I've been doing it wrong.  I always thought that I could plug my smartphone into the usb port on my car and it would charge it.  On a  recent trip to Corpus Christi, I found out the hard way that is not always true.  When my car died south of Eden, I was so relieved that I had my mobile phone and could call for help.  Wrong. My phone was still below 10%.

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash
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Apparently, there is a good reason for that.

Most USB ports on cars are simply input ports, so you can play music or your flash drive on your car's entertainment system. They make it possible to use Apple Car Play or Android audio.

There are a few exceptions.  Many tests have found that the current that comes from these usb ports in cars is too limited to charge your smartphone quickly. Some apps use quite a bit of energy. Navigation apps are one example.  Chances are that a navigation app will empty your smartphone and the power suppled via the USB port won't be able to keep up.

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Photo by Andreas Haslinger on Unsplash
Photo by Andreas Haslinger on Unsplash
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Fortunately, more and more new car models include wireless charging technology. Sometimes it is just a tray or drawer.  In my car it's under the armrest.

You can also buy a car charger with USB port that can plug into your cigarette lighter. This will pull the more than 2 amperes needed to charge your phone effortlessly. They can charge your phone 10-20 times faster than a USB port. But, there are some things to remember.

First, don't forget to unplug it when you turn off the engine.  In a small car or if you have an old battery, it won't take long for the current to drain your battery and you may have trouble starting the car again.

Plus, be very careful to stay away from those generic car chargers you often find on sale in gas stations, truck stops or drug stores. Some of those charging cables aren't made well and some have even caught fire when left plugged in.

Photo by Riley Edwards on Unsplash
Photo by Riley Edwards on Unsplash
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Nothing is worse than ruining your phone battery by taking shortcuts. Even more catastrophic, to have a fire completely destroy your car.  There are stories in the news about this happening from time to time.

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