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Zippo Lighters

Copyright © February 1, 2017 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.



Zippo Lighter with Dark Case The modern Zippo lighter was invented by George G. Blaisdell in Bradford, Pennsylvania in the year 1932. The basic Zippo lighter can now be purchased in a variety of different colors, and with a variety of different designs engraved on the outside of the lighter, and it can be made from a variety of different metals including sterling silver. The Zippo lighter shown in the picture on the right has a black matte finish.

The basic operation of a Zippo lighter has not changed since 1932. Hold the lighter in the palm of your hand and use your thumb to flip the hinged top piece up and backwards to expose the striking wheel. As you do this you will hear the famous "click" that has become associated with the Zippo lighter. Now use your thumb to quickly rotate the striking wheel so it makes contact with the top of the partially exposed flint below the striking wheel. This will generate sparks that will ignite the exposed wick that is saturated with lighter fluid. When you have finished using the "windproof" flame, flip the hinged top piece back down into its original position with your thumb to extinguish the flame.

The top of the wick will be gradually consumed. Therefore you will periodically need to pull the wick up just a little using some tweezers to expose more of the wick to keep the lighter functional. However, the entire wick will eventually be totally consumed and then you will need to install a new wick in the lighter.

The flint is held in position with a tiny spring and the spring keeps upward pressure on the flint so that it makes positive contact with the bottom of the striking wheel. The flint will gradually be consumed and it will need to be periodically replaced. It is a common practice to keep 1 or 2 extra replacement flints in the inside bottom of the interior lighter shell below the white absorbent felt pad. When the current flint eventually wears out then you can install the replacement flint in its correct proper position and you will once again have fire. However, you should replace the extra spare flint in the bottom of the lighter at your earliest convenience.

A new Zippo lighter will have a new wick and a new flint already installed in the lighter. However, a new Zippo lighter will not contain any lighter fluid. Therefore the first thing you must do is add lighter fluid to the Zippo. The lighter will hold approximately 0.25 ounces of lighter fluid. You should add the lighter fluid very slowly and stop when the fluid reaches the top of the inner packing material. If you do not add enough lighter fluid then the lighter will stop lighting sooner than you anticipate. If you add too much lighter fluid then it will spill out of the lighter and create a mess. Lighter fluid is a skin irritant. For safety reasons, always thoroughly wash your hands after refilling the lighter.

Periodically you will need to refill the Zippo with lighter fluid.

The lighter may also occasionally leak some excess lighter fluid out of the lighter into your pants pocket, or purse, or wherever you carry the lighter. This is very annoying because it happens unpredictably without any type of advance notice. There are people who will tell you that this is entirely your own fault but that doesn’t keep the problem from randomly reoccurring.

The lighter fluid inside the lighter will gradually evaporate even if you have the top of the lighter correctly and tightly closed. Some movies have scenes where an old Zippo lighter is found after many, many years and the lighter is immediately tested and it produces a nice flame. Please do not believe this movie nonsense because it is nothing but theatrical fiction. Even if one of these lighters is completely filled with lighter fluid and then it is immediately set aside and it is not used at all, after approximately three weeks all the lighter fluid inside the lighter will evaporate and the lighter will not function unless you add more lighter fluid.

A very minor issue is that the standard smooth Chrome finish collects and clearly displays fingerprints.

In the year 2017 the following costs apply to buying and maintaining a Zippo lighter in working condition:

PriceItem Description
$9.97One new basic model Chrome finish Zippo lighter with a wick and a flint.
$3.44One replacement Zippo wick.
$0.98Six replacement Zippo flints.
$2.78Four ounces of Zippo lighter fluid (about 16 refills at 0.25 ounces per refill).

Note: The "Ronsonol" brand is more affordable than the "Zippo" brand on all the above items.

I actually owned an official "Zippo" lighter in the late 1960s and the above comments are based on my own personal life experiences with these lighters. I carried the lighter around with me in my pants pocket for about two years and then I just stopped carrying it because it would not light on those rare occasions when I needed it because the lighter fluid had all evaporated.

I have never recommended a Zippo lighter anywhere on my website and I am not recommending one at this time. I am including this information on my website because I want my readers to know the reasons why I have never recommended this type of lighter in the past.

However, if you are a tobacco user and you smoke about 20 cigarettes per day then you may prefer to own a Zippo lighter instead of a Butane lighter. That is a personal decision that only you can make.

Note: An article about the shelf life of butane lighters is on my website here.



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