Cigarette lighter problems

Cigarette lighter problems can be a big issue because this power outlet is now used for so many other devices. It is also this fact that makes cigarette lighter problems more common today than ever. Most of the times this circuit is protected by a 20 amp fuse.

Picture of blown fuse

blown fuse

Spikes in amperage can cause this fuse to blow and the outlet to become inoperative. If you depend on the cigarette lighter to charge your cell phone or run iPod car accessories and other high-tech gadgets you may find yourself banging on the dashboard in frustration.

You can check with your owners manual to find out the location of the cigarette lighter fuse. On some vehicles is not called the cigarette lighter fuse and may be considered a courtesy fuse. In the old days most fuse panels were under the dash near the drivers area. On modern vehicles fuse panels can be commonly found in the engine compartment.


Cigarette lighter blows fuses

Picture of car cigar lighter

cigar lighter

The cigarette or sometimes called a cigar lighter is basically a heating element that automatically releases itself from the Pushed in position when the appropriate heat level is reached. If this automatic ejection system malfunctions the heating element and the lighter can become too hot and blow the fuse. The lighter socket is often used as a power outlet. Shorted or malfunctioning accessories can also blow the fuse when plugged into the power outlet.

On many vehicles the location of the cigarette lighter socket can also cause some problems. On vehicles where the socket is mounted in a console debris and liquids can get down inside the socket and short it out. Also many times I have found a penny or a dime laying in the bottom of one of these type of sockets.

Sometimes cigarette lighter problems are not a blown fuse or shorted socket. If the fuse is good you have to make certain that power is present at the receptacle. Since this is a 12 V system you can use a standard test light or an automotive meter. If you find 12 V at the cigar lighter socket you probably have a bad socket assembly. Before you go out and get a new car you should also check for a strong ground connection.


Testing cigar lighter for power

Picture of power outlets

power outlets

On most vehicles the ground is supplied to the shell. Often this is a black wire with a spade like connector. You can take your 12 V test light and connected to a positive terminal such as the positive terminal of the battery. You then take the point of the test light and touch it to the spade connector on the black wire. If the light lights up you have a good ground if it doesn’t you have a bad ground.

Keep in mind that on some vehicles they will be equipped with additional or multiple sockets sometimes considered accessory power outlets. On most vehicles all of these outlets are on the same circuit. You should check for problems with all of the outlets before you start replacing any of them. As an example I had one that was blowing a fuse and found that a child had probably put a dime in the rear compartment cigarette lighter socket.

If you’re looking for some more information about automotive electronics I have some articles about do-it-yourself auto electrical diagnosis. You can also head back to the main page of this car repair blog for the latest articles and posts.


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