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Why Did My 12-Volt Power Outlet Stop Working?

2115834349 1429219624728 jpg Power outlet | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — If you have a 12-volt power outlet that suddenly decided it didn’t want to work, the first thing to check is whether the phone charger or whatever 12-volt accessory you’re plugging into the outlet isn’t the problem. Try plugging it into a different power outlet to see make sure it’s working, or plug a different 12-volt device into the suspect socket.

(If the electrical accessory itself is at fault, see if it has its own fuse, which is sometimes incorporated into the plug.)

Related: Why is the Battery Light On?

If you determine that what you’re plugging in isn’t the problem, check to see if the fuse for the car’s power outlet has blown. A dead fuse for that circuit is the most likely cause, either because of age or because what was previously plugged in was faulty or drew too much current.

If you don’t know where the fuse is located, consult your owner’s manual to find the location first of the fuse panel, then of the individual fuse for the cigarette lighter or 12-volt power port in question. You may need a fuse puller to check it, though some vehicle manufacturers thoughtfully include one in the fuse panel. If the fuse is bad, replace it with one of the same amperage.

Even if the fuse shows no signs of being blown (one such sign might be a black spot), you might want to try a different fuse of the same amperage to make sure.

If the fuse is good, you have more work to do. Check whether power is getting to the outlet by testing it with a voltmeter or circuit tester. If the voltmeter shows power is reaching the outlet, the outlet itself is probably damaged from repeated use or simple misuse. Though chargers and other plugs are supposed to be of uniform size, some may be bigger or smaller than others. Once widened by a too-fat plug, the socket may no longer maintain contact with a different plug.

If no power is reaching the receptacle, the problem lies elsewhere, such as in a loose or disconnected wire or worn insulation around the socket. The wires may be out of sight or hard to reach under the dashboard, but see how far you can trace them to try to find the problem.

If you can’t find what’s wrong or are unable to fix it, professional help is your next step.

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