No power from cigarette lighter to charge phones

I have a 2004 Toyota Highlander. In this day of cell phones and video games, and all of the power adapters/converters that we use to charge these items in our cars, I was recently surprised to learn that if the key is not in my ignition there is no power from the cigarette lighter. Therefore, if we are on vacation we can’t charge our phones in the car unless we are driving. I’m certainly not going to leave the key in my car sitting in a hotel parking lot to charge my phone! Has anyone else experienced this or found a fix? I’m just shocked that a car would be designed this way these days.

Uh, charge it while you are driving? Why is that a problem? That’s what I do when traveling. There is no rule that says you have to charge your cell phone only at night. It will still ring and you can answer calls when it is charging.

Some cars have constant power on the cigarette lighter and some don’t. That’s just the way it is. You could get a power plug (cigarette lighter) kit at an auto parts store and install it directly wired to the battery (please use a fuse) and solve the problem that way.

Or, you can charge it in the hotel room. My car is wired in a similar fashion, and I fail to see this as a big problem.

Well, we’re not always in the car for long periods once we reach our destination. Thank you for the suggested alternative.

Yes, this how it is done these days. Cars used to have their lighter circuits always hot. Recently they’ve all been made ignition-switched, presumably as some sort of safety feature.

I have the confidence to re-wire my car as I see fit. I would certainly modify any new car I bought so my lighter circuit would always be available. That is about your only option. Re-wire or live with what you were given.

I can’t really relate to this because I do not possess all these devices you are talking about, and I do not find it necessary to charge anything in my car. To be honest, I don’t even know if the lighter works with the ignition off or not, although I agree that’s how it used to be on most cars.

You could re-wire the lighter to an always-hot circuit, or install another lighter socket wired that way, if this is really a big issue. Just make sure you include a fuse in the circuit.

Doesn’t matter too much because the voltage to the lighter will be about 12 volts with the engine off, and 14 or a little better when it is running. Many of the power users, such as cell phones, only turn on when the supply voltage is well above 12v. jkd

One of our vehicles is a 2003 Toyota 4Runner and the power socket is off when the key is off. On the other vehicle, a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander, the power socket is always live. I think that the power socket was always live on the 2000 Ford Windstar that I owned before the Uplander. However, I only charge the cell phone when I am driving. It holds its charge overnight if I leave it on, and I would rather not leave it in the car.

Does it perchance have another socket, designated as a “power outlet?” If it has more than one, often the lighter socket is controlled by the ignition, while any other sockets are hot all the time.

I have a feeling that many cars tie the lighter to the ignition for the same reason they automatically turn off the lights and so on… to prevent us fools from draining the battery. On the other hand, I’d like to have control over that choice rather than giving it to the manufacturer.

I have a 2004 Odyssey with the same issue and I’d like to know how to rewire the rear “power outlet” to be on all the time, too.

Rewiring a receptacle to be hot all the time is pretty simple:

  1. Unhook the existing power lead and cap it off with electrical tape or a wire nut.
  2. Install a new fused wire to the battery using wire of the same gauge or larger.

What if I wanted to install another device operating on 12V DC, like an inverter to power my HDD player and an LCD monitor?

I would like for these to have constant power, yes I know I can just turn the ignition on and watch a movie without running the car, but I would like for the movie to not stop when I switch the engine from running to off, or from auxiliary to run.

It is kind of a pain to arrive at my destination, turn off the car and have to restart the inverter, the hdd, the lcd monitor, find the file and fast forward through a movie to get back where i left off.

Possibly enough of a pain to get an answer, rather than another question “why bother”?

In some cars it is possible to simply pull a fuse from the cicuit supplying your auxiliary power, and relocate that fuse to another circuit, allowing the power supply to be on all the time.

To do this it is best to take your car to the dealer, as they will have a mechanic familiar with it who can do this in seconds, or tell you whether it is not an option on this model.

Alternatively you may follow the wires from the power outlet to the fuse panel.

There should be a black wire, ground, and a red wire, power.

The red wire will likely be interuppted by the ignition switch, so this can jumped either directly to the battery, or to another red wire which always has power, ie, hazard lights, main bus, alternative constant on power supply.

The important part is do not connect the red wire to any other color of wire, ever, and insure it is a fused circuit.

If you are not sure if it is fused you can install a fuse in the line, there is no harm in have two fuses on the same circuit if you are in error.

It is also a good idea to run this wire, not directly to the power outlet, but rather run it to the dash and install a switch, so you can turn it off when you want and insure that you do not accidentally discharge your battery with something that draws power even in the standby or off state, like an inverter.

If you are not familiar with any of these processes it is best to hire a professional to do it, as low voltage from bad connections can damage many electonic devices, as well arcing from loose connections can heat up circuits and cause fires.

Uh, did you read the second paragraph of my response?

You can get a kit at any auto parts store to install a power plug and wire it directly to the battery. Please use a fuse when you do this.

are you ABSOLUTELY certain that the car has only ONE plug outlet???

most cars built since '95 have two outlets, one being switched on and off by the key, and another which is “live” all the time.

you must make sure you dont inadvertantly totally drain the battery though.

Oh my God. When I bought 97 Toyota Rav 4 in 2012. I did not know what the extra wire going to the battery was. So I had the mechanic disconnect it. That was about 2 years ago. I never tried the cig. lighter as a charger till recently. Maybe that explains the no power issue. But, mine has no power even when I am driving. so, my problem could be something else.

Thank you so much for sharing this. Very important information.