Cigarette lighter in car doesn't work. Please help troubleshoot.
June 29, 2010 6:10 AM   Subscribe

It seems the ac-adapter plug thingy (i.e. the cigarette lighter) doesn't work in my car. I suspect a blown fuse. I have neither the time nor the inclination to take it in to get fixed if I can do it myself. Halp?

Bought a new GPS for a road trip coming up soon. Car charger didn't work out of the box. Checked in another car and it works there, so it's not the charger but rather the cigarette lighter in my car that doesn't work. Researched a little and found that it may be that the fuse in my car is blown.

tl;dr How do I find out what fuse powers the cigarette lighter in my car, whether it's working, and if it's not how to change it. Please assume very little car knowledge.
posted by Stewriffic to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
It would really help us all if you had your make, model and year on your car...
posted by glenno86 at 6:12 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Oh. 2003 Civic LX. Sorry about that.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:14 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: When the cigarette lighter in my old car didn't work, I suspected a blown fuse. The manual (check the glove box for a hard copy or look for one on-line) should tell you where the fuses are. If your car is anything like my old one, the inside of the panel covering the fuses will tell you what the fuses are for, and there will be a fuse puller tool and a few spare fuses in there.
posted by ymendel at 6:18 AM on June 29, 2010

Some googling found this:
posted by glenno86 at 6:22 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, this should be a pretty simple fix, if it is the fuse. And like others have said, there are usually a few spare fuses in the boxes.

Note: if you fix this and you feel like doing more, you might try and do another simple repair on an '03 Civic (I know because I have one!): you could replace the AC filters. They are located just behind the glove box and take all of 4 minutes to replace. If you go to a dealer, they'll charge about $80 to do this. Given the filters are $30 or so, that means $50 labor for 4 minutes work. (Oh, and if you haven't changed them in a while, it's probably worth it. They get dirty insanely quickly.)
posted by Fortran at 6:33 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: You'll want to do a quick check in the lighter socket to make sure there's not a coin or other metal object in there...

It's worth noting that when a fuse is blown, it is usually very visually obvious when you pull the fuse out. I once stopped by a friend's house when he was trying to replace his first blown automotive fuse and he was swapping each and every one and testing. I read the cover, pulled the fuse and showed him the blackened remains.

Of course, sometimes fuses don't blow out but the little wire in there breaks from vibration, so if the diagram insists it is that one, try swapping it out and see if that works.
posted by advicepig at 6:36 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: As to the 'whether it's working' part, once you take the fuse out hold it up to the light and look at the metal parts in it. If the metal forms a continuous line it's not blown, if it's broken into two pieces that don't touch then it is. You can compare to some of the other fuses for reference. If there are no spares in the box then take the blown fuse with you to an auto parts store. There's usually a number printed on the end which tells you the number of amps the fuse is rated for -- that's what you have to match when replacing it. Sometimes they're also color coded by rating.

BTW, the cigarette adapter supplies DC and so the thing you plug into it isn't an AC adapter.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:38 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: Your car probably has two fuseboxes--one under the hood and one inside the car (for example, behind a little door on the dash under the steering wheel). Something like the fuse for the cigarette lighter is probably inside the car (broadly speaking, interior stuff is on the inside fusebox. There's an excellent chance that the inside of the door labels the fuses. If not, this information is available in the owner's manual, or in the Chilton databases, which lots of public libraries subscribe to (mine offers remote access, even). Worst-case scenario, the brute-force method is to just pull fuses one at a time until you see a blown one, then replace it. Take the blown fuse with you to the auto-parts store--you'll be able to buy a little plastic box with fuses of various sizes. Buy the little box, then keep it in the glove compartment for the next time something like this happens.

Now might be a good time to buy a Haynes or Chilton manual. It's a $15 book that pays for itself the first time you do a simple repair.
posted by box at 6:47 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: OK! I got my owner's manual out of the car, and it explains how to do the fuses (I feel like an idiot, not thinking to do that first.) The "accessory power socket" is one of the interior fuses, which looks like I need to take something off under the steering column to get to it. There should also be spare fuses, if I'm reading correctly.

By the way, do i need to worry about electrocuting myself?

I'll try to deal with this when I get home from work and report back.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:11 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: BTW, the cigarette adapter supplies DC and so the thing you plug into it isn't an AC adapter.

Heh. Such mistakes as this is why I needed a little hand-holding. Thanks for the correction.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:37 AM on June 29, 2010

There should also be spare fuses, if I'm reading correctly.

Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't hurt to buy a few more at your local auto-parts store -- they are cheap and standardized (5A, 10A, 15A). Get some spare light-bulbs while you're at it -- that's another very cheap and easy thing to do yourself. Any store worth going to should have a thick book that lists the correct bulbs for your make/model of car.

By the way, do i need to worry about electrocuting myself?

Generally not -- the fuses/fuse boxes are designed you can easily remove/insert the fuses without touching any metal contacts.

If you're really paranoid, just wear rubber gloves (the kitchen variety will do)
posted by randomstriker at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Yah, the manual says the "accessory power socket" is a 15A fuse. If there isn't one under the hood despite what the manual says, I'll pop over to an auto parts store.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:15 AM on June 29, 2010

Your car's 12-volt DC, so even if you get electrocuted, it'll be more like a 9-volt on your tongue and less like a toaster in the bathtub. That said, it's extremely unlikely you'll get electrocuted.
posted by box at 11:16 AM on June 29, 2010

While a car's battery is relatively low voltage, it is designed to be able to supply a huge rush of current which can be dangerous and thus the battery itself demands respect. Whenever I am working in the engine compartment and the battery's positive terminal is exposed, I make sure to cover it using a spare rag when I'm not actively working on that component. A dropped wrench that happens to bridge both terminals will cause a big light show with droplets of molten steel flying in the air as the wrench liquefies and welds itself in place. Fortunately that is really only a concern when dealing with the terminals themselves.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:27 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: VICTORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was so easy. What a worrywart I am.

Basically I just followed the directions from y'all and the owner's manual. Used the pincher thingies to remove the right one, saw that it was indeed blown, found the spare fuse under the hood right where it said it would be, smushed it in there, and then tested my charger.

Thank you all SO MUCH. I feel like Super Car Repair Person!
posted by Stewriffic at 3:55 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older How do we know survey responses are honest?   |   My husband prevents me from sleeping. Help! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.