Cigarette lighter receptacle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Cigar lighter receptacle)
Jump to: navigation, search
A 12 volt cigarette lighter plug, with a tip that may be unscrewed to replace an internal fuse
Metal and plastic cigarette lighter receptacles

The cigarette lighter receptacle (also called a cigar lighter receptacle) in an automobile was initially designed to power an electrically heated cigarette lighter, but became a de facto standard DC connector to supply electrical power for portable accessories used in or near an automobile. While the cigarette lighter receptacle is a common feature of automobiles and trucks, as a DC power connector it has the disadvantages of bulkiness, relatively low current rating, and poor contact reliability.

Examples of devices that can be operated from a cigarette lighter receptacle include lights, fans, beverage heating devices, and small motorized tools such as air compressors for inflating tires. Many portable electronic devices such as music players or mobile telephones use a cigarette lighter receptacle to recharge their internal batteries or to directly operate from the vehicle electrical system. Adapters for electronic devices may change voltage to be compatible with the supplied device. Devices that require alternating-current mains electricity can be operated with a plug-in inverter.

Currently, automobiles may provide several 12 V receptacles that are intended only to operate electrical accessories, and which cannot be used with a cigarette lighter. Car manufacturers may offer a cigarette lighter only as an optional extra-cost accessory. Usually, only one 12 V receptacle near the driver will be able to accommodate an actual cigarette lighter, with other receptacles designated as "12 V auxiliary power outlets" which are not physically able to power a lighter.


The electrical cigar-lighter for gastronomic[dubious ] and home use was invented and patented in the early 1880s by the German inventor Friedrich Wilhelm Schindler.[citation needed] In the 1890s, these tools were sold as electrical cigar lighters (Cigarrenanzuender), and later as Zigarrenanzuender in the major German warehouse catalogues.[citation needed] Probably in the 1920s they were renamed "cigarette lighters", as cigarettes overtook cigars in sales.

In the United States, cigarette lighters started appearing as standard equipment in automobiles in 1925/26.[1]

In 1928, the Connecticut Automotive Specialty Company (Casco) in Bridgeport patented the first automotive cigarette lighter, which used a cord and reel.[2] In the reel-type lighters, the igniter unit was connected with a source of current by a cable which was wound on a spring drum so that the igniter unit and cable could be withdrawn from the socket and be used for lighting a cigar or cigarette. As the removable plug was returned to the socket, the wires were reeled back into it. The circuit was closed either by pressing a button or removing the igniter from its socket.[3]

In 1921, the Morris U.S. Patent 1,376,154 was issued for a so-called "wireless" or "cordless" lighter. This lighter eliminated the cables and the mechanism for winding and unwinding them. The igniter was heated in the socket then removed for use.[3]

The modern "automatic" automotive V-Coil lighter was developed by Casco in 1956.[2]

Use as a lighter[edit]

Car cigarette lighter, with brass-colored heating element visible at front

The traditional lighter is a metal or plastic cylinder containing a thin coil of nichrome wire, through which high current (~10 amperes) passes when the device is activated, usually by pushing it into the socket as though it were a button. When pushed in, the lighter is held against the force of a spring by a clip attached to a bi-metallic strip.[4] The heating element becomes glowing orange hot in seconds, causing the bi-metallic strip to bend and release the mechanism, and the handle pops out. If the lighter is then promptly removed from its socket, it can light a cigarette, cigar, or tinder.

Use as an electrical outlet[edit]

In newer cars, the socket is equipped with a plastic cover without the lighter heating element, due to declining popularity of smoking.[5] However, the socket continues to be used to power consumer electronics in cars. Often, a vehicle may come with several outlets for convenience, some in the rear passenger area of the vehicle or even the cargo area, for such purposes as powering portable GPS devices, recharging telephones, or powering a tire pump, a vacuum cleaner or a thermoelectric cooler. These outlets usually have a plastic cap tethered to them, and are usually labeled as being only for DC power, because they are not intended to withstand the heat produced by an electrical cigarette lighter.

The use of cigarette lighter receptacles to supply 12 volt DC power is a classic example of backward compatibility to a de facto standard. The connector falls far short of ideal, being physically large and awkward to use, while being less reliable than alternatives such as the Anderson Powerpole connector (which is often used by amateur radio enthusiasts in mobile operations). Nevertheless, cigarette lighter receptacles are in widespread use, and all but the lowest-cost cars, trucks, RVs, and even boats can be expected to have at least one such receptacle. Portable cigarette lighter receptacles attached to cables and alligator clips for connection directly to car batteries are available for temporary use. In newer vehicles, one or more USB connectors may also be provided, as a source of modest amounts of 5 volt DC power, but even in these situations a cigarette lighter receptacle is provided for 12 volt DC power, and for applications that require higher amperage.

Standardized 12 volt DC automobile plugs are defined in the United States by UL Standard 2089 regarding vehicle battery adapters. This standard covers plugs and cord sets that insert into cigarette lighter receptacles. In Europe, 12 volt plugs and sockets are not specially regulated, and do not require approvals for the CE mark.[citation needed]

The male plug is sometimes used to feed power into a vehicle to recharge its battery. For instance, portable solar battery maintainers generally connect to a vehicle's battery in this manner. Trickle chargers also sometimes connect in this way, eliminating the need to leave a vehicle's hood open, as well as eliminating the possibility of reversed polarity.

Technical details[edit]

The sockets and mating plugs are defined in the ANSI/SAE J563 specification. For the 12 volt systems, the "contact point", which is the center part of the plug when viewed end-on, carries the positive voltage, whereas the "can" part, which is the outer part of the connector, carries the negative voltage (which is the "ground" connection for most automobiles, which have a negative ground electrical system).

12 volt auto connectors are made to comply with a standard by Underwriters Laboratories for safety. UL2089 was developed to cover the requirements for portable adapters rated 24 V DC or less that are intended to be supplied from the battery powered electrical system of a vehicle. Products covered by the standard include cord assemblies of a plug that mates with the standard cigarette receptacle found in automobiles.

6-volt cigarette lighter receptacle and plug
  • Receptacle inside diameter: 21.34 - 21.46 mm (median 21.4 mm)
  • Plug body diameter: 21.08 - 21.23 mm (median 21.155 mm)
12-volt cigarette lighter receptacle and plug, size A
  • Receptacle inside diameter: 20.93 - 21.01 mm (median 20.97 mm)
  • Plug body diameter: 20.73 - 20.88 mm (median 20.805 mm)
  • Most often used in American automobiles
12-volt cigarette lighter receptacle and plug, size B
  • Receptacle inside diameter: 21.41 - 21.51 mm (median 21.455 mm)
  • Plug body diameter: 21.13 - 21.33 mm (median 21.18 mm)
  • Most often used in European automobiles, and sometimes as a second socket in American automobiles expressly for DC power connections.

Plugs often include a pilot light LED indicator to indicate that electrical power is connected. Optionally, the plug may be equipped with an internal fuse for electrical safety, usually rated at 10 amps or less. In some designs, the tip of the plug may be unscrewed to reveal a cylindrical glass fuse; other variants may use a newer blade-type fuse inserted into the side or back of the plug.

Design considerations[edit]

Since the cigarette lighter socket was originally designed only to heat a cigarette lighter, repurposing these sockets as generic power connectors can lead to many problems. In addition to the issues with partially-compatible physical dimensions, the plugs can vibrate out of the socket under normal driving conditions, owing to poor retention. Also, there have been reports of melted plug tips dues to poor contact and heat generation from ohmic resistance.[6] Non-vehicular use in stationary settings may avoid vibration problems when used as an alternative to 120 volt AC outlets, but low-quality connectors may still develop high resistance or intermittent contact.

A second problem is that nominally "Twelve-Volt" power in cars fluctuates widely. The actual voltage will be approximately 12.5 volts when dormant (less in cold conditions), approximately 14.5 volts when the engine and the alternator/generator are operating (more when cold), and may briefly drop as low as 5-6 volts during engine start.[7] When used, DC to DC converters will usually compensate for small fluctuations, but reliable power may not be available without an independent battery-powered uninterruptible power supply.

Rarely, more extreme cases of voltage fluctuation can occur when the car battery is disconnected while the engine is running, or when the car receives a jump start. When the battery is disconnected while the engine is running, a load dump transient can produce very high voltages as the built in voltage regulator will try to charge a discharged/non present battery (disconnecting the battery while the engine is running may also ruin the diodes in the alternator). A car receiving a jump start from a truck may be subject to a 24 V electrical system used in some vehicles.[8] Also, a "double battery jump-start" is performed by some tow truck drivers in cold climates.[9]

Equipment intended to be powered by the receptacle needs to account for intermittent contact, and voltages outside the nominal 12 V DC, such as maximum voltage 9-16 V continuously, or maximum voltage of 20 V lasting 1 hour, 24 V lasting 1 minute, and 40 V lasting 400 ms.[10] Protection component tolerance example ratings are +50 to -60 V DC.[11] Robust equipment must tolerate temperatures varying between −40 to +85 °C (−40 to 185 °F), plus possible high humidity and condensation of water.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valdes-Dapena, Peter (2003-11-04). "Cigarette lighters: The new cupholders?". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  2. ^ a b "Casco Cigar lighter Facts & Figures". Casco. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  3. ^ a b "Cuno Engineering v. Automatic Devices". 
  4. ^ U.S. Patent 5,932,126
  5. ^ "Latest Gallup Update Shows Cigarette Smoking Near Historical Lows". Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  6. ^ "Testing power from car cigarette lighter socket ?". Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  7. ^ "Plugging the cigar lighter gap". Service Management 365. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  8. ^ Emadi, Ali (2005-05-25), Handbook of automotive power electronics and motor drives, CRC press, p. 119, ISBN 0-8247-2361-9, The maximum operating voltage for 14 V systems is specified at 24 V, representing a double battery jump-start condition. 
  9. ^ "Double-Battery Jump Start", High-Frequency Automotive Power Supplies, Application note 3893 (Maxim Integrated Products), 2007-07-17, Another steady-state OV condition is the double-battery jump start, which occurs when a tow truck or other service personnel use 24 V to jump-start a disabled vehicle or otherwise charge a dead battery. The typical OEM test requirement for this condition is about 24 V for two minutes. Some systems related to safety and engine management are required to operate under these conditions. 
  10. ^ a b - EMC_CS_2009rev1.pdf
  11. ^ - LM2931


External links[edit]