It’s likely one of the first things you do when you get in your car: plug in your mobile phone. But did you know that charging your phone in your vehicle—whether with a cigarette-lighter adapter or a USB cable—could have a damaging effect on the phone’s battery?
Built-in USB Ports
“The USB ports in your car seem like a convenient feature, but often don’t provide enough power to charge your device while in use—you need two amps to charge a cell phone, while they often only have 0.5 amps,” says Scott Franklin of Ventev Mobile, a mobile-phone accessories company. “Therefore, they only slow the speed at which your battery drains.” Think of it as running in place, he says. While Franklin notes that some carmakers are now installing higher-powered USB ports that will rectify this situation, those are still rare.
“Stay away from unreliable drugstore chargers,” says Franklin—the kind that plug into a car’s 12-volt receptacle, better known as the cigarette lighter. Although they may state that they have enough power, “their capacity often falls short of what is advertised—and if the charger has two USB ports, it probably divides the power between both ports.” And some off-brand chargers may regulate voltage poorly, potentially damaging the phone by overheating, he warns. These problems are exacerbated by power surges—such as blasting the AC—particularly in older vehicles. As a result, using a charger that’s not manufacturer-approved could even void your phone’s warranty.
The best approach? Don’t compromise your phone with a potentially damaging charger. Top phone manufacturers sell approved accessories, including 12-volt adapters containing USB and power ports, from their websites and retail outlets. Look for one that provides at least two amps from the USB port and limits surges that may affect the phone. At the very least, don’t connect your charger until the car is up and running, and disconnect the lighter adapter when you’re not using it—plugged in, it draws energy from the car’s battery when the vehicle is off.
And if you want to avoid the issue altogether, bypass your car’s charging capabilities and use a mobile battery to plug in on the go. That way, you’ll save two batteries: the one on your phone and the one in your car.
Driving with a charged phone battery is always a good idea—it’s an easy way to get assistance on the road. Fortunately, the GEICO Mobile app offers access to Emergency Roadside Service, for when you need it most. Visit geico.com for more information on the 24/7 service.
Read More: 7 Items You Should Never Leave In Your Car
By Robert Edbrooke