Busting Mythbusters

This post could have easily been entitled, “The Exploding Lighter Myth Confirmed”

I’m a big fan of Discovery’s Mythbusters show. In case you don’t watch; its a show that tackles common myths, urban legends and movie stunts to prove or disprove their plausibility.

Recently, I saw the episode that supposedly “busted” the myth that a cigarette lighter left in your car could heat up and explode. The Mythbusters crew did several trials to see if they could get the desired results. Their conclusion was that not enough heat could be generated to cause a “hot car-lighter explosion” Eventually they did explode a lighter in a toaster oven at a temperature of over 500 degrees.

Well, I know it gets hot down here in Mobile, Alabama but I don’t think it gets 500 degrees even in July. But nevertheless, I had my cigarette lighter explode.

Last weekend, on a boating trip, I had placed my lighter, cigarettes, boating licence and some snack crackers in a clear plastic Glad bag to keep everything nice and dry.

The boat experienced engine trouble and for about an hour, we sat on the shore awaiting repairs. I was sitting in the boat relaxing and daydreaming as I surveyed the scenery.

All of sudden, I’m startled by what appeared to be gun fire.


The sound echoed in the trees and across the water. Was someone shooting at something down river? Maybe someone was target shooting in a backyard along the river. I listened to hear a second shot, but none came.

Well, this bit of excitement made me want a cigarette; so I got up to grab the bag off the driver’s seat of the boat.

The bag had an enormous hole in it and inside was what was left of my lighter. No fire burns, but little pieces of cigarette lighter shrapnel. No wonder the noise had sounded so loud and nearby…it happened just 6 feet from me.

The Discovery Channel also has a forum that tackles the issue of other people having similar experiences with lighters exploding that would seem to bust the Mythbusters’ crew’s conclusion.

In my opinion, their “Busted” conclusion is completely BUSTED along with one cheap .99-cent cigarette lighter.

About Dave Robison

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2 Responses to Busting Mythbusters

  1. Scott Larsen says:

    Hi Dave,

    Interesting story. Maybe in the direct sun light, the housing acted as a magnifying glass, focusing the sun on the lighter fluid. The plastic bag also provided another layer of insulation helping to raise the temperature.

    It could be non-transparent lighters might not have this problem.

    The conditions were somewhat different than an oven, but focused sun light can be a powerful energy source.

    I’m sure different lighters would also have different burst pressures.

    How full was the lighter?


  2. Dave Robison says:

    Hey Scott,

    You raise similar points that the forums addressing this issue are discussing. Transparency of the lighter may be a factor the Mythbusters didn’t address or quality of the lighter.

    My lighter was not full. I’ve read one theory that supposes that the emptier the lighter the more pressure that could build and make it explode faster.

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