Car video reviews:

Your Car’s 12V Socket Doesn’t Work? Here Are the Main Causes and How to Fix Them

In the past, it was rarely used for anything other than powering the onboard cigarette lighter; today, it’s an indispensable source of power for countless electronics, including our smartphones.
Car Power Socket 6 photos
Car Power SocketCar Power Socket with Cigarette LighterA Smartphone Connected to the Car's Power SocketFuse PanelFuses
You’re rushing to get to a meeting and didn’t have time to plug in your phone, so you rely on the charger inside your car. Once you start driving, you receive an important call but the phone’s battery dies before you get to answer.

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, count yourself lucky because a non-functional power socket (12V socket; power outlet; lighter receptacle) is a very common problem for car owners.

Initially designed to power an electric cigarette lighter, it has become a 12V DC auxiliary power source for most of the gadgets we use. It’s part of the car’s electrical system, and many modern cars have more than one, albeit without the lighter.

When it stops working, the most common cause is found inside the socket. On vehicles that have a vertically mounted power socket, it’s surprisingly easy for things to fall in there, especially if it isn’t covered. Non-metallic objects that fall in can block chargers from making contact with the socket, while metallic objects can cause a short and blow its fuse.

You should inspect the inside of the socket thoroughly, using a flashlight and if you discover debris or random objects, remove them carefully. Make sure the keys are not in the ignition, and if you want to be extra safe, disconnect the car’s battery.

If the socket is clean, but your charger still doesn’t work, try plugging the charger into another power socket if your car has more than one.

If the car has only one socket, try plugging in a different charger or device; if it still doesn’t work, you will need a circuit tester to see if it receives power. Place the clip on the socket's outer rim and the longer end of the tester inside, so it makes contact with the central pin. If there’s no power, then the next step is to check if the fuse is blown.

Some cars have fuse panels fitted inside or behind the glove box, but to make sure where it is positioned and identify the power socket fuse, you should check the owner’s manual. If you don’t have one at your disposal, this important information, along with videos showing you how exactly to replace the fuse, is available online.

Most power sockets are fused at 10 or 15A, so make sure to buy at least a couple of identical fuses because if you replace it and it blows out again, you’ll have a backup available.

If the fuse seems okay or if you replace it and it blows out again immediately after plugging in the charger, it means there’s a short somewhere along the circuit.

In this case, we would recommend replacing the socket. There are many aftermarket alternatives available, and the process itself isn’t complicated so you can do it yourself.

If replacing the socket still results in a blown fuse and loss of power, then you should take your car to a professional electrician. However, this is very unlikely since this is mainly caused by either obstructions or a blown fuse most of the time.


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories