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The cigarette lighter outlet was never designed to be an electrical outlet the way it's commonly used today. Even so, I've yet to find a plug for charging USB devices that fits and doesn't fall out.

All plugs I know have some little metal nub in the center that practically never gets enough contact with the socket's center base, and the sides of the plug are never effective at keeping the plug pressed in well enough.

How can I make the plug stay in place? How can I easily modify the socket to make it work?

My car's socket is vertical (pointing straight up). I don't want to dismantle my car, although it would be cool to have a USB socket in the console! This must be a common problem; how do people solve it?

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Can't say I've ever had this problem. I've got a multiple outlet adapter that I leave plugged in all the time and it never comes loose from the car. The items in the adapter itself never come loose either. Maybe you've got a bad factory socket in combination with cheap adapters? –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 5 '12 at 12:31
    
I bought a car charger which had a small plastic neck that fitted into the socket and helped to hold it in place, I keep looking to buy more of these, but cannot find them online...but they do exist because I had one !! –  user4663 Mar 8 '14 at 14:47
    
I have this problem with my Snooper satnav charger, tried to alter it but metal clips won't bend. User manual says specifically to only use this charger with the satnav so I'll have to go with the bluetack method. Really annoyed as satnav was expensive. –  user6296 Jun 24 '14 at 11:40
    
@Mary all car power adapters are basically identical so you can use any, even if the manual says different. Get one from Amazon, spend an least $15 to avoid cheap Chinese stuff. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 24 '14 at 18:34

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would look at the item you are plugging into the outlet rather then the outlet. Most of the time the cheap USB chargers aren't built correctly. Some times you can just put a flat screwdriver under the wings on the side and pry them up so they stick out more. Another option would be to use an adapter like this.

With some tom foolery you could just wire in the guts of your USB changer and then mount the port somewhere tricky.

Good luck.

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Yes I agree that the problem is probably the poor quality of the charger. The problem is that I've never found anything that doesn't look like it came from the same Chinese factory in the end. Good idea with prying the wings out a bit! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 4 '12 at 18:54
    
Solved: I took the plug apart and found that it was, indeed, a cheap piece of .... I removed the hard metal center nub and replaced it with a short soft spring. Now it works well enough. Seeing how simple electronics it contains made me think about avoiding the plug&socket by embedding it directly in the console, but that's a project for another day. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 5 '12 at 18:47
    
Duct tape solves all problems. If duct tape can't solve it, use WD40... the solution to the other 50% of problems –  Nick Mar 10 '14 at 15:34
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tom foolery.......you incorporated that into a sentence. respect. –  DucatiKiller Mar 20 at 7:22

I must admit, I've gone for a very low-tec solution to this in the past: Blu-Tack. Simple, not the most elegant, but effective :)

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I had the same problem with one of those cheap mp3-FM transmitters. The thing is that some lighter sockets aren't deep enough to accept the adapter, so the wings never go deep enough to click into the recesses of the socket. The best thing to do would be to find an adapter that plugs into the socket and then plug your USB adapter into that. Some hardware stores sell an adapter that turns one socket into two. Or you could try some DIY-fu and bend the wings forward and back to move the bulge closer to the front. Just be VERY careful not to snap them off. That metal is quite brittle. See the blue line I "Photoshopped" in ;)

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2 solutions:

(1) Use a tightest fit rubber 'O' rings around the plug - available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Assorted-Rings-Plumbing-Rubber-Thread/dp/6040360860 - see pink bands on the image below.

(2) Use a short length of plastic-coated WIRE or a WIRE cable tie like those small black ones you get around a power cable when you unbox a new appliance (NOT a flat plastic 'garden' cable tie). Thread the wire THROUGH both the 2 silver spring contacts on the side of cigarette plug and twist the ends together to tighten it around the socket, than press/flatten the twisted ends to the socket - see yellow band on pick below. The good thing about this method is that the silver spring contacts stop the wire tie from rolling off. This worked so well for my loose USB cigarette charger that I have to give it a real tug to get it out! socketwithbands

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UPDATE: Better still, the 2 silver spring contacts on the side of cigarette plug flick out from the end nearest the 'spring nose' (best done slowly with a flat-blade screwdriver). Once you have flicked both ends out roll 2 or 3 tightest fit rubber 'O' rings amazon.co.uk/Assorted-Rings-Plumbing-Rubber-Thread/dp/… under the 2 side spring contacts ensuring you can push the 2 spring contacts BACK into the slot-holes they came from. Should be very firm. Good luck! –  Jase Feb 28 at 19:58
    
Please update the answer with you new information instead of leaving a comment. This makes the solution much easier to understand for future users. –  Paul Mar 1 at 21:19

Certainly plugs vary in their quality and ability to stay put. However, I am certain there are differences in the socket diameters as fitted to different makes of vehicles. My Honda is OK but my Fiat Ducato based campervan will not keep plugs in. The answer is a cylindrical metal sleeve adaptor. I have got one of these which came with some device I bought. Maybe an early Tomtom. Sadly I cannot find a supplier of these, despite it being an obviously common problem. Does anyone know of such a supplier? The Fiat socket does not seem to have any kind of internal recess to help retain the plug. I have tried a plug to socket adaptor and that worked for a while...

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Could you add a photo of the adaptor? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 20 at 8:18
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I'm torn between whether this is an actual answer, or asking for shopping advice (or both). –  Paulster2 Mar 20 at 11:00
    
I can confirm that this is a problem with socket diameters. European manufacturers seem generally to be build the sockets to a slightly different spec. I've had problems with any charger I've tried in an early-2000s VW New Beetle until applying the rubber O-ring hack suggested by @jase above. –  dodgethesteamroller Mar 26 at 17:55

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