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The mysterious disappearance of the cigarette lighter in your truck

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The mysterious disappearance of the cigarette lighter in your truck
This is the last Toyota vehicle to have a cigarette lighter installed in it. (Photo courtesy of Toyota Toyota Motor Sales)

A couple of years ago, the last Toyota vehicle with a cigarette lighter rolled off the Princeton, Indiana, plant to no fan fair or, well, anybody really caring.

So, what happened this once mainstay car accessory? Times and consumer needs changed.

Once a staple in cars and trucks, the cigarette lighter was a key part in making customers happy not only for lighting up their smokes but also for powering all sorts of things from portable flash lights to DVD players.

The mysterious disappearance of the cigarette lighter in your truck
An assembly worker installs the last cigarette lighter in Toyota’s North America vehicle lineup. (Photo courtesy Toyota Motor Sales)

Fact is, the lighter port was the early in-car power source for all variety of applications — even though it wasn’t designed for that. Keep in mind, this was before the advent of USBs and the addition of inverters turning the truck’s DC power into AC power, allowing you to have a household plug like many new trucks have. The lighter port was it.

Cold cup of coffee? Plug in the heated cup. Want to light your cigarette? Wait for it to turn bright red. Need to power your CD player? Plug it in. Cell phone dead? Plug the USB into an adapter plug and stick it in the cigarette lighter socket.

It was literally everything.

Then, the electrical revolution came to cars and trucks with entire “digital platforms” for new vehicles like the 2021 Chevy Tahoe, and there were a variety of power plugs.

People also started changing their smoking habits. According to the American Lung Association, 42.4% of Americans smoked in 1965, and just 13.7% smoke today.

Wait I still have the lighter power plug!

At this point, you have either ran out to your truck to prove me wrong or you are scratching your head since you swear you have one. Yes, it is likely you still do have what looks like a cigarette lighter port. Except it isn’t the same.

The mysterious disappearance of the cigarette lighter in your truck
The 2017 Toyota Sequoia rolls off the line. (Photo courtesy Toyota)

When the last Toyota with a lighter rolled off the line on August 4, 2017, the 2017 Sequoia Super White marked the end of an era, and since then, Toyota engineers have redesigned their plug known then as the Cigarette Lighter Knob and Assembly into a straight power outlet.

This is the technical differences between a Toyota cigarette lighter and the new power source. (Image courtesy Toyota Motor Sales)

The differences basically deal with the design and the connector turning into a straight power point connection.

Why does this even matter? Well, according to Livewire.com, it could be a real problem if you put a cigarette lighter plug into a 12v power accessory socket.

“The only important difference is that you can’t, or at least shouldn’t, plug a cigarette lighter into an accessory socket. In the best-case scenario, nothing will happen at all. In a worst-case scenario, the lighter will heat up, but the socket won’t be able to withstand the extreme heat of the lighter.”

Once a staple in the dash, this is the final Toyota dash with the cigarette lighter added. (Photo courtesy Toyota)

Does any truck come with a cigarette lighter?

The natural question is: Does anybody offer a true cigarette lighter for a truck anymore? Not from the factory.

Toyota killed the option on the Tundra way back in 2011 (did anyone notice?). Why? Well, because people didn’t use it, and nobody complained after they killed it off.

We asked Chevy/GMC, Ford, Ram and Nissan. No, yes sorta, no and no were the answers. Wait what?

Yes, it turns out Ford offers a cigarette lighter in their accessory catalog. In fact, they offered a smoker’s package, which came with an ashtray and lighter as recently as the 2020 model year.

Still get an ashtray? 

Interestingly, you can still get an ashtray from Toyota as an available accessory as well as from other aftermarket companies.

Plus, you can actually still get the cigarette lighter in China for the Highlander (China variant) and Lexus LM350 (a full-size van), according to Toyota.

The bottom line 

The cigarette lighter joins a growing list of staple car and truck parts that have disappeared over the years due to new engineering achievements or flat-out disuse. If you don’t believe me, go to a classic car show and check out the fender-wall mounted vents, the floor-mounted foot-push brights button, CD players, tape decks, 8-track players, vent windows and, the always cool to see, passenger window mounted swamp cooler, etc.

The mysterious disappearance of the cigarette lighter in your truck
Yes, this is a swamp cooler on the passenger window. (Photo courtesy Google search)

So, we’re curious. Did you really notice the disappearance of the cigarette lighter?

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