It takes a simple flick, and poof, just like that your lighter has a flame! You may wonder: well, how does that happen? Is it by magic or something else?

Reach into your pocket, or the drawer in your kitchen, and pull out your lighter. It’s time to learn a little something about how it all works!

How Does a Lighter Work Diagram

First, let’s look at a general overview of a lighter. The diagram pictured below shows you all the parts of a standard butane lighter and how they come together to create a flame.

What Are the Parts of a Lighter?

  • Flint Wheel: The flint wheel exists on most disposable lighters as a safety feature. You turn the wheel down to hit the button or lever below.
  • Lever: You hold down on the lever, and by doing so, pressure is created within the tube. This tube holds the flammable fluid or liquid gas.
  • Tube: The fluid or gas needs to be in a concentrated area in order to create the right amount of pressure and heat. A torch is connected at the end of this tube to release the gas at the top.
  • Metal or Plastic Container: The metal or plastic container is usually lightweight and protects your hands from the liquid or gas inside of the lighter.
  • Flame: The flame comes out of the top of the lighter. You use this to light cigars, candles, incense, grills, and so much more!

Do you want to learn more about how lighters work?

Check out this video!

What is Inside of a Lighter?

There has to be some kind of fuel source or gas to make a spark. Any of the following can be found inside of a lighter:

  • Butane
  • Ferrocerium
  • Piezoelectric crystals
  • Naphtha

There are a variety of lighters out there, from disposable to refillable to electric. Some use butane, while others use crystals. It just depends on which type of lighter you’re using! No matter what, though, you’ll get a spark as the result of any of these things being inside of your lighter.

How Different Lighter Types Work

Now it’s time to dive into the fine details. There are many types of lighters out there, and each one works a bit differently.

How Does a BIC Lighter Work?

BIC lighters work more or less the same way as a standard butane lighter, with a few differences. The BIC lighter contains various springs and a piece known as a fork that controls the opening and closing of gas coming from the top.

The thing about BIC lighters is they’re designed to last. They rely on speed, force, and pressure in order to work. Each piece inside, from the flint to the fork, exists as a way to bring the gas or fuel from the body to the top. It’s no wonder BIC has sold more than 30 billion lighters since they made their debut in 1973!

Where Are BIC Lighters Made?

BIC lighters are made in Milford, Connecticut. On average, you can expect about 1.2 million lighters to be created at this facility every single day!

These lighters are then sold everywhere – drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and online. You can also customize BIC lighters through promotional products companies like Quality Logo Products®.

BIC has been a successful brand thanks to the affordable price, high volume of lighters produced every day, and convenience of finding them everywhere and anywhere! It makes them one of the best lighters on the market.

https://www.loopnet.com/Listing/500-Bic-Dr-Milford-CT/4253123/

BIC has lighters that target different consumer segment groups with various interests, trends, colors and licenses. They’re the ultimate accessory and help consumers express their own personalities in a unique and creative way.

– Alison Centorino, Communications Associate for BIC Graphic

How Does a Zippo Lighter Work?

Zippos are one of the most popular lighters on the planet and a favorite among collectors. They are well-known for their stylish chrome case and for being one of the best refillable lighters on the planet.

Here’s how a Zippo works: A flint wick is found inside of every Zippo. This wick is submerged into the fluid inside the fuel tank. From there, the striker is pushed down with the thumb, the wheel turns rapidly over the flint, and the result is the creation of a hot flame.

Check out this handy breakdown of the entire process!

Zippo lighters are meant to be held onto for years. They can be refilled with butane after the metal case is removed, which means you never have to dispose of yours when it runs out of fuel.

The Zippo makes a small ringing sound when in use. This is the lighter’s hinge lock sliding open and closed.

Where Are Zippo Lighters Made?

Zippo lighters are proudly made in the U.S.A. They have been manufactured in Bradford, Pennsylvania since 1932.

Zippo lighters were huge during World War II and the Vietnam War. The soldiers would not only bring them on the battlefield as personal mementoes, but they also used them to stay safe from harm.

In fact, a soldier’s life was saved in Vietnam when the Zippo in his pocket stopped a bullet. Let’s see your regular old convenience store lighter do that!

https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/4f7wvu/the_streetlights_at_the_zippo_factory/

How Does a BBQ Lighter Work?

You can’t make delicious hot dogs and burgers on the grill without a barbeque or torch lighter. These lighters work when you slowly push the lever down, causing a flame to come out of a long nozzle.

Typically, butane is used as the fuel source in a barbeque lighter. You can hold the nozzle up to the grill, turn the dial, and get to cooking!

How Does an Electric Lighter Work?

Electric lighters, also known as arc lighters, rely on electrical energy that is transferred between two ceramic nodes. The result is a laser charge instead of a flame.

The coolest part of an electric lighter is it can be charged through micro USBs – the same thing that’s used to charge your smartphone!

How Do Car Cigarette Lighters Work?

Car cigarette lighters contain a coil of nichrome wire. When heated, this wire creates a strong electrical current that the driver or passenger can use for their burning or smoking needs.

These days it’s more common to use car lighters to power small electric devices. You can buy special adapters that plug into the receptable, allowing you to plug in your phone and have it come through the radio. As a result, you can use your GPS or listen to that Spotify playlist with ease!

How Hot Does a Lighter Burn?

The flame from a lighter can be as hot as 2,010°F. That makes it significantly warmer than boiling point, hair dryers, car engines, desert sand, and even Venus!

See just how a lighter’s flame compares to other hot stuff!

Boiling Point 212°F

Hair Dryer 140°F

Car Engine 119°F to 220°F

Desert Sand 140°F

Venus 800°F

Listen to the age old wisdom that you learned as a kid: Don’t play with fire. You should always use extreme caution while using a lighter as they can obviously get very, very hot.

Are Old Lighters Dangerous?

Old lighters are typically safe to use, especially if they’re refillable. Brands like Zippo and Ronson make lighters that allow you to replace the fuel inside, which keeps them usable.

However, there are many lawsuits and instances out there of lighters causing harm or malfunctioning with improper use.

For instance, Sherryl Atkinson of CBS News released a report in 2012 about the dangers of disposable lighters made in China. It was found that 70% of these lighters failed to meet U.S. standards as determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Furthermore, malfunctions from these lighters cause more than 900 injuries each year.

Today, manufacturers are aware of the danger of lighters and are taking necessary steps to ensure they meet standards and are safe to use. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to speak with the manufacturer directly.

It’s better to be safe when using a lighter.

Take the following precautions:

Keep out of reach of children.

Never leave your lighter too close to a stove, oven, or other heat source.

Remove all lighters from your car, especially during the summer.

Leave the flame on for no more than 10 seconds.

Use your lighter only for its designated use.

Avoid putting your lighter on the ground or under heavy objects.

Do not touch the top of the lighter.

Prevent the lighter from being near anything that may puncture or shake it at any time.

Read the user instructions and warning labels before use.

The Bottom Line

It’s worth knowing how a lighter works so you can stay safe, whether you use an electric lighter, a Zippo, or a disposable one. Now that you’ve got that settled, go ahead and fire away!

References

Gross, S. (2017, April 24). How Do Butane Lighters Work? Retrieved from,
https://sciencing.com/butane-lighters-work-4962894.html

Peshin, A. (2019, November 26). How Do Lighters Work? Retrieved from,
https://www.scienceabc.com/innovation/how-doe-lighters-work.html

Dixon, L. (2017, April 12). How Does a Zippo Lighter Work? Retrieved from,
https://ourpastimes.com/zippo-lighter-work-4896757.html

My BIC Lighter. Quality & Safety. Retrieved from,
https://www.mybiclighter.com/en/safety-quality/how-does-bicr-lighter-work

Flux Lighters. (2018, September 6). How Do Electric Lighters Work? Retrieved from,
https://www.fluxlighters.com/blogs/news/how-do-electric-lighters-work

Adams, K. How to Use a Candle Lighter. Retrieved from,
https://www.hunker.com/13411117/how-to-use-a-candle-lighter

Deziel, C. (2018, August 23). The Dangers of Lighters. Retrieved from,
https://homesteady.com/13415393/how-to-know-if-your-lighter-is-butane-refillable

CBS News. (2012, February 14). Dangerous Lighters: Serious Risks Uncovered. Retrieved from,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkX4ZtNDaJM

Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD). Safe Use of Lighters. Retrieved from,
https://www.emsd.gov.hk/en/gas_safety/gas_safety_tips_to_users/safe_use_proper_use_and_maintenance/cigarette_lighter/index.html

US BIC World. BIC in America. Retrieved from,
https://www.bicworld.com/en

Reference. How Does a Car Cigarette Lighter Work? Retrieved from,
https://www.reference.com/world-view/car-cigarette-lighter-work-731c6109d90c2468

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.