What does a Car Adapter do?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 April 2020
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The car adapter is a handy device that makes it possible to draw on an automobile’s battery power to charge and operate some type of handheld device. Most adapters are configured to make use of the cigarette lighter that is usually standard equipment on vehicles, or make use of the power port that is included in a number of newer vehicles. An adapter of this type can be used to power a cell phone, handheld music device, or even a laptop computer with ease.

While designs vary somewhat, most car adapters are nothing more than thin electric cords with connectors on each end. One connector attaches to a port on the body of the cell phone or other device; at the opposite end of the cable is a section that is shaped much like the cigarette lighter found in the vehicle. By inserting that end into the car’s lighter port, then connecting the opposite end to the device, it is possible to use the car’s power supply to operate a cell phone, laptop, or other device.

Today, there are brands of car adapters that come with a set of universal connectors. This allows one end of the adapter to be modified to match one of the ports found on whatever device is to be connected to the automobile’s power supply. For example, one connector may allow the cord to plug into a USB port on a laptop, while another connector makes it possible to connect an mp3 player.

The most common application for a car adapter is the operation of a cell phone. Once the power connector is plugged into the lighter or the vehicle’s power port found on the dashboard or a central console, the phone can be used without draining the internal battery of the cell. At the same time, the connection can also be used to recharge the battery of the cell phone, a feature that makes the use of car adapters especially helpful on long trips. Contrary to popular opinion, using car adapters to power cell phones does not enhance the signal range of the devices.

Other electronic devices can also be operated using some type of car adapter. For example, if a passenger wishes to work on a laptop computer while traveling, using an laptop adapter allows usage for hours on end, without running down the computer’s internal battery. The same is true for handheld music players; it is possible to connect the device to the power supply via the cigarette lighter, thus preventing use of the built-in power supply of the player.

The typical car adapter is relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased at electronics stores as well as many discount retail outlets. Some adapters are configured to work only with certain makes and models of cell phones and other devices, making it necessary to determine if a given adapter is right for a specific device. Various makes and models of the car adapter are also readily available online, making it possible to order the right type of adapter if it is not carried in a local store.

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