Although they’re called “cigarette lighters,” lighting cigarettes is arguably not a cigarette lighter’s most common use. Most people use their vehicle’s cigarette lighters as auxiliary power outlets to charge devices like cell phones, laptops, and navigation systems.
So, if your cigarette lighter fuse stops working, and you’re not a smoker, odds are, you’re still going to want to repair it or get a replacement fuse.
Here are some methods to fix a cigarette lighter in your car.
Look for foreign objects
A cigarette lighter in a car is a 12-volt socket that is capable of carrying electricity to devices. When a 12-volt DC accessory is plugged into the socket, it creates a pathway for electricity to travel.
However, that pathway can be disrupted if there is something foreign, like food crumbs, pebbles, or dirt, lodged into the plug. This is an especially common occurrence for vertically aligned cigarette lighters because it is easy for things to fall and become trapped in the plug. Therefore, the first step of troubleshooting a broken cigarette lighter is making sure there’s nothing foreign in the socket getting in the way of an electrical connection.
Check the fuse
Car fuses blow when more amperage is drawn into a circuit than the fuse (and wiring) can handle. Fuses can blow for many reasons, ranging from an incompatible device being plugged into the outlet to faulty wiring. No matter the cause, you should check that the fuse isn’t blown.
Check your owner’s manual to help you locate the fuse responsible for your cigarette lighter.
Use the fuse gripper tool included in the fuse box (or your fingers) to pull out the fuse. If the metal on the fuse looks broken or burned, it will need to be replaced.
Buy a new fuse of the same amperage from your dealer or auto parts store and replace the bad fuse. Once installed, try the cigarette lighter again.
Test and replace the socket
If you have a multimeter tool on hand, test the cigarette lighter socket to see if electricity is flowing. Before performing a test, turn the ignition switch in the car to the on position, as many cigarette lighters do not work when the key is off.
Make sure the multimeter tool is set to DC voltage. Attach the red wire lead to the red socket labeled “V” and the black wire to the black socket labeled “COM.” Hold the metal-probed end of the red lead to the metallic circle on the bottom of the cigarette lighter socket, then touch the probed end of the black lead to the side of the socket.
With both probes touching the appropriate parts of the cigarette lighter socket, read the voltage on the multimeter. If the reading is well below 12 volts, the socket is the likely culprit of the lighter problem and needs to be replaced.
Seek out a professional’s help to replace the socket and your cigarette lighter will be back to charging your cell phone in no time.