How Cigarette Lighters Became 12V Accessory Sockets

The 12V socket, besides known variously as a cable car cigarette light or 12V accessory exponent release, is the primary method acting by which world power is delivered to portable electronics in cars, trucks, amateur vehicles, boats, and in a handful of other context. While these sockets were in the first place designed to heat up cigarette lighters, they promptly gained popularity as a de facto automotive electrical wall socket .

today it ‘s possible to world power anything from a up-to-date telephone or tablet to a run down compressor with the like accurate socket that was once used merely as a car cigarette light .

Some vehicles come with multiple sockets for the express purpose of powering multiple accessory devices, although it is rare for more than one to be capable of accepting a cigarette light .

consequently, the specifications for these power sockets that are contained in ANSI/SAE J563 include two variants : one that works with cigarette lighters and one that doesn ’ thyroxine. If you ‘ve ever tried putting a cigarette light into a cigarette easy socket only for it to fall right back out, that ‘s why .

The History of Automotive Accessory Power

When the first automobiles hit the road, the idea of an automotive electrical system did n’t exist yet. In fact, the first cars didn ’ metric ton even include electrical systems of any kind. These cars had engines that relied on magnetos to provide a flicker, equitable like your lawnmower probably does nowadays, therefore no battery was necessary. When unhorse was included at all, it was by way of gas or kerosene lamp, so no electrical system was required there either .

When automotive electrical systems last did arrive, they used DC generators. These generators, unlike modern alternators, didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate require any electric potential input to operate. They were belt-driven, precisely like modern alternators, and they provided the necessary DC power to run accessories like lights .

The next invention was the addition of lead-acid batteries to store electricity and provide a reference when the engine was n’t running. With this accession, it on the spur of the moment became possible to add other accessories that we take for granted today, like electric starter motors .

Although early electric systems that included both a DC generator and a lead-acid battery technically made electric accessories potential, the widely variable electric potential produced by these generators created issues. mechanical devices were used to regulate the voltage, but modern automotive electrical systems didn ’ t truly arrive until the initiation of alternators .

Unlike generators, the alternators found in mod cars and trucks produce alternating current, which is converted into direct current to charge the battery and provide accessory power. Although this type of electric system still does n’t provide entirely uniform electric potential, the voltage output does remain relatively firm careless of how fast the alternator is spinning, which was a key factor in the originate of the car cigarette light as a de facto DC ability exit .

The Smoking Gun

Although people had been powering accessory devices with their automotive electric systems ever since automotive electrical systems were first invented, accessories had to be wired in manually. The appearance of a 12V automotive electric socket was about accidental, as it was co-opted from a wholly different initial aim .

A car cigarette lighter inserted and removed from a socket
Tom Blaha / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Cigarette lighters, along with lights and radios, were among the first accessories to take advantage of early on automotive electric systems, and they started to appear as OEM options by about 1925 .

These early cigarette lighters used a “ coil and reel ” system, but it was the alleged “ radio ” cigarette light that would finally become the de facto automotive and marine power socket .

These “ wireless ” car cigarette lighters consist of two parts : a cylindrical receptacle that ‘s typically located in the dash of a car and a obliterable fireplug. The receptacle is connected to power and ground, and the hack contains a handbuild, bi-metallic strip .

When the punch is pushed into the receptacle, the handbuild denude completes an electrical circuit and subsequently becomes crimson hot. When the ballyhoo is removed from the receptacle, the blistering coil can be used to light a cigar or cigarette.

Introducing the 12V socket

Although they weren ’ t originally designed with the function of supplying baron to accessories, car cigarette lighters provided an opportunity that was simply besides thoroughly to pass up. Since the actual light fortune was obliterable once the coil-and-reel version fell out of use, the receptacle itself provided easy access to baron and ground .

That easy access to power and land allowed for the development of a power plug that could be inserted and removed with no want to permanently wire an accessary into the electrical system of a car .

The ANSI/SAE J563 specification was developed to ensure compatibility between cigarette light receptacles and 12V might plugs made by different manufacturers. According to the stipulation, the cylinder dowry of a 12V socket has to be connected to battery negative, which is ground in most automotive systems, while the center contact point is connected to battery incontrovertible .

With the ANSI/SAW standard in place, third parties were able to design and introduce a massive range of devices, from tire pumps to hairdryers, that were designed to draw baron from cigarette light sockets .

Problems With Using an automotive 12v socket

Since car cigarette lighters weren ’ t in the first place intended for use as accessory sockets, there are a few built-in issues with using them in that capability. consequently, devices that are designed to use a 12V socket have to be capable of working around these shortcomings .

The biggest exit with using a car cigarette light receptacle as a 12V socket is the inner diameter and astuteness of the receptacle itself. Since there is some magnetic declination in the size of these receptacles, which are sometimes referred to as cans, 12V world power plugs typically have spring-loaded contacts .

By using spring-loaded contacts rather of fixed contacts, 12V office plugs are able to maintain electrical touch within a fairly generous stove of tolerances. however, it besides means that this type of punch may lose electrical contact from time to time .

A 12V accessory plug showing the spring loaded contacts.
Tom Blaha / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Another issue with using an automotive 12V socket is related to the way that automotive electrical systems make. Although modern alternators are adequate to of maintaining a relatively uniform voltage output, the normal process does allow for a range of end product voltages .

With that in mind, all automotive electric accessories have to be capable of running on approximately 9-14V DC. In many cases, a built-in DC-to-DC converter is used to convert the variable stimulation electric potential to a steady output electric potential on the fly .

Could the Car Cigarette Lighter Be Replaced ?

Although fume is n’t deoxyadenosine monophosphate popular as it once was, car cigarette lighters are improbable to go anywhere anytime soon. Some cars have shipped over the years without cigarette lighters, and others have included an accessory socket with a space hack alternatively of a light, but the mind of ditching the car cigarette light altogether silent has n’t caught on .

The issue is that tied if people are n’t using car cigarette lighters for the purpose that they were primitively designed, far besides many portable devices trust on the technology as a de facto power source to ditch it all in all .

USB may prove an acceptable surrogate because then many portable devices use USB for data and power. It ‘s feasible that USB ports could finally overtake cigarette lighter and accessory sockets in cars, but it ‘s so easy to simply plug a USB charger into a cable car cigarette light that automotive manufacturers may hesitate to fully embrace that type of change .

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