Cigarette Lighter Port
Cigarette Lighter Port

The cigarette lighter port in a car is known by several names including the automobile auxiliary power outlet, aux power outlet, automotive power socket, cigarette power port, cigarette lighter socket, 12V power outlet, and more. These names reflect its broader usage beyond just lighting cigarettes. The port is found in almost every vehicle, but its function has evolved over time.

Originally the 12V aux port was designed as a practical solution for smokers to heat up a coil that could be used to light their cigarettes. However, with smoking being less common (and vaping taking much of its market share) most people will never use the port for that reason. So why not get rid of it? Because that port has transitioned into a versatile power source for a range of electronic devices.

From Smoker’s Tool to Power Outlet

Originally, the cigarette lighter port was designed to light cigarettes, explaining its name. However, as smoking became less prevalent and the need for powering electronic devices in vehicles grew, its function shifted significantly. Accessories makers started using the port to draw power to the devices they were making. Most people today probably don’t even know that it was once used with a tool to light up cigarettes.

Uses For The Cigarette Lighter Port

Powering Mobile DevicesThe cigarette lighter port is commonly used to power mobile devices like cell phones, tablets, and GPS units. It provides a consistent source of 12-volt DC power, which can be used to charge these devices using a car charger adapter.
Providing Power for Portable ElectronicsIn addition to mobile devices, the cigarette lighter port can also be used to power a variety of other portable electronics, such as laptops, radios, and air compressors. The port provides enough power to run most of these devices, making it a convenient option for on-the-go use.
Connecting AccessoriesThe cigarette lighter port can also be used to connect a variety of accessories, such as heated seats, seat warmers, and dashboard lights. These accessories typically plug directly into the port and are powered by the car’s electrical system.
Charging BatteriesThe cigarette lighter port can also be used to charge batteries, such as those used in cameras, power tools, and other electronic devices. This can be done using a battery charger adapter that plugs into the port.
Supplying Power for Other DevicesIn addition to the uses listed above, the cigarette lighter port can also be used to supply power for a variety of other devices, such as vacuum cleaners, portable fans, and power tools. This is typically done using an inverter, which converts the car’s 12-volt DC power into AC power.
Charging Electric VehiclesSome electric vehicles use the cigarette lighter port to charge their batteries. This is typically done using a slow charger that plugs into the port and charges the battery at a trickle rate.
Powering LED LightsLED lights can also be powered using the cigarette lighter port. This is typically done using a cigarette lighter port adapter that is specifically designed for LED lights.

Technical Specifications

It provides 12 volts of Direct Current (DC) power, differing from the Alternating Current (AC) power in household electrical outlets. This specification is crucial for understanding which devices can be safely and effectively powered or charged using this port.

Nominal Voltage12 volts DC
Maximum Current10 amps
Maximum Power120 watts
Receptacle Inside Diameter21.41–21.51 mm (median 21.455 mm)
Plug Body Diameter21.13–21.33 mm (median 21.18 mm)
Pin ConfigurationCenter pin (positive), outer ring (negative)
Common UsesCigarette lighters, car accessories, portable devices

A De Facto Standard DC Connector

The port became a standard DC connector in vehicles, indicating its widespread acceptance and utility. This standardization has made it easier for manufacturers to create compatible accessories.

The Design: A Glimpse into Its Past

The design of the cigarette lighter socket was influenced by its original purpose. Its larger size catered to cigars, and the unheated center was just enough to light a cigarette, a nod to its historical usage. Today, this port is commonly used to charge electronic devices like cell phones and laptops. Its transition from a smoking accessory to a power source mirrors changes in societal habits and technological advancements.

The outlet is designed to supply power to portable accessories used in or near an automobile, highlighting its versatility and importance in today’s mobile-centric world. Many older cars included electric lighters, specifically designed for lighting cigars or cigarettes. This historical context helps us appreciate the port’s evolution over time. Nearly every modern vehicle is equipped with this port, underlining its essential role in our daily transportation and connectivity needs.

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