When a vehicles heater under performs, many look to portable units powered from a cigarette lighter.
Often after getting a 12 volt unit they fail to meet expectations many expect from a heater.
Do Cigarette Lighter Powered Car Heaters Work?
The answer is yes they do work and do put out heat.
The problem is the amount of heat they give is not huge and only meant to supplement a existing heat source.
A 12 volt system is limited to how much heat it can produce.
Most car systems have a 10-15 amp electrical circuit to power a cigarette lighter. This is not a lot of power, and while it will charge a phone or other small devices when producing heat it is very under powered for such a task.
With that said there are some scenarios which a 12 volt unit may work.
Types of 12 Volt Car Heaters
Heated Car Seat Cushion
Heated car seats are a good option when looking for personal warmth.
They will not heat the entire car but will warm up the seat and the person on it.
There are some good low cost options that can work well when it comes to personal heat.
Wagan makes many good low cost units including the Wagan IN9438-2 Heated Seat Cushion with Lumbar Support.
12 Volt Defroster Heaters
Small units that plug into a cigarette lighter and produce heat is what most think of when it comes to portable car heater.
Again the problem is the amount of heat they give out, while they do produce some heat it will not be a lot.
The small units only have a 100-180 Watt rating. Given that a typical hair dryer has a 1200 Watt rating the difference is easy to see.
Basically they will put out some heat just don’t expect it to get a car toasty warm.
Popular units like the Roadpro 12V Heater and Fan have a rating of 180 Watts which is about as high as they get.
These types of small units are often used to help defrost windows and sit on the dashboard.
A portable 12 volt car heater will never be able to replace a vehicles built-in internal heater.
They are meant to only to add supplemental heat and many expect more than they should from the units.
With that said many people use them daily on cold days with good successes.
Before buying a unit be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure it is a good fit for you.