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A flat or drained car battery can happen at any one time for whatever reason from an aging battery to battery drain from a car’s interior light.
To get your car started again, there are several innovations out there that aim to make battery charging convenient, low cost, or green.
A number of these can be plugged into the cigarette lighter socket. You may be wondering if they work, what options are available, and what their limitations are.
Read on how well they work, what options there are, and what you can do with them.
Quick answer. Yes, you can charge a car battery by plugging a trickle charger into the car’s cigarette lighter socket (Note – there are specific chargers with cigarette lighter plugs).
A cigarette lighter socket is best suited for use with purpose-built trickle chargers and not for jumpstarting a car with a flat battery because of the limited current handling capability of the electrical wiring connected to it.
The cigarette lighter socket is wired to the car battery and has fuse protection against excessive current draws.
So plugging a tricky charger into the socket is a convenient way to connect to the car battery without opening the hood and figuring out the positive and negative terminal connections.
How Much Current a Cigarette Lighter Socket Can Handle
A car cigarette lighter socket is usually limited to handling about 10-15 amps safely with a 10 or 15 amp fuse (wired depending on the current handling capacity of the wiring).
Use the cigarette lighter socket for trickle chargers only.
Do not connect a heavy-duty charger capable of 10+ amps beyond the wiring’s capacity to avoid damage to the car’s cigarette lighter socket and wiring.
Ways to a Cigarette lighter Socket as a Charging Port
#1. Solar panel trickle charger. These are more common now.
You can use them to top up the car battery and are ideal for use when your car is parked for an extended period.
Limitations. You need to park the car so that the solar panel is exposed to enough sunshine.
Additionally, you can only use it to top up the car when the sun is out.
#2. Wall plug battery maintainer. You can use this to keep the car battery topped up.
The advantage of using this wall plug battery maintainer is that it tops up the battery both day and night, unlike the solar panel trickle charger.
You may also be interested in this post: Should you leave a trickle charger connected to the battery? – How to avoid damage to the battery
#1. Can You Jumpstart a Car Using a Cigarette Lighter Socket?
No, do not attempt to jumpstart a car by making any connection to the cigarette lighter socket.
This can involve running wires from a charged battery to a cigarette lighter plug that is then inserted into the socket for the car with a flat battery.
This will damage the car’s electrical wiring. Cars draw high currents when starting up and considering that the current handling capacity of the cigarette lighter socket is limited to usually only 10-15 amps.
The excessive current draw will damage the wiring.
How to Jumpstart your Car
#1 To jumpstart a car, use a set of jumper cables. These are quick to use and can be used to start a car in under 10 minutes.
The only disadvantage is that you need another car or charged battery to jumpstart.
Many jumper cables also do not have reverse polarity or short-circuit protection so take care to avoid accidentally short-circuiting or reversing the polarity of the cables.
Check out this post for instructions on best practices to follow when connecting and disconnecting the jumper cables.
Order of Connecting Jumper cables
1. For the car with a good battery, first, connect the red (positive) clamp of the jumper cable to the positive battery terminal (marked with a + sign).
2. Connect the second red clamp of the jumper cable to the positive battery post of the dead battery (marked with a + sign)
3. Next, connect the black clamp to the negative post (marked – sign) of the good battery.
4. Finally, connect the second black clamp of the jumper cable to the exposed, unpainted part (inside the hood) of the car with the dead battery.
Allow the dead battery to charge for about 5-10 minutes and then attempt to start the car with the dead battery.
The car engine may not start on that first attempt. Allow for another 5-10 minutes and try to start again.
It should start normally on the second attempt.
Let the car engine of the car with the dead battery run for about minutes to charge some more and then disconnect the jumper cables in this order.
To Disconnect the Jumper cables
1. First, disconnect the black clamp of the jumper cable from the exposed, unpainted part (inside the hood) of the car with the dead battery.
2. Next, disconnect the black clamp from the negative post (marked – sign) of the good battery.
3. Then disconnect the red clamp of the jumper cable from the positive battery post of the dead battery (marked with a + sign)
4. Lastly, disconnect the red (positive) clamp of the jumper cable from the positive battery terminal (marked with a + sign) of the good battery.
5. Drive the car which had a drained battery for about 15-30 min to top up its charge level.
#2. Jump starter box. Alternatively, you can use a jump starter box. It is convenient and does not need another car with a charged battery.
Additionally, many of them have reverse polarity and short-circuit protection.
Jumper Cables, Trickle Chargers and Jump Start Boxes Compared
|1||Charging using a cigarette lighter socket||Convenient way to keep the battery topped up||Slow current charging, suited for use with trickle chargers|
Cannot be used to jump start a car
|2||Using jumper cables to start another car||Can be used to jump start a cable in a few minutes||Requires another car or charged battery to work|
May not have reverse polarity or short-circuit protection
|3||Using a jump starter box||Convenient to use; can jumpstart a car alone unlike jumper cables that ideally need two people |
Can be used to jump start a car in a few minutes
Unlike with jumper cables, no need for a car with a good battery or charged battery
Do not use the cigarette lighter with a high current charger or to jumpstart a car with a flat battery because of its limited current capability.