How many times have you used a cigarette lighter socket for radio or camping in a vehicle, only to find that either the socket (or the plug) was just a plain crappy connection? My bad experiences with these pieces of junk over the years have been way too many, and I'll bet yours have been too! I can recall trying to plug in an inverter, and when I got to the other end of my extension cord to use my now-converted-to-120-volts device, that the idle of the car vibrated the connection loose! And then there was the time that I plugged in a light, and the tip of the plug was so cheap that it fell off the end and shorted the socket. It blew a fuse, but had that connection been unfused or had a too-large fuse in it (which SHOULD never be the case, but with a used vehicle, you never know what "unsafe" modifications may have been made, especially if you drive the "Uncle Buck" heaps that I drive.)That could have resulted in quite a fire under the dash! And then there was the time that I needed to plug in one of those hand-held spot lights, in this case at an accident scene. And the previous occupant had ruined the connection with ashes. (It seems that some people, the ones that haven't died off anyway, actually USE these things to light their cigarettes!) I had NO USEFUL LIGHT (other than a flashdark, as I call them) AT AN ACCIDENT SCENE, when I could have had a powerful one, powered not by piddly d-batteries that always go bad from storage, but instead a POWERFUL LIGHT that would have been POWERED BY THE VEHICLE "ITSELF" was rendered USELESS all by one poor connection!
Now take the case of a rental car. Most don't allow smoking. This is good, you get a car that is not all smoked up. But take a closer look, and many times you will find that there is NO cigarette lighter socket on the vehicle! "Not handy" if you are a radio guy!
Well, with smoking disappearing from the scene (and good riddance to that nasty evil!) and the subsequent disappearance of cigarette lighter sockets from vehicles, but with the emergence of GPS units, MP3's, not to mention TV's and laptops BESIDES radio gear, it would seem that the time is ripe to find a suitable replacement for the 12 volt cigarette lighter socket and plug!
Such a connection would have to be polarized, and allow a good, tight connection in mobile situations, a connector that actually STAYS CONNECTED, something that the old cigarette lighter plugs really didn't allow. It should be heavy enough to prevent arcing when something is plugged in. The metal connections should be of good quality, since we are talking about DC and it's well known arcing problems-if you get a 'miniature' arc weld at the connection every time you plug in or unplug something, that connection is going to fail quickly (or worse!)and such a connection should have overload protection (and who knows, with modern electronics would 'surge' and "filtering" protection not be a good idea? hook a meter up to your car and observe the fluctuations, not to mention the computer noise!), either from a fuse, (or a pair, one on the 'hot' and also one on the 'grounded' side? I am not sure)....or how about a circuit breaker arrangement? (This would sure beat being stuck out in the middle of nowhere on a hot date without a spare--and also without a fuse! Don't say that it has never happened to you! HIHI!). It should be able to handle a fair amount of current, not just to run an mp3 player, but an inverter of serious wattage, or ham gear, not just the QRP kind. It would have to clearly be marked for 12 volt use only, I understand that there are now 24 volt and even maybe higher voltage auto systems out there. (doesn't ANYTHING stay the same anymore?)It should have reverse polarity protection even with a polarized-plug design-(how many times have you been driven crazy with a small connector tip to a device that has a reversed tip, or a tip that arced when either part came in contact with the car's metal ground (also a recipe for disaster), or better yet, I have heard that some vehicles have a POSITIVE ground?
It would have to fit in a small space (not much room these days in cars for modificaitons, again unless you drive an "Uncle Buckmobile"...) and it would have to be widely accepted as a 'standard' connection. And yes, there would have to be adaptors for the emergent-time when you had to plug in an "old style" cigarette plug device to this 'new' connection.
So, what do you think, fellow Hams? What do you recommend as a replacement for the cigarette lighter plug? Have you tried any other types of connectors for 12 volts in your own vehicle, or maybe discovered another type being used that's better in some other part of the world?
DE BILL W8LV