When I was a kid, you used your car lighter to, well, light your cigarette. No clue to the dangers of second-hand smoke, my parents would light up with the windows closed. The interior of the car was cloudier than being next to the Hudson River on a foggy day. From the back seat, I could barely see the road. I developed smoker’s cough at the age of 6 and could hear fog horns from the back seat. I thought this was normal, didn’t even crack the window. Times have changed. Not only are lighters now called power outlets (or in some cases simply a USB outlet), but good luck finding a new car with an ash tray!
Things sure have changed. My parents stopped smoking, I grew up, and now use my car lighter for better things. What kind of things you ask? Mounting my iPhone 6, GPS, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Smartphone or Sirius / XM Radio. Most lighter mounts have an integrated power adapter. Some include a universal port to plug your existing car charger into. Others actually have an integrated USB cable to power your smartphone or GPS. Depending upon the device, you may find that a powered mount costs less than the charger.
Arkon makes a great Car Lighter GPS Mount for Garmin car GPS models. That’s the one in the photo that accompanies this article. We find the lighter, depending upon location, can make an excellent spot for a GPS application. The mount includes an integrated power cable and the resulting cost isn’t a lot different from a power cable. But before you purchase a car lighter mount, make sure you have a vehicle that will support it. First be sure that your lighter (or power outlet) is deep enough to accommodate the weight of the device you will mount. We like to recommend at least two inches of depth. Anything less and you will find the weight may be too much and the lighter mount will simply fall out. Secondly, the angle of the outlet is important. The best angle is a vertical lighter outlet. This means the mount will sit at a 180 degree angle which is perfect for mounting stuff. Also be sure that your GPS isn’t using the power cable as the traffic antenna as all mounts with an integrated cable are merely for power, not for traffic.
Do some research to determine the power needed for your device. Many newer smartphones are using 2 AMPS. Be certain that the mount will accommodate 2 AMPS if that’s what your device needs. Deploying a mount that will only push 1 AMP will likely not power your device. Also be aware that these mounts may or may not charge up your battery, but just power it for normal use. It all depends upon the mount. The AlpaTronix Car Lighter Mount features two USB ports that each push out 2 AMPS of power. The included cradle opens to 3.15 inches which is wide enough for most smartphones. It features a flexible gooseneck to angle your device to the best viewing angle.
One of my favorite satellite radio mounts is the Arkon Sirius / XM Lighter Mount. This mount places your radio pretty close to where your car radio is located. There’s adjustment points at the mid-point and the cradle. Mounting hardware is included for both older XM models which uses a single tab and newer Sirius models which uses a 4-hole pattern on the back of the cradle. There is a power dongle where your radio would plug into.
Lastly, and this is important, be sure that when your car is in park, the stick shift is not going to interfere with the mount. While I suppose you could remove your mount and device each time you place your car into park, I think this might get real inconvenient pretty quickly.
There are several manufacturers that make lighter mounts. Be sure to purchase one that has the ability to tilt, swivel and angle. While the power outlet is typically at a decent angle for your device, buying a mount that has a gooseneck integrated into it will allow you to angle the device for optimal use.