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Guest Message by DevFuse

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2001 Outback Lighter stopped working during inflation/compressor use

lighter wiring fuse relay

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6 replies to this topic

#1 Tom2323


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Posted 31 July 2013 - 04:36 PM

I've recently gotten a 2001 Outback Limited Sedan [2.5L AWD, no turbo], and the Cigarette lighter just  stopped working. I was right in the middle of inflating my mini-spare with a so-called "Truck-Air" tire compressor.  It's just bigger and faster and works better than the micro mini ones you see everywhere. Problem is, it also draws more juice, and I have to run it for 1.5 min. then "rest" for 5, then another 1.5 mins. If I run it longer, the lighter socket fails (yeah, I'm an idiot for forgetting to rest the circuit.
HOWEVER, The fuse at the fuse box is ok. I found no burned fuses at the dash fuse box at all.

This issue also happened with my '94 legacy 2.2. using the same air compressor. Under a minute duty cycle, it worked fine over and over, but after about 1.75 minutes it stopped and the lighter was dead.


My Subaru mechanic guru at the time said something to the effect of "generally, over-drawing the lighter in the non-outback legacies often burns out a wire at the back of the lighter, something 'it's a basic repair', but one that takes considerable time to get at from behind the lighter unit, and he didn't recommend I spend my hard-earned money on it.

I did as he suggested & simply added a 3 way accessory adapter and wired it in using a 'piggyback fuse adapter' to an existing 20 amp circuit that wasn't overloaded or critical to anything [airbags etc]. It worked fine. It was easy to get to the front AND behind the box to access the wires.  NOT SO in the 2001 Outback.

The redesign from '94 to 2001 seems to be intended to make it completely impossible to easily work on any of the wiring [just pull and check mini-fuses] and I can't use the piggyback fuse tap, since the front of the fuse box is butted directly up against the coin tray. There's no room.
After realizing that I'd have to take apart much of the dash [neck arthritis] to even get to the back of the fuse box, I decided to try one of those "unused" connectors that one finds hanging about under the dash [NOT the code readers etc].  Usually the loose ones are for options you didn't get, or for other models with the same basic harness. I found 12 volts at one lead, cut stripped it and connected a pigtail 'split off' the wire. I reattached everything and checked for power, and when I did the horn honked for just a nano-second. Didn't think much of it.

Looking back, I think [just my luck] I split off what is probably the 'unused' car alarm wiring [I have no car alarm], since everything tested fine for power and ground, BUT when I plugged my ipod charger in to the accessory adapter the car horn started sounding continuously.

There HAS to be a better, smarter, easier way to do this.
Are there other fuses or relays that could have fried under the load from the air compressor causing only the cig lighter in the car to fail?

Everything else in the car works, and all fuses at the box test good. I'd REALLY like to repair the orig. cig lighter, but only IF I don't have to disassemble the entire console and half of the dash, trashing my arthritic neck in the process. Any ideas? I have the Haynes manual for the car, but I've had so many 2.2L Legacies (5) which were easier to work on, I'm a fish out of water here.

Suggestions? I don't see any help in the Haynes manual.

#2 nickb21


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Posted 31 July 2013 - 05:10 PM

I did the exact same thing to my '02 using an inverter. It was a while back, but I do not recall having to pull the whole dash apart. In fact, I believe you can get the lighter socket out just by pulling the ash tray, shifter surround, and HVAC/radio surround.


I just used a light gauge wire to 're-jumper' the back of the socket.


I run my compressor directly off the battery (clamps) and the inverter has a dedicated fused line running from the batt. as well.

#3 Fairtax4me



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Posted 01 August 2013 - 01:35 AM

Might try checking fuses in the under hood box too.
If you really need to run a compressors that draws so much, use a dedicated 20 amp fuse line straight off of the battery rather than using the accessory outlets in the car. Those are hardly suited to deliver even the 15A they're supposedly rated for.

I don't rember it being all that difficult to get to the lighters on the 00-04 models. Pretty similar to the 95-99 IIRC. The console cover around the ebrake pops out, then the cover around the shifter. Pull the ash tray and there are two small screws that go up into the dash, easily removed with a stubby screwdriver. Then there may be two screws at the top of the radio bezel. The bezel will pull out and the wiring for the 12v socket should be accessible, and you can check for power and ground to the socket.

#4 johnceggleston


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Posted 01 August 2013 - 10:26 AM

iirc, the wire to the cig lighter has ''something'' in line that is covered in heat shrink tubing.

since this seems to be fairly common, i might use a smaller fuse and / or air pump or both.


but that does not help you replace it.


i did the same thing on my 97 GT and  i have just been living without it.

cigarettes are bad for me any way. :)

Edited by johnceggleston, 01 August 2013 - 10:27 AM.

#5 Tom2323


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Posted 01 August 2013 - 10:57 AM

Thanks to everyone.  I feel not so bad about doing it to my "new baby".  Funny, I fried my wife's '94 socket with an inverter, and my '93 with the compressor. The comp. came only with a cig. lighter plug, so I ASSUMED it was designed to work. :blink:


All the comments have been helpful!  The "pain in the butt" comment about R&R was made re: the 1993 legacy. I'm gratified that the dash was redesigned to make this, and apparently the radio removal, easier.  I can definitely handle this one. 

I will post my result... after it stops raining and I can get at the thing. B) 

#6 idosubaru


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Posted 01 August 2013 - 11:12 AM

there are 90 degree fuse taps that i've used in tight Subaru fuse boxes before.  rather than stick out they are perpendicular to the other fuses, like so you can see how tight to the others this one is:



or you could use this and simply bend it yourself:



the dashes are easily removed in a matter of seconds/minutes actually. not a big deal.  first try might be a little tight just due to age and people spilling sticky drinks on the dash/getting in the plastic tabs, but otherwise they're actually easy and simple.


but like they said - with your propensity to use and push the electrical system you'd be much better off with a dedicated circuit and heavy gauge wire.  it's easy to run a wire from the batter to the interior and put an inline fuse in it.  you already played with the alarm wiring, finding it, testing for 12volts and finding it - you've easily got the skill set/drive to run a wire to the interior.

#7 nickb21


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Posted 02 August 2013 - 09:29 AM

You don't need it, but I invested in a cheap set of trim removal tools (from Harbor Fright). They're made out of some kinda plastic so you don't mar the trim, think they were like 5 bucks.

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