You should be careful when plugging in electronic devices in your car’s socket plug or cigarette lighter. Some car batteries have 13.5 volts, so laptops, audio players and mobile phones might get damaged when they receive the wrong voltage. In fact, the socket plug was not even originally designed as an electrical outlet but as a cigar lighter.
As early as 1925, there were already cigar lighters in cars in the United States. The first patented lighter had a cord and a reel. It was designed by the Connecticut Automotive Specialty Company in 1928. Since then, automatic cigar lighters with quicker heating capacities have been developed.
A socket plug has an internal heating system that is capable of lighting cigars, cigarettes, tinder and other materials. An electrical current of 15 to 20 amperes runs through a thin coil of Nichrome wire inside the socket when the device is activated. The heating component becomes very hot in seconds. When the device is removed from the socket, it can easily light up combustible materials.
Because of health concerns about smoking, some car manufacturers have removed the cigarette lighter receptacle in their cars. Instead, some car models now have socket plugs that only serve as electrical outlets for electronic devices. A car can have several socket plugs for different devices, such as a vacuum cleaner or a tire pump. These sockets do not have the heat-generating capacity of lighter receptacles.
There are also plug-in inverters that convert direct current to alternating current. They can convert up to 240 volts of alternating current to power different electronic devices. These plug-ins are a very common feature of pickups, minivans and SUVs. For devices that run on even lower voltages, there are also plug-ins that can convert three to 12 volts.
Before plugging in your USB adapter, electric razor or thermoelectric cooler, be sure that the socket plug of your car is compatible with these devices. Also, make sure that devices are firmly plugged in because they can vibrate out of the sockets while you are driving.