Charging your laptop in the car is a great need when you live stray and knowing that really cool looking and cheap adapters are sold somewhere in the world is exciting.

But you wouldn't want to burn the motherboard of your $2000 laptop while doing so, would you?

So, what is the risk while charging your laptop with one of these? More precisely, how big are the voltage variations/swings in a car and can these chargers successfully reduce them?

If there is one, is there a hack to overcome this risk?

car charger another car charger

closed as off-topic by Robert Cartaino Mar 31 '16 at 17:44

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Does not seem to need a life hack — A "life hack" is a seemingly intractable problem that can be solved by thinking outside the box. Unfortunately, everyday "How to…" questions about learning a craft or new skill are outside the scope of this site. See about Lifehacks. If the author can show how this needs an "outside the box" solution, edit and 'flag' to reopen." – Robert Cartaino
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Unfortunately, providing this type of technical support and assurance is not within the scope of this site. – Robert Cartaino Mar 31 '16 at 17:44
  • You can buy a "cigarette to standard outlet" adaptor and then plug the cord that came with your computer into that. i5.walmartimages.com/dfw/dce07b8c-68db/… – Carl Apr 3 '16 at 23:46

Common (nominally "12 Volt") automotive electrical systems vary in actual voltage from about 10 V (during starting draw in cold weather) to around 14 V (maximum charging voltage). Any car charge is already up-converting the voltage to the 14 V to 19+ V needed to charge a laptop, so should have some level of internal regulation. This regulation generally need not be especially precise, because the charging circuits in the computer also have regulators, including the "smart" circuitry needed to manage lithium-ion batteries.

Therefore, it's very unlikely that a car charger can damaged your computer's motherboard; the only likely failure modes are "dead" (no voltage out) and "straight through" (battery voltage appears on the connector rather than correctly converted voltage) -- and the latter will be a lower voltage than designed, so will do no damage.

Now, if you drive an electric or some hybrid cars (Leaf, Prius or others that don't have a separate 12 V battery for accessories) it's very slightly possible that a fault in the car's systems could connect much higher voltage to the outlets in the car -- so, in a Prius, you could get full motive battery voltage (96 V, as I recall) at the nominal 12 V outlet. This is very unlikely (such a failure would also destroy all 12 V accessories in the car, so it protected against), and further would instantly destroy the charger's circuits, so it's doubly unlikely it would harm the laptop.

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