Reader Question: No 12V Power Points?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Brian asks: I’ve noticed that 12 volt plug-ins are getting scarce in new cars. This is a problem for me because I have a radar detector that needs a 12 volt plug to power up. Without that, it’s useless and without a radar detector, driving is too risky to be worth the bother. Might as well ride the bus.


My reply: I have noticed this as well and mentioned it in several of my most recent car reviews. The 2021 Ford F-150 I have this week – review will be posted soon – has multiple USB ports, a 110 volt plug and other plugs the function of which I Haven’t yet ascertained. Luckily, I found one 12V hook-up  . . . in the back seat area. I ran the cord from there to my detector, up front.

But I have had vehicles without any 12V plugs – anywhere – and (like you) that leaves me flying uncloaked and so makes it risky to fly.

The good news is that most new cars do still offer a 12V powerpoint – though in some cases you have to specify it, rather than multiple USB ports.

Worst case, you can buy adapters that allow you to continue using 12V-plugged accessories. You could also buy a portable power source – or hard-wire the detector to a 12V source in the car’s wiring harness. But be sure it is 12V. Some of the new cars run higher voltage and you don’t want to toast your $400 detector!

. . . .

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  1. Add-a-circuits are fantastic for installing low amp accessories from a switched or fulltime power source. No mauling of harnesses required. For example I added a trickle charger solar panel to the fulltime hot power lock circuit, now my battery stays at 12.7v after sitting for days rather than the partially diacharged 12.4v. I added my dashcam to the key switched power window circuit so it comes on when the cars in the run position. Grounds can be connected at any sturdy bolt under the dash. A 12v power port would probably require a hot wire relayed from the battery to avoid overloading the factory wiring. If you add a 12v socket buy one thats a cigarette lighter instead of the similar 12v power port. They look similar but the cigarette lighter holds onto the plug way better.

  2. While I understand ReadyKilowatt’s use of quotes for cigarette lighter, they should be for “12 volt socket/port/whatever” because they’re still cigarette lighter sockets. Just can’t use ’em that way anymore.

    And in today’s atmosphere of safety nazis, how is it where something a kid could stick a finger still exists!

    Powerpole connectors, splitters, adapters and distribution blocks are superb, used ’em on my motorcycles. That said, the quality don’t come cheap. powerworx dot com/dc-power-products is the manufacturer’s site.

    Going way back to the 60’s for my thinking, it is beyond my comprehension that the SAE, etc., never spec’d a real accessory 12 VDC connector set where sockets would be placed at a few points in the cabin and where plugs would fit properly. Molex would have easily come up with a compact, safe, and user friendly design.

    I don’t recall anymore how many times I had to get a quality cigarette lighter plug at Radio Shack to replace the junk that came with the product, that backed out when you hit a bump in the road. Or just all by itself.

    Hard wiring anything in today’s harness probably isn’t a Best Practice as many circuits are multiplexed. A better point would be tapping positive at the cabin fuse box, the cigarette lighter or cabin/courtesy lighting fuse. Then find a correct ground for minus; good luck.

    Under my S-10 dash there are a few spots where I see some short lengths of harness, one of which I can actually grab hold of but bundled so tight it might as well be a pipe.

    The only accessory I run now is a cam that mounts next to the rear view mirror. On the up side of the passenger sun visor I’ve clipped a thin 12000 mAh USB power bank. A tucked away 12″ USB cable connects the two. My cam has run about 30 hours in a mix of driving and parking modes. For longer trips, I keep available a 10′ USB cable and a… USB cigarette light plug. Sigh.

  3. I’ve converted my 12VDC “cigarette lighter” ports to Power Poles. It will leave a hole where the port used to be, but it is far more reliable, flexible and allows for distribution panels. A good (but not cheap) source for parts and supplies is West Mountain Radio:

    Just have to make sure you’re properly fusing the connections and not exceeding the current rating for the wires. But after years of dealing with lighter plugs popping out, corroding and even falling apart in my hands, it is a much better solution.


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