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How to fix the accessory power outlet in a car

Updated April 17, 2017

Most modern vehicles contain at least one accessory power outlet. Commonly known as cigarette lighters, these outlets supply 12 volts of DC, Direct Current, power and can be used to power multiple accessories and electronic devices.

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Although power outlets occasionally fail, the repairs are often simple and can be competed with a minimum of expertise and tools. Depending on your vehicle, the outlet may or may not be live when the ignition is turned off.

  1. Locate the fuse panel on your vehicle.

  2. This panel is usually located under the dash on either side of the vehicle and may be covered by an access panel. Consult your owner's manual if you have difficulty locating this panel.

  3. Remove the access panel.

  4. Examine the fuse panel, and look for a fuse marked "accessory", "lighter" or any label that would indicate a fuse is associated with the power accessory jack.

  5. On vehicles with multiple power outlets, there may be more than one accessory outlet fuse.

  6. Use a fuse puller to remove the appropriate fuse from the panel. Hold the fuse up to light, and examine the fusible link inside the fuse. If the link appears broken, replace the fuse with one of similar type and current rating.

  7. Fuse pullers are available at any automotive parts supplier and are often sold in packages with an assortment of fuses.

  8. Replace the panel and verify the power plug functions correctly.

  9. Expose the rear of the outlet plug.

  10. You may need to disassemble some sections of the dashboard to expose the outlet plug.

  11. Remove the electrical connector from the rear of the outlet plug.

  12. Turn the vehicle on, and use a volt meter to verify that there are 12 volts DC present at the two terminals in the electrical connector.

  13. If this voltage is present, the outlet plug is defective.

  14. If the voltage is not present, the problem is likely inside the dash wiring. Refer this problem to a qualified mechanic.

  15. Procure a new outlet plug, which should be available from any auto parts supplier.

  16. Remove the existing outlet and replace with the new one. Attach the electrical connector to the new outlet plug.

  17. Tip

    A blown fuse is by far the most likely culprit. Fuse panels may be labelled incorrectly or in a misleading fashion, so check carefully for blown fuses. Consider replacing the accessory fuse even if there is no visible sign of damage. Small cracks in fusible links are occasionally invisible.

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Things You'll Need

  • Fuse puller
  • Automotive fuses
  • Multimeter

About the Author

Andrew Hazleton has been writing on a freelance basis for more than 20 years, and his work has appeared in national, regional and in-house publications. His work has appeared in "Sports Illustrated," "IEEE Spectrum," "Popular Photography" and several newspapers. Hazleton has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Lehigh University and a master's degree in management from Pepperdine University.

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