“Argh my cigarette lighter doesn’t work”. That’s a phrase that’s said dozens of times a day in the UK I’m sure. Of all the fuses that can blow in a car, van, motorhome etc the cigarette lighter fuse is the one most likely to do so, but why?
Well that’s easy, it’s because it gets the most use these days even though less and less people smoke. The reason for the increased usage is simply because the cigarette lighter being a 12v socket is used almost non-stop these days to charge phones, run Sat Nav’s etc etc.
As a 12v DC power source you can plug almost any suitable accessory into the cigarette lighter in your vehicle, and it should work perfectly fine.
When your cigarette lighter stops working.
There are a few reasons why it might stop working and the fuse blowing is the most likely. Sometimes it isn’t that the fuse is really to blame it might be something blocking the socket. Often people have messy or untidy interior, and something may well have fallen into the socket. Maybe a 5p piece or some other small object into the socket. Any object that isn’t a good conductor made of rubber or wood for example will reduce if not totally block the current and stop your charger from making proper contact and will often cause the fuse to blow.
If whatever you are trying to use in the socket isn’t being powered just make sure that that it’s not the electrical item that is faulty before you mess around with the car fuses. Try a different appliance in the socket to see if that works in the socket first just to be sure.
What should you do next?
You will need to methodically work through a few things till you locate the problem and some you can do without any specialist equipment but you might want to consider buying a “Digital Multimeter” which range in price but a basic one for you to use at home can be bought here for around £15 – £20.
Ones used by professional mechanics daily needs to be heavy duty, due to the punishment they take and for that reason they can be expensive but there is no need to buy one of those for the average motorist.
So, once you’ve looked carefully inside the cigarette lighter socket (you may need a torch) to make sure there isn’t anything inside that shouldn’t be there. Anything that’s blocking the power from getting through or preventing a good connection needs to be removed.
When removing anything that shouldn’t be there don’t use metal objects to do it, such as tweezers or you could really blow the fuse if it isn’t already. There is also a danger you could get an electric shock from it.
If you have kids, you’ll often find sweets, toys and heaven knows what inside the socket.
Use your car fuse multimeter to see if there is power and ground at the socket. Power is tested on the centre pin of the socket and test the grounding on the barrel’s interior. If you don’t have a multimeter you could just use the actual cigarette lighter if you still have it (non-smokers often lose these). Push the cigarette lighter in firmly and if it does heat up and pop out of the socket then it has power as is fine so it must be a problem with whatever appliance you are trying to use.
If the lighter doesn’t work, then you should examine the cars fuse panel.
Cigarette lighter sockets and most 12v accessories are designed to have some play in them as many have a spring-loaded contact and this ensures a snug fit. However, if contact isn’t being made correctly then your sat nav or phone will not get the required power at all or it may work intermittently and stop working if you drive over bumps in the road and slightly dislodge it.
Replacing the cigarette lighter fuse
I used to have a Ford Focus and trust me the ford focus cigarette lighter fuse is notorious for blowing. With all the old cars I’ve owned including Volvo’s, Peugeots and BMW’s I lost count of the number of 10, 15 or even 20-amp car cigarette fuses I’ve replaced over the years.
In all honesty you must remember that the cigarette lighter was designed originally to be just that. When they were first put in cars no one had a mobile phone or a satellite navigation unit that needed charging.
Expecting it to work perfectly for something it wasn’t designed for is a little unreasonable. New vehicles tend to have USB connectors which are far better to use to plug your phone etc into.
Usually though the lighter socket will work fine, and they only draw around 10 amps of power so the circuits generally use 10 or 15 amp fuses. This does vary depending on the make and model of your car. If you haven’t got the handbook a quick look in the fuse box and you should be able to locate which one it is and make sure you replace it with a like for like.
You can buy a small supply of fuses in various sizes very cheaply these days so you may as well buy a mixture and just keep the ones you don’t use.
The cigarette lighter fuse the same as any fuse can blow when the circuit draws more amperage than the fuse is supposed to handle. So, a 10-amp fuses drawing 15-20 amps will blow. It is supposed to do so as a fail-safe.
Don’t be tempted to replace the fuse that has blown with a higher rated fuse to stop it blowing again but please do not ever do that. It can be very dangerous to do that as the wiring will be the next thing to go beyond its safe working limit.
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