A Guide to Car Cigarette Lighter Sockets

Cigarette lighter sockets, also known as accessory sockets or power outlets, come in various types to accommodate different devices and applications.

Once primarily used to light cigarettes, car cigarette lighters have evolved into versatile power sources in modern vehicles. While smoking in cars has declined, the usefulness of car cigarette lighters has expanded.

From charging electronic devices to powering small appliances, many items can be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter. In this article, we’ll look at what devices can be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter and how they can enhance your driving experience.

What Is Cigarette Lighter

What Is Cigarette Lighter?

In a vehicle, a cigarette lighter serves as a device traditionally associated with lighting cigarettes. Its original function involves drawing electricity from the car’s power supply to heat metal elements like electric hot plates or wires, acting as an ignition source for lighting cigarettes.

As cars have evolved and people’s needs have changed, cigarette lighter interfaces have adapted. Nowadays, these interfaces often come equipped with on-board inverters, allowing them to serve as charging points for mobile electronic devices. The elastic head positioned at the centre of the interface functions as the positive pole, while the buckle serves as the negative pole on both sides.

The power supply establishes a direct connection to the car battery, ensuring that the current and power align with the battery specifications. This modernized functionality reflects the dynamic nature of the cigarette lighter interface to cater to diverse user requirements.

Types of Cigarette Lighter Sockets

Types of Cigarette Lighter Sockets

Cigarette lighter sockets, also known as accessory sockets or power outlets, come in various types to accommodate different devices and applications.

Here are some common types of cigarette lighter sockets:

OE Replacement

The OE replacement is designed to match the factory unit and simply pops off to replace it. This is a highly desirable option for modern vehicles for two reasons. First, they will fit directly onto the dashboard or surface where the originals were, without any modifications.

The second reason is that the pigtail connector is used to power the outlet. While the connection of a universal unit is very simple and requires no splicing connections and searches, a good grounding point is certainly worth avoiding.


As you’d expect, generic types work for anything. Even if multi-function models don’t simply replace factory options or lack factory options, they’re still relatively simple to install. However, functionality and design determine the scope of work you need to perform. Single sockets are very popular, but panels containing multiple sockets and other accessories also exist.

Benefits of Cigarette Lighter Socket

Cigarette lighter sockets, or accessory sockets, offer several benefits, making them versatile and valuable components in vehicles and other settings.

Here are some of the key benefits of cigarette lighter sockets:

Connect to 12V power: The main benefit of a cigarette lighter socket is that it gives you the ability to tap into the vehicle’s existing energy source to miscellaneous power equipment.

Custom appearance: 12-volt power sockets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It may not be a key reason to buy one, but that gives you the option to use one to compliment the look you’re working to achieve.

High resale value: Keeping up with basic maintenance is essential to preserving the value of the car. If any of the ports need replacing in your vehicle, you should do so because of this factor.

Main features of cigarette lighter socket

Cigarette lighter sockets, also known as accessory sockets or power outlets, have several main features that contribute to their functionality and versatility.

Here are the main features of a typical cigarette lighter socket:

Quality Control

Investing in a top-notch cigarette lighter socket is crucial when considering its connection to the vehicle’s electrical system. Ensuring the socket’s reliability is paramount to prevent any potential short circuits within the car.

Additionally, it’s essential to prioritize a socket that provides a secure fit and finish, eliminating concerns about loose connections and guaranteeing a stable interface for various accessories. Making a wise choice in the quality of the cigarette lighter socket ensures a dependable and worry-free experience when interfacing with the vehicle’s electrical components.

Built-With Cover

Ensuring the cleanliness of any electrical port is essential to prevent issues caused by dust and debris accumulation. The build-up in these ports can lead to various complications. The most effective method for safeguarding the socket is by having a built-in cover. When the socket is not in use, simply plugging it up with the cover provides optimal protection.

These covers are particularly vital in preventing water ingress, especially when utilizing the socket in 12-volt or marine applications. Keeping the socket covered when unused is a proactive measure to maintain its integrity and functionality.

What are DC and AC Power?

Your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket is also called a 12V accessory socket, but some vehicles are equipped with a 24V socket that provides 12 volts of direct current (DC) power. DC power functions very differently from the alternating current (AC) power provided by electrical outlets in your home. AC current flows in alternating directions many times per second, while DC current always flows in one direction.

Different applications have different power requirements. Solar cells, LED light bulbs, and electronic devices that contain rechargeable batteries (such as laptops, cell phones, and tablets) run on DC power.

Devices that need to be plugged directly into a power source to operate require AC power. Examples of AC power applications include hair dryers, televisions, and microwave ovens. When using your car to power an application, the type of power it requires will determine the type of power you need to run it.

How Do You Power DC Devices Using Your Car?

Devices that run on DC power can tap into the vehicle’s power supply without first converting it. This is usually done by using a 12V car adapter plug, which is a large male plug with a center pin and metal contacts on the side.

Many DC devices (such as CB radios, some GPS devices, and DVD players) are equipped with hardwired 12V DC plugs designed for automotive use. If your device does not come with a hardwired 12V DC plug, you can opt for a DC power adapter, which does the same thing. There are even splitter adapters that allow you to power multiple devices simultaneously from the same outlet.

If your vehicle doesn’t come with its own USB socket, you can also opt for a 12V USB adapter. These plug into your vehicle’s accessory socket just like the adapter mentioned above, but have a USB socket that can be used to charge phones and tablets.

What is a Power Inverter?

A power inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). Your car’s battery uses direct current to power your electrical components; in contrast, many home electronics use alternating current. A power inverter allows you to operate these devices by converting your vehicle’s electricity into a current that you can use.

In addition to utilizing car batteries as a source of energy, inverters are often used for “off-grid” living, with larger inverters connected to battery banks and solar grids to power basic appliances.

What is a Power Inverter

Do You Need a Power Inverter for DC-powered devices?

The battery in your car supplies current on one circuit, going in one direction. This is why we call it “direct current.” Alternating current, meanwhile, provides more power than what DC normally provides.

If you plan on using electronics such as DVD players, video game consoles, laptop computers, or other tools or appliances in your car, truck, or RV, a power inverter is required.

How Do You Find the Right Inverter for Your Needs?

What you need from an inverter depends on what you plan to use it for, but some standard features can help make using the device more convenient. Several models of power inverters come with multiple 120V AC household outlets and can be used to power multiple devices simultaneously.

Another useful feature of the power inverter is the USB port. This allows you to use the inverter to charge your phone or other devices.

For heavy-duty needs, such as heavy power tools or multiple pieces of equipment, look for a power converter that can easily connect or clamp onto your car battery.

Billiton offers a full range of car cigarette lighters, please contact us for more information!

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