Does your car have a cigarette lighter?

Or does it have a CIGAR lighter?

I’ve been noticing a peculiar thing while browsing through some of my service manuals. Growing up with the term “cigarette lighter”, I was surprised to find the factory service manual for my car refer to it as a “cigar lighter”.

Wait, is that a thing? Well functionally speaking, of course it’s the same thing. But do people really call it that? I guess somebody does. After all it has fewer syllables, and people love abbreviating words. Seems to me that the only reason I haven’t heard it called a cigar lighter before would be due to the comparatively overwhelming popularity of cigarettes.


If you haven’t noticed by now, I love terminology. I get a kick out of finding the most proper/correct term, and regardless of my own familiarity with whatever I grew up hearing, I enjoy making an effort to change old habits to use the right words. Not just in the interest of being technically correct (the best kind!), but for the purpose of clearer communication.

So when I first noticed the phrase cigar lighter in my car’s service manual, it caught my attention despite being a non-smoker. I’ve never used it as anything but a 12V power outlet, but still referred to it as a cigarette lighter anyway.

Now to be fair, my car is new enough (1995) that one of the two 12V outlets is strictly for powering electronics, while the other can handle the heat of a lighter. Thus, the service manual very clearly makes reference to a “cigar lighter” and an “auxiliary power socket”. And because I’m using the digital version, it only takes a few seconds to run a text search of the 2000+ page document and find that there is only ONE mention of cigarettes: a warning not to smoke them around the battery.


Now, the digital manual I have for my brother’s Saab (1991) shows the exact opposite. The Saab has a cigarette lighter. And the one for my truck, a ’95 Sierra, bounces back and forth between cigar and cigarette. And I can tell that cigar is not being used as an abbreviated form of cigarette because of the many “CIG LTR” references.

Now, I’m willing to write off GM’s inconsistency as being due to having multiple writers compose the 3000+ page document. That might also explain why a quick peek at the owner’s manual (in direct contrast to the factory service manual) for my Mustang reveals no cigar references, only cigarette lighter ones.


But Saab’s apparently quite faithful in calling it a cigarette lighter, even in an owner’s manual that I managed to find. Makes me wonder- which “official terminology” do other brands seem to favor, what era were those terms used in, and are they consistent about it?

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