Is there a way to power my laptop using a car cigarette lighter?
May 12, 2004 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I've recently purchased a car (my first), and have, on occasion, used a laptop as an mp3 player, which is a serious insult to my real mp3 player. While I just purchased a new battery, I'd love to go on A/C alone: My question is whether there's any way to plug my laptop (or similar device) into a car cigarette lighter?
posted by Sinner to Technology (9 answers total)
For most laptops you can get a matching DC-DC converter that'll let you plug the laptop straight into the cigarette lighter. They're kind of expensive, though. A more general-purpose solution is a DC-AC power inverter. While they were somewhat scarce and expensive several years ago, you can get them for well under $50 at just about any auto parts (AutoZone), consumer electronics (Best Buy), or general merchandise (Walmart) store you can find. Yes, it iss kind of silly converting from DC to AC and back DC, but you can use the inverter to power just about anything that runs on AC, as long as it's rated for enough watts.
posted by zsazsa at 12:59 PM on May 12, 2004

I've got an adapter like that from Tripp Lite that cost me less than $30 (although that was on sale). It's a little bulky, but it never gets too hot when running my laptop. A far better purchase than a computer-specific DC adapter.
posted by blueshammer at 1:01 PM on May 12, 2004

Like This.
posted by rschroed at 1:14 PM on May 12, 2004

The AC power inverters are great... but...

They put out a lot of noise -- RF and poor quality AC.

Basically, I couldn't use one with one of those FM transmitters. That and, for reasons I cannot fathom (it should not be possible but I can prove it!), it ruins the IR link from my laptop to my cellphone.

Also watch the load. Often these AC inverters can provide a really low AC output if they are heavily loaded. This can damage sensitive hardware, although usually won't. Also, don't plug in devices with a large inrush surge and devices that expect a perfect sinewave.

That's about it. :^)
posted by shepd at 4:06 PM on May 12, 2004

For the record, if I ever see you mucking about with your laptop on the road while driving, I'm going to scream at you.
posted by ph00dz at 7:00 PM on May 12, 2004

ph00dz -

Ha - no need to worry about that. I'm a big fan of "random," and when I feel the need to look at the screen, a bigger fan still of pulling way the fuck off the road. Although the traffic here is so bad I've starting to bring a newspaper just in case. Seriously...
posted by Sinner at 9:14 PM on May 12, 2004

It's a little bulky, but it never gets too hot when running my laptop.

I got one at Best Buy that's designed to fit into the cup holder. That mitigates the bulk factor and makes it a lot easier to deal with in the car.
posted by originalname37 at 9:20 PM on May 12, 2004

(I should have posted this above, but unfortunately am dumb) -

rschroed and blueshammer - thanks for the tripp lite tip and the link.


What would you suggest doing in order to "watch the load," that hopefully has nothing to do with pornography? Also, a: What sort of hardware would you consider "sensitive," b: What sort of devices have "a large inrush surge" and c: What devices "expect a perfect sinewave?"

Can you tell that I'm not an engineer?
posted by Sinner at 9:20 PM on May 12, 2004

I think the short answer is to *not* get the el-cheapo walmart inverter, but something that will regulate the current and handle a larger load than you think you'll need. Or Ebay for a dc plug, I suppose.

I use my inverter for a boombox, because my car is too old to justify a built in stereo at this point.
posted by mecran01 at 7:13 AM on May 13, 2004

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