How to Fix a Cigarette Lighter In a Car

Most faulty cigarette lighter sockets just need to be cleaned—otherwise, you may have a blown fuse or other problem with your car’s electrical systems.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Edited by Bellina Gaskey
To fix the cigarette lighter in a car, you can look for stuck foreign objects to remove, check the fuse and the wiring, or you may need to replace the socket entirely.
  • Bad wiring, a faulty socket, or a blown fuse could be causing problems with your car’s cigarette lighter.
  • A multimeter can help you test the 12-volt socket.
  • It can cost between $50 and $100 to replace your cigarette lighter if necessary.

Remove foreign objects to fix the cigarette lighter

A cigarette lighter in a car is a 12-volt socket capable of carrying electricity to devices. Although this part was originally built to help people smoke in the car, when a 12-volt DC accessory is plugged into this socket, it creates a pathway for electricity to travel.
That pathway can be disrupted if something foreign—like food crumbs, pebbles, or dirt—gets lodged into the plug. This is an especially common occurrence for vertical cigarette lighters. It’s easy for things to fall and become trapped in the plug.
Key takeaway:
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. Once any objects are removed, try plugging something into the socket to check if it works.

Check for a broken fuse or bad wiring

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 inappropriate device being plugged into the outlet to faulty wiring.
No matter the cause, make sure to check that the cigarette lighter fuse isn’t blown.
Depending on your vehicle, the cigarette lighter—or accessory outlet—fuse may be labeled differently, but many cars designate the lighter fuse as “LTR”, short for lighter. You can find it in the fuse box under the hood.
If you don’t know which fuse corresponds to the
cigarette lighter
, you’re not alone! What a car’s cigarette lighter is actually called depends on your make and model. 
Check your
owner's manual
to help you locate the fuse type, size, and location. Look for one of the following terms:
  • Aux power point
  • Cigar lighter
  • Cigarette lighter
  • 12v outlet
  • 12v power point
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.
If you’re dealing with bad wiring:
the socket will not receive the power it requires to function.

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 probably causing your lighter issue. You should get it replaced.
Here are the steps to replace a 12V car socket:
  • Step 1:
    Turn off the car engine and take the key out of the ignition.
  • Step 2:
    Find the fuse box in your car. This will usually be
    under the hood
    or the dashboard, but you can check your owner’s manual to find the exact location.
  • Step 3:
    Disconnect the cigarette lighter fuse using a pair of needle-nose pliers.
  • Step 4:
    Use a socket removal tool or a hook to gently remove the socket by turning it clockwise and pulling.
  • Step 5:
    If the socket won’t pop out of place, use a plastic pry tool to gently pull it off.
  • Step 6:
    Unplug the wire connector attached to the socket.
  • Step 7:
    Once you’ve removed the old socket, you can slide the new one through the dash panel and tighten it into place.
  • Step 8:
    Plug the wire connector into the new socket and put the dash panel back into place—if necessary.
  • Step 9:
    Reconnect the cigarette lighter fuse.
The cost to fix a cigarette lighter in a car is between $50 and $100, depending on your vehicle.
It’s a lot cheaper and easier to replace the fuse. A wiring issue could be a little trickier (and more costly) to repair. Unless you have experience with electrical repairs, this process is best left to the professionals.

Check your charger or plug

Finally, the plug itself may be bad. You’ll want to make sure the electronics inside the charger, lighter, or other 12-volt accessory items aren’t damaged, and the springs inside the plug you insert into the socket aren’t worn out.
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.
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