The car power outlet can’t charge anything? Here’s how to replace it
Replacing a 12 Volt Car Power Outlet / Cigarette Lighter Socket Guide Highlights:
- Even if there is no cigarette lighter, your car’s power outlet still works via a socket connected to the 12 volt battery
- The car power socket usually breaks because one or both fuses blow due to excessive current draw
- You can easily replace the main fuse or the entire socket yourself with a few simple tools
Whether you use it to charge your phone or run a dashcam, your car’s power outlet is a useful accessory. So it’s incredibly frustrating when it stops working. However, you don’t have to go to a mechanic to get it fixed. With just a few hand tools, you can replace a broken 12 volt outlet in your own garage or driveway. And don’t worry, there’s no complicated electrical wiring work to do.
It’s no longer a cigarette lighter, but your car’s 12 volt power outlet works the same way
When I was growing up, lighters were commonplace in many cars. But while the lighters themselves are gone, the technology that made them work is still around. Even though USB ports, AC outlets, and wireless chargers proliferate, cars still have at least a humble 12-volt power outlet, aka an accessory outlet. And although they no longer light cigarettes, the outlets themselves have not changed.
Under its cover, the car’s 12-volt power outlet is actually just a cylindrical metal outlet with wiring. This wiring leads to your car’s 12 volt battery, hence why it is a 12 volt outlet. One wire connects the socket walls to the negative battery terminal while another hooks the center point of the socket to the positive terminal. When you insert the correctly shaped plug or adapter into the outlet, it comes into contact with the walls and the center point. And there you have it, you have the power.
Because 12-volt car batteries work and provide direct current (DC), that’s what power outlets provide too. For some devices, such as radar detectors, handheld GPS devices, and Bluetooth/satellite radio transmitters, this is fine. But others, like a smartphone or an MP3 player, need alternating current (AC). This is why the USB adapters that you can plug into these sockets have built-in DC-AC converters. And if you need to power something bigger, like a laptop, you need an inverter.
Why are these points of sale breaking?
RELATED: O2 Sensor Replacement: How to Tell If You Have a Bad Oxygen Sensor
Although your car battery supplies power to the 12 volt outlet, it is not connected directly. Like all other electrical accessories in your car, there are fuses in between. If you draw too much current through the circuit, one or more of these fuses will blow. And when that happens, your point of sale is down.
There are two fuses you need to worry about in this case. The first is the average metal pin car fuse, often 15 amps. You will usually find it either in the fuse box under the hood or in the dashboard fuse panel. However, its location varies from car to car, so check your owner’s manual. Some cars might label it “cigarette lighter”, however, 1AAuto Remarks. Anyway, replace it with another of the same quality if it is fried.
As for the other car power socket fuse, it is a little different. It’s a fusible link, aka a thermal fuse, and it’s on the back of the socket. If you see a thinner wire than the others, that’s it. Like “conventional” fuses, it breaks if too much current passes through, although it can handle varying current draws better than other fuses. And because the accessory socket regularly sees variable current, car manufacturers put fuses in it.
Because the fusible link is basically just a wire, it is technically replaceable. However, in many cars it is soldered into the socket. So if it explodes, it’s usually easier to just replace the entire plug.
How to replace a car power socket?
RELATED: Can You Reset Your Car’s TPMS Sensors Yourself?
Before you start tackling the replacement of a potentially faulty car power socket, double check your adapter/socket. Sometimes the sides of the adapter/jack don’t properly touch the walls of the outlet, making it look like there’s no power. Also, make sure there is nothing inside the socket, such as a coin or random trash.
Also, as previously stated, check the main fuse in your car’s cigarette lighter/power socket. Although replacing the bushing is not difficult, it does involve removing the interior trim. So, before dismantling any part of your interior, check the easy stuff first. Assuming you did this and it didn’t work, you’ll need a screwdriver, needle nose pliers and a spare socket.
First, remove the dashboard/center console panel that houses the power outlet. This usually just involves unhooking some plastic tabs, but you may need to remove other panels first. Once you’ve done that, disconnect the wire harness from the back of the socket and inspect it. If it’s damaged, it’s time for the mechanic. Then, using the screwdrivers and pliers, remove the original bushing and install the new one. Then reconnect the wiring and put everything back together.
Replacing a car power outlet can take a bit of time. But you can do it yourself to save money and your power supply.
Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our The Facebook page.
RELATED: Can You Replace Your Car’s Alternator Yourself?