What Inverter Size (watts) to Use with Your Car (How to Avoid Common Dangers)?

Do you feel controlled and limited to using only USB type or DC only appliances such as a phone charger, or tablet when on the road in your car?

We often carry with us AC-type appliances that use 115V that we may want to use while on the road such as a laptop, DVD player, or small power tools all of which need to be powered.

Now, much as an AC inverter can provide the AC type of power for these appliances, beware that there are often limitations to the size (watts) and even duration for which you should use this inverter and the connected appliances.

Read on to learn what size of car inverter you can use in your car, whether it is possible to damage your car by connecting an inverter and what you can do to prevent your car from being ruined.

What Size of Car Inverter to Use in your Car?

Typically, depending on the type of car, you can connect a 120 or 180 watts car inverter into the car’s cigarette lighter socket.

(Consult the car owner’s manual for the maximum allowed current drawn from the socket for your car model).

Limiting the inverter size (watts) (depending on your car model), helps avoid connecting appliances which have an excessive current draw than the cigarette lighter socket can handle and blows the associated fuse.

Should you need to run appliances with a higher power consumption than what your cigarette lighter socket can supply, you can run separate wiring direct to the battery that can handle the higher current draw and bypasses the cigarette lighter socket and wiring.

Note: Always keep the car engine running to prevent the excessive drain on the battery by the inverter and connected appliances.

What Size of Inverter (watts) is too Large for a Car | What is the Largest Inverter a Car can Handle?

If you are connecting an inverter to the cigarette lighter socket, then typically the largest inverter size you can use might be 120 or 180 watts depending on the maximum current draw that can safely be handled by the cigarette lighter socket.

When you connect the inverter to the battery directly, you are able to connect larger capacity inverters such as 400 – 500 watts.

Note that to size the inverter (watts) largely depends on the combined power assumption of the connected appliances.

So you may use a larger size inverter but make sure that the wiring used can handle the higher currents drawn by the inverter from the battery.

Also, include fuse protection in this circuit to guard against excessive current draw such as from short-circuits to minimize damage and possible fire from overheating cables.

Lastly, the battery size (Ah) should be large enough to provide enough runtime for the connected appliances.

Using a secondary or auxiliary battery

It is also advisable to use a secondary battery separate from the car starter battery to avoid the battery from being drained flat and your car is unable to start.

What Is the Danger of Using ‘too Big’ of an Inverter | Can an Inverter Damage the Car?

#1. The cigarette lighter socket may stop working. The cigarette lighter can stop working if excessive currents are drawn through it ( greater than 10 or 15 amps, blowing the fuse.

#2. Damaged car wiring. If an inverter with a high current draw in excess of the current rating is connected to the battery, the wire will burn, or melt.

#3. Lastly, there is a risk of draining the car battery flat.

Repeatedly draining car batteries damages them and shortens their lifespan.

Can a Car Handle a 3,000 watt Inverter?

No, a 3,000 watts inverter has a high-power draw for a small car at full load and should not be used.

Not only does it require dedicated wiring to handle the large current draw estimated at 3,000/12 = 250 amps (full load) and fused adequately to protect against damage in the event of a short-circuit, the inverter can drain the battery flat when the power draw is sustained, leaving your car unable to start.

ODP motors vs TEFC motors
ODP motors vs TEFC motors

Final Thoughts

For many cars, car inverters up to 180 watts can be plugged into the cigarette lighter socket not to exceed the maximum 15 amp current draw supported by the inbuilt wiring.

Always confirm and check the maximum current draw supported by your car’s cigarette lighter socket to avoid the fuse from blowing and possibly damaging the wiring.

If larger capacity inverters (watts) are to be connected, it is best you consult a professional to either install dedicated wiring to the car’s battery or install an auxiliary battery to handle the high current draw.

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