Name that socket!
August 1, 2007 3:18 PM   Subscribe

My 1998 Camry has a socket in the dashboard underneath the cigarette lighter that is the same size & shape as a cigarette lighter socket but has a cover over it that says "110V". If I plug in my cell phone charger to this socket it doesn't work, I assume because the voltage on the charger doesn't match. My question: If I would like to power something from this socket with a standard household 2-pronged plug, what sort of adapter do I need? What's it called? Sorry for my lack of 'lectrical lingo knowledge.
posted by mattholomew to Technology (12 answers total)
Are you sure the cell phone charger works at all anymore? If you really plugged a car cell phone charger, designed for 12V DC, into 110V AC, it most likely shouldn't work anymore.

Meanwhile, I don't know anything for sure, but I'd bet there's a standard somewhere against using a cigarette lighter socket for 110V.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:40 PM on August 1, 2007

Response by poster: I'm positive the charger works, I use it all the time. And I'm positive that the cover over the second socket says "110V".
posted by mattholomew at 3:43 PM on August 1, 2007

Is it a sticker? Someone could have put that there as a joke. Putting 110V on a socket you can stick your finger into isn't something any reasonable manufacturer would ever do. I'd suggest getting a voltmeter (DMM) and test that plug. Be careful as 110V is nothing to sneeze at. It probably won't kill you but you sure won't forget the experience.
posted by chairface at 3:50 PM on August 1, 2007

I also suggest getting the voltmeter. Since your charger still works, I'd say that even if there's supposed to be 110V there it's not working.

The socket for a standard 2 or 3 prong plug is called a NEMA connector, not that I know where to find a car outlet to NEMA socket converter.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:53 PM on August 1, 2007

Response by poster: Nope, not a sticker. It's a heavy-duty black plastic cover that's attached to the front of the socket and it has "110V" embossed on the front. I bought my car new so I assume it came this way from the factory unless someone was playing the most pointless joke in history.
posted by mattholomew at 3:54 PM on August 1, 2007

This is probably obvious ... but have you read the manual?
posted by yohko at 4:01 PM on August 1, 2007

My 2001 Camry has a 12V/120W outlet for car accessories, located beneath the cigarette lighter and covered with a similar black plastic cover. The purpose stated in the manual is to provide power even when the car is not running, suitable for laptops, portable devices, etc.

Are you -certain- that this is not 12V/120W?
posted by ellF at 4:06 PM on August 1, 2007

ellF has it, part way. To power a 110VAC appliance, you need something that both converts a car electrical system's DC power to AC, and raise the voltage to 110VAC, RMS (Root, Mean, Square). That "something" is called an inverter. The one I've just linked will not overtax the wiring feeding your cigarette-lighter style plug, as bigger, higher current capacity units are likely to do. Trying to use those big 500, 800, and 2500 watt inverters on cigarette lighter style outlets, should blow accessory fuses in your car's electrical box, and/or damage wiring, if you replace blown fuses with heavier current ones.
posted by paulsc at 4:19 PM on August 1, 2007

Seconding ellF. My 1999 Solara has the same thing, and it's essentially an always-on version of the cigarette lighter, which I've only used for my car charger for my cell phone.
posted by Brak at 4:46 PM on August 1, 2007

Just wanted to throw out there that 110v at 12 amps isn't really all that big of a deal, there's a fuse in-line anyway.
posted by TomMelee at 4:53 PM on August 1, 2007

It says 110W as in Watts. not 110V as in Volts
posted by wile e at 6:29 PM on August 1, 2007

Is it possibly a polarity issue? My old, old Toyota Tercel had this problem. I had to cut and switch the wires on several appliances to get them to work in the lighter socket.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:40 AM on August 2, 2007

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