."

Buy one of these. I keep it on my car key ring and no more zaps!
posted by workerant at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2011

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