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Cigarette Lighter Malfunction


STEVE POLLARD
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Interesting read:

 

Michael weighs in on how a reader's car fire could have been prevented.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

bluecar2.gif

You recently answered a question about a car fire started by an automotive cigarette lighter that did not "pop out.", You suggested the fire could possibly have been prevented by a fuse blow. This is not the case. Fuses do not directly prevent fires. Fuses blow only as a result of passing excessive current, a condition that occurs only in the case of an overload or short. As long as excessive current isn't drawn, the fuse won't blow. The problem is, a cigarette lighter is capable of getting quite hot WITHOUT drawing current above the rating of its fuse, since getting hot is an essential part of its function. What usually stops the cigarette lighter from getting hot enough to start a fire is its own mechanical thermostatic action, which causes it to pop out and disconnect itself from power. If this mechanical thermostatic action is interfered with, the cigarette lighter will get hotter and hotter, but will not actually draw excessive current, and will therefore not blow its fuse. The cigarette lighter could, in theory, get hot enough to burn out its element and stop working, but this would happen long after the dashboard is already in flames. The situation is comparable to that of a kitchen electric range. While fuses and circuit breakers will prevent fire which might result from overload or short within the range itself, they do not prevent the cook from burning food. Everyone knows that it is possible to set food on fire with an electric range without ever blowing the fuse. In my opinion, cigarette lighters are inherantly unsafe. There is absolutely no protection against fire if the mechanical thermostatic action fails for whatever reason. Since I do not smoke, my cigarette lighters usually ride around in the glove compartment where they cannot hurt anything. Since my father does smoke, his cigarette lighter rides around in my glove compartment, too, where it can't hurt him.
Michael

TOM: You're right about the fuse, Michael. If the "mechanical thermostatic action" (that's scientific notation for "popping out when it's hot") doesn't work for some reason, the cigarette lighter WOULD just keep getting hotter and hotter. And in the letter you referred to, that's what apparently happened after a mechanic had tried to "adjust" the lighter.

RAY: And we certainly do know that food can be burned without blowing a fuse. How else could my brother make what he calls his "cajun style" toast every morning!
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Many of the early 12V GM vehicles the lighter circuits ARE NOT fused, What I have done is disconnect the feed from the lighter base and safe it off under the dash just to prevent any potential mishaps. Nobody smokes in any of my vehicles new or old regardless. But be aware the circuit is battery feed and it only a #10 wire and if it becomes shorted it will burn it self clear, taking everything along side of it with it.

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60 years ago the cigarette lighter was an option on most cars and the lighter socket was factory, dealer, or owner installed with a kit purchased from the dealer, or a local retail store. 

 

If the car came from the factory, or dealer with a thermal fuse at the base of the socket, it was usually removed and never replaced the first time it blew. When lighters became standard equipment the lighter circuit got its own accessory power fuse.

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You might want to check that, the wire was in the harness already 60 years ago, you might have meant 70 years ago. I know on Chevrolet's it came off the back of the line side fuse block and it was direct battery feed, unfused, # 10 gauge, and always hot. It was standard on all top line line cars, and they were beginning to become corporate in production practice and not producing separate harnesses. Prior to 1955, very possible. I have had several of the NOS dealer kits from 1959 up and it was just the the lighter case and the lighter and the rim ring and no wiring. The subcontractor was Casco,  same company that manufactures the hand held spot lights, packaged in a Chevrolet Accessories Box. The instructions were specific stating to "plug to existing wire"  

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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On 4/21/2022 at 9:43 AM, Digger914 said:

60 years ago the cigarette lighter was an option on most cars and the lighter socket was factory, dealer, or owner installed with a kit purchased from the dealer, or a local retail store. 

 

Make that 48 years ago. The Pinto was the First new car I saw with an optional lighter. All the 50s and 60s I am familiar with have lighters as standard equipment. High end cars came with several.

Edited by Frank DuVal (see edit history)
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On 4/21/2022 at 9:43 AM, Digger914 said:

60 years ago the cigarette lighter was an option on most cars and the lighter socket was factory, dealer, or owner installed with a kit purchased from the dealer, or a local retail store. 

 

If the car came from the factory, or dealer with a thermal fuse at the base of the socket, it was usually removed and never replaced the first time it blew. When lighters became standard equipment the lighter circuit got its own accessory power fuse.


 

I disagree……lighters were standard in decent cars by 1930……..90 years ago. There were many styles, and high end cars often had two or three lighters in them.

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On 4/21/2022 at 9:58 AM, Restorer32 said:

Shortly after I started driving I came out of the house and noticed I couldn't see into my Corvair.  Lighter stuck and filled the car with smoke.  Strange since I didn't smoke.  Luckily I caught it before any serious damage was done.


You drove a Corvair new? 🤔

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1 hour ago, edinmass said:


 

I disagree……lighters were standard in decent cars by 1930……..90 years ago. There were many styles, and high end cars often had two or three lighters in them.

While a majority of cars were just starting to offer a hot water heater as an accessory. 

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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30 minutes ago, John348 said:

While a majority of cars were just starting to offer a hot water heater as an accessory. 

First things first!  🙂  Of course there were already rear seat foot warmers using charcoal briquettes, exhaust heaters, and lap robes.....  Touring car lap robes were often weighted to keep them in place.

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1 hour ago, Grimy said:

First things first!  🙂  Of course there were already rear seat foot warmers using charcoal briquettes, exhaust heaters, and lap robes.....  Touring car lap robes were often weighted to keep them in place.

I have a horse hair lap robe in decent shape. free for the shipping.....................

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2 hours ago, Bhigdog said:

I have a horse hair lap robe in decent shape. free for the shipping.....................

Thanks, Bob, but I already have a weighted lap robe that came with the 1918 touring, and a fancy Pierce lap robe (broadcloth on one side, plush on the other) for the closed cars.  And a full-length horsehair coat for those cooler days--see photo.

 

In the other photo below (May 22, 2019) we drove the 1918 through snow flurries from Minden NV to Lake Tahoe via Kingsbury Grade thru 7200 ft with NO side curtains and only a lap robe and gloves 🙂

Kingsbury Grade.jpg

IMG_0004.JPG

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1 hour ago, Grimy said:

Thanks, Bob, but I already have a weighted lap robe that came with the 1918 touring, and a fancy Pierce lap robe (broadcloth on one side, plush on the other) for the closed cars.  And a full-length horsehair coat for those cooler days--see photo.

 

In the other photo below (May 22, 2019) we drove the 1918 through snow flurries from Minden NV to Lake Tahoe via Kingsbury Grade thru 7200 ft with NO side curtains and only a lap robe and gloves 🙂

Kingsbury Grade.jpg

IMG_0004.JPG

 

My type of guy. Drive in any weather.

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3 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

No, in high school I drove a faded blue '60 Corvair 4 door automatic with torn Pep Boys seat covers and I was still able to get dates.

 

I had a ten year old plus '63 Buick special station wagon when I started dating my now wife.   She has good insight and could see past the car to nab me.

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On 4/22/2022 at 8:46 AM, Frank DuVal said:

Make that 48 years ago. The Pinto was the First new car I saw with an optional lighter. All the 50s and 60s I am familiar with have lighters as standard equipment. High end cars came with several.

 

On 4/22/2022 at 12:41 PM, edinmass said:

…lighters were standard in decent cars by 1930……..90 years ago. There were many styles, and high end cars often had two or three lighters in them.

I said that "60 years ago the cigarette lighter was an option on most cars", I didn't say that most cars didn't come with a lighter. 

Most Cadillac's from the mid 50's up have power windows, but there are some that don't because power windows were an option before they became standard equipment.

Before they became standard equipment radios were an option in most cars and if you got the factory radio, you usually got the light in the glove box and the lighter as part of the package.  

Not all standard transmissions are manual, on some cars the automatic transmission comes standard.

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4 hours ago, Digger914 said:

Before they became standard equipment radios were an option in most cars and if you got the factory radio, you usually got the light in the glove box and the lighter as part of the package.  

In the case of a Dodge Dart I once owned, the glovebox light was part of what Mother Mopar called 'Light Group' or 'Light Package'.  It included hood & trunk lights, domelight operation on all four doors, ashtray & glovebox light, and the most interesting one, the front fendertop turn signal indicators.

 

Craig

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)
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