How to Fix a Car Cigar Lighterby Kyle McBride
Once a standard fixture in every car, the cigar lighter is now an option or not offered at all by some auto manufacturers. Aside from its primary use of lighting cigarettes, the lighter socket became the defacto standard DC supply for mini gas compressors for inflating tires, phone chargers and host of other convenience devices. When you have a lighter that doesn't work, you have to look at both parts -- the lighter unit and the socket.
Check the fuse for the lighter. The fuse for the cigar lighter is usually in the passenger compartment fuse panel, but may be found in a fuse panel in the engine compartment. Find fuse information on the inside cover of the fuse panel or in your owner's manual. Replace the fuse with a fuse of the same rating.
Check the inside of the lighter unit and inside the socket for debris. Use the toothpick to pick out bits of detritus from the coils and then blow or vacuum out the freed bits. Tobacco and bits of paper adhere to the hot metal of the lighter. If you don't knock them out of the lighter while the element is hot, they can accumulate and eventually prevent the element in the lighter from making contact with the element in the socket.
Inspect the lighter and socket once the elements are clean. Look for burned coils that have melted. The packed detritus can cause a hot spot on the coil and eventually cause the coil in the element to melt. Once the coil melts, the circuit is broken -- just like in a fuse -- and the lighter won't work. Replace the lighter or the socket if you find coils that are melted through.
Turn the ignition key to "On" or "ACC." With the meter scale set to measure 12V, touch the positive meter lead to the center element in the socket and touch the negative lead to the socket wall. The meter should read 12V or close to it.
- Beyond these basic checks, use wiring diagrams specific to your vehicle to troubleshoot an inoperable cigar lighter. The lighter is usually a simple circuit -- supply voltage and a ground -- with the lighter unit acting as a normally-open switch in the circuit.
Items you will need
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