/ Motoring, Technology

Hyundai stubs out cigarette lighters, plugs in USB chargers

Car cigarette lighter

Hyundai is removing in-car cigarette lighters from all of the cars it sells in Korea. Do you use your car’s cigarette lighter? If so, what for? Would you prefer to have a USB charging point instead?

It might be hard to believe, but cigarette lighters arrived in cars all the way back in 1925. However, their days may be numbered…

The Korean car manufacturer Hyundai has decided to get rid of cigarette lighters from all cars made for the domestic Korean market. Instead, the car maker is fitting 12v charging points and USB connections. According to Hyundai, this makes it the ‘first auto company in the world’ to make the change.

Smokers make up 23% of the South Korean population, though a huge proportion of these are men – 41% of South Korean men light up. Only 20% of people smoke in England, with an equal split across the genders. This raises the question; will we see the death of cigarette lighters in UK-bound cars?

Charging gadgets via cigarette lighters

Over the years I’ve plugged CD players and freestanding sat navs into my car’s cigarette lighter, both of which could be powered by a USB connector.

I suspect most of us own lots of kit with USB connectors, so a USB charging point could be the perfect replacement for the traditional lighter. Indeed, Hyundai’s research in Korea found that many drivers charge their mobiles or tablets with the lighter jack, rather than actually lighting cigarettes. And the car maker adds that smokers can always buy a USB cigarette lighter if they want to light up on the road.

Hyundai is planning to survey consumers in other countries to see whether the move away from cigarette lighters should be extended. So, would you miss your in-car lighter? If you do use it, do you use it to light cigarettes or to charge your gadgets?


The easy way is surely not to supply the lighter but retain the socket, so those who have appliances that fit them can continue to use them. By all means include an additional USB point. However, there are higher-current devices that use the lighter socket – we use a portable oxygen concentrator that plugs in and takes around 8A. There are car fridges. My lap-top power supply has a lighter-adaptor. So don’t ditch them.
A positive move would be to ban smoking by the driver when on the move – you aren’t supposed to eat, drink, phone so why can you be distracted by lighting up a cigarette? I used to smoke and had one or two narrow escapes when the cigarette end dropped in my lap.


Was right with you up until you started to attack personal freedoms.
I don’t smoke either but apart from the excessive nanny state control surely of which we already have more than enough, policing such a ban would command an unrealistic level of resources in relation to the relatively small overall benefit, if any.

Anyway apart from that I do agree we should keep the 12v outlet, it’s very useful.

Chris, I am anti the nanny state also. However, where “personal freedoms” endanger others – distraction from driving falls into this category – then I think legislation helps if common sense fails.

In this case I’d think the distraction caused by tobacco craving poses more of a danger to others than the limited distraction of the diver in the act of actually smoking, although I do feel the smoker should have the good manners not to impose a smoky atmosphere on passengers,
So, looks like we’ll have to agree to differ on whether legislation should be implemented.

But to get back to the topic the 12v outlet does not have to house a cigar lighter it has many other uses and I’d prefer it to be retained.

If car manufactures decide otherwise on our behalf, it’s not really too much of a chore to retro fit one.

Cigar lighter sockets are crap, though. A proper 12V socket and a proper USB port is a much better idea!

Has anyone studied whether lighting up while driving is more or less dangerous than using a phone? If you drop the phone it won’t set fire to your trousers, of course…

I am an asthmatic and cannot cope with smoke, particularly in the confined space of a car. I remove the cigarette lighter when I buy a car.

I keep a charger with a USB charger in the cigarette lighter socket and use another one in the power socket in the boot. With my last car, the sockets remained live when I removed the ignition key and I charged my sat nav, laptop and various other items in the boot, out of sight. With my present car, both sockets are switched out when I stop the car so its only worth trying to charge things on a longer journey.

You’re me, you are!

This is a logical move, and long overdue. Retaining cigarette lighters (or even just their sockets) instead of installing USB ports is similar to the late 1990s when car manufacturers retained cassette players after everyone had moved on to CDs. I don’t understand why car manufacturers are often so slow to move with the times.

NFH, from what I can see, USB capacity is up to 1.5A. Is this wrong? If not, then they are no use for the heavier-current devices I mentioned. So deleting them from new cars means all those with lighter-socket connectors or who use higher-power devices would have a problem. Progress?Evolution is sometimes better.
I take your point about CDs, but like vinyl, there is a great legacy that should not be discarded (many think CD quality inferior despite its attractions).


The output of USB chargers varies and it is necessary to check the specification. I have 5 and 10 watt (1 and 2 amp) chargers. Note that they are all regulated at 5 volts output rather than ’12 volts’ (which can actually be over 14.5 volts with the engine running).

Cigarette lighter sockets are very poor indeed as power sockets. Clint gives one of the reasons below.

I have 3 power outlets in my Espace of this design, two of which are in the front and have been used daily for the past 6 years to power an 8A oxygen concentrator and sat-nav with never a connection problem. They are mounted vertically so the weight of the plug and lead is not straining the connection. Maybe that is where the problem lies that others have – or maybe it is socket quality.
Whilst a USB point would be sensible, a higher-power outlet is also very useful to some of us.

Having the socket vertical is a great help in preventing cigarette lighter plugs from disconnecting in use, but there is the problem that metal objects dropped in the socket could short-circuit the connections.

The need for power sockets that will deliver a decent amount of power has been demonstrated. I use either a 75 or 150 watt inverter to charge laptops and various other mains-powered items.

The quality of cigarette lighter sockets does vary, but the plug quality varies more. Some are very loose, have no cord grip and can short out, and have no fuse.

I think there is a good case for providing better designed power sockets in cars, RVs and boats – with an agreed standard design for the plugs and sockets. Initially this would have to be in addition to cigarette lighter sockets.

Cigarette lighter sockets are good for cigarette lighters, but not so good as general-purpose power supply sockets – they were never designed for that. Plugs keep pulling out very easily – there’s no spring to keep them pushed in. Often, my USB charger plug loses its connection to the lighter socket but I don’t notice it until my sat nav shuts down in the middle of a roundabout. It would be better to use a power socket made for the purpose – such as the type of power socket you find on laptops.

Having USB charger sockets is good, but most USB chargers emit a high-pitched note (supposedly ultrasonic, but I can still hear it) which drives me mad. Most of them are on (converting 12V to 5V) all the time. It would be good if they had a switch on a flap covering the socket, so that they switched on only when you insert a USB plug in them.

And don’t get me started on the design of USB plugs. You push them in one way, doesn’t fit, turn them over, push them in, still doesn’t fit, turn them over again, this time it fits! Why didn’t it fit the first time? Can you imagine fighting with that while trying to drive?


I suggest that you purchase a USB charger that is almost flush with the cigarette lighter socket and use suitable lead to connect your sat nav to the USB socket. This stops the connection working its way loose, which is a common problem when long cigarette lighter plugs and chargers rock in the socket.

Heh! I have a USA Spec iPod adapter in my car, that works rather well. The charging cradle for my phone is wired behind the dash and through the tunnel to one of the b-awful lighter sockets off behind me somewhere. When I get one of those round tuits I’m going to hard wire it to a fused spur behind the dash.

These power adapters go back for decades and, like most ancient items, their design shows it’s age. The problem with replacing them is, of course, that most in car items are designed to run from them. Some good engineer could easily design a modern equivalent. Initially, a converter would (clumsily) keep everything running until the new product became universally accepted. I’m surprised no one has done this yet.

Back in the 1970s I owned a Lancia which had a plug-in re-chargeable torch. The socket for this was a simple bayonet type which looked as though it would be less expensive to produce than the standard, and very unsatisfactory, cigar lighter socket. Although the particular application in the Lancia needed only low current, the design of the socket looked capable of a performance at least as good as that of the cigar lighter arrangement. So it has been done once and the design exists!

What I would like is a 12v socket which is independent of the ignition switch. I have an electric type pump and it is annoying to find that I have to have the ignition on to use it. USB sockets are OK for low power 5v applications but are no good for higher power 12v purposes.

Odd how typos only become evident after a post has been made. Actually, it is an electric TYRE pump not a TYPE one! Spell cheque routines are OK for showing that the spelling is rite but not weather the word is the wright one.


We are not the only ones who want permanently live power sockets in our cars. There are also plenty of people with live sockets who want them switched, so perhaps manufacturers could make this user-selectable. If it is easy, I might carry out a small modification to keep the socket in the boot permanently live.

Thanks to this Conversation, I remembered that my car came with a couple of short connecting leads and one of them has a USB socket. Unfortunately, this is also powered down when the key is removed, albeit after a few seconds, and there is no option to change this.

Can I, respectfully, re-apply my correction to the above? I should have written its and not it’s. I do know the difference even if my fingers don’t.

My late father bought a Fiesta probably a decade ago and was most miffed to find it did not have a cigarette charger – so all those devices such as the electric tyre pump, rechargeable car torch, external lamp were of no use.

Judging from the comments so far not many people pump their tyres at home!

My alloy wheels are 10 years old and have some rim corrosion that prevents a total seal on a couple of tyres – inconvenient not dangerous but I do get occasional exercise with a foot pump. I have resisted the temptation to buy an electric pump that uses the lighter socket.

I have a cordless tyre pump that came in a set of Bosch power tools. The batteries died years ago but I resurrected the pump by adding a lead with a cigarette lighter plug. It lives in the boot and is far more convenient to use than any electric tyre pump I have seen.

Malcolm. I had that problem with my previous car. I took it in to Kwik Fit and, for a very small charge, had the wheel cleaned up after which the problem went away.

tonyp, thanks. I had mine cleaned and the tyres sealed at the rim and they are greatly improved.

Cigarette lighter sockets are only useful as power sources if they make reliable electrical connection. As I mentioned earlier, variations in plugs is the main problem.

My most unsatisfactory product with a cigarette lighter plug was a Black & Decker car vacuum which repeatedly stopped working due to the plug becoming disconnected. Comparison of the cigarette lighter plug with others made the problem obvious, so I cut it off and soldered on a new plug today. This has made a considerable improvement to the security of the connection.

“Instead, the car maker is fitting 12v charging points and USB connections. According to Hyundai, this makes it the ‘first auto company in the world’ to make the change.” This is not new! I have just bought a new Honda without a cigarette lighter but the charging point is retained. A separate USB socket is also included. I’m sure this has been the case on a number of other cars for a while.

A Pheasant Plucker says:
12 October 2013

I can only assume that where Hyundai lead Kia will swiftly follow. My Cee’d SW has a cigarette lighter and a USB socket in the front which are only live when the ignition is on. There is also a permanently live 12 volt “lighter” accessory socket in the boot. Perfect arrangement so why the need for change?

I agree that this is ideal. Hopefully the manual will point out that cold boxes and other high consumption accessories could discharge the battery if used for any length of time without then engine running.

The cigar lighter socket is essential to me. As well as for USB adaptors, I use it for satnav, portable fridge and tyre inflator (high currents) in the car, all gadgets supplied with this type of plug. I also run a Fiat campervan where I use the two lighter sockets for the same things as the car and for a wireless tyre pressure monitor and for charging the supplied emergency flashing light/torch gadget. The big snag is that the Fiat sockets are too big and the various gadgets don’t make good contact. There is a simple solution. At some time in the past, one of these gadgets came with a metal adaptor sleeve, which works fine in the Fiat sockets and isn’t needed in the Honda car. Unfortunately, I can’t track down a supplier of these adaptor sleeves so only have one. Halfords and Maplins seem unaware of it. From various postings, I know that many people have this problem, some on BMW’s. You would think there would be a standard for the dimensions of the socket? I guess not. A standard should also include a slight recess to accept the plug side spring contacts and help to retain the plug.

A simple solution is to wrap masking tape round the plug, just sufficient to prevent the plug rocking and becoming disconnected. It’s obviously a bodge, but an effective one.

Yes but I would have to remove the tape when I want to use my satnav, etc, in the car and retape it when I I return to my campervan. Not ideal!

If you can solder, one solution would be to make up a connector with a large plug attached to a small socket, linked via a short cable. I might do this myself because I’m fed-up with wrapping plugs in masking tape.

This problem has existed ever since cigarette lighter sockets were first fitted to cars and the motor industry has failed to standardise on what size they should be.

Quite agree that the dear old cigarette lighter socket is essential. How else can I run my Garmin satnav? Or my Ring tyre pump? Or my phone charger?
This type of socket should be, often is, more solidly built than your typical usb socket, and therefore more reliable in the long term. Who hasn’t had an usb socket on a phone or tablet become a sloppy fit?
Perhaps some bright manufacturer can develop an improved 12v power outlet?