How to refill your cigar lighter properly

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After repeated flicks of your cigar lighter, reality sets in. You’ve now got to reluctantly accept that your cigar lighter is empty, so your stogie must remain unlit for now. Unlike a moldy cigar , an empty cigar lighter is far from a disaster, but there’s still a strict process you’ll need to follow.

We’re here to walk you through the steps so you can quickly return to toasting and enjoy your favorite stogies.

Refilling butane torch lighters

Also known as jet flame lighters, butane torch lighters are the most popular lighters among cigar smokers. As the name indicates, they run on the colorless and odorless gas butane.

Before we discuss the first part of refilling butane torch lighters (the fuel type), remember to allow your lighter enough time to cool off (at least 30 minutes). Butane is highly combustible, so don’t attempt to refill it immediately after use.


Remember, not all butane is created equal. You want the most refined butane — at least triple-refined or even four or five times refined. Refined fuel means less impurities in the gas. Impurities will clog the jets in your lighter, so the cleaner the fuel, the more efficiently your lighter will work.

Bleed your lighter

Bleeding or purging your lighter involves releasing any excess air before refilling your lighter. This is a critical step, as the air left at the end of an exhausted fuel tank will stop you from being able to refill it. Not only does it make for a full and fresh injection of butane, but it also maintains the longevity and performance of your torch lighter.

You’ll need a suitable open space or well-ventilated room with open windows or a fan turned on to improve air circulation, while you purge and refill your lighter. You’ll then need to follow these simple steps:

  1. Once you’ve allowed enough time for the lighter to cool off, you must set the flame adjuster knob to the lowest height (-). This keeps the refilling opening tight and helps limit the air that could get into the tank.
  2. Located on the bottom of the lighter, this is a larger brass screw with a standard (slot) head. Some butane lighters come with a special key for turning the adjusting screw. If not, you’ll need to turn it clockwise using a small screwdriver. 
  3. Don’t force the screw — if it isn’t turning anymore, it may already be set to the (+) or (-) limit. If you’re lucky, some lighters come with a wheel to adjust the flame height, negating the requirement for a screwdriver.
  4. Next, you’ll need to let the gas out inside. You do this by squeezing the refilling valve with a small, thin (watchmaker’s) screwdriver, paperclip, or toothpick.
  5. Hold the lighter away from your face in its upright position and press firmly on the fuel inlet valve at the bottom of the lighter to open it. Keep it open until no hissing sound is heard (usually about 5 to 10 seconds) — this is a sign the tank is empty.

Insert the butane

The first thing to remember here is always to refill your lighter upside-down. This avoids injecting air into the lighter, which can dilute the fuel inside and cause the lighter to malfunction.

A can of butane contains two substances — butane and propellant. Butane is the heavier of the two and will reconcile at the bottom of the can. This is why it’s essential to shake the butane can 5-6 times to prime it, which increases the speed you can refill and gives you an even mix of the contents.

Next, hold the lighter and the can upside down. Push the stem of the refill directly into the refill valve and let the gas go into the lighter for about 3-5 seconds. It should fit snuggly over the valve. Ensure you keep the lighter and can in a straight position, or it could bend the stem of the can and potentially let air in. If you hear a high-pitched hissing sound or notice butane seeping out even before the tank is full, this could indicate you’re holding the can or lighter at an angle (rather than straight).

Depending on how empty the lighter is, you may need to do several 3-5 second bursts to fill it. Some lighters have a gauge to monitor the fuel level, so you can quickly check if it’s full. Otherwise, you will know your lighter is full when the butane leaks from the stem and won’t go in the lighter. Try not to overfill the lighter — as soon as it feels full, stop inserting butane.

Testing the lighter

Once you’ve refilled your lighter, you will notice it (along with the can) is now very cold. Before igniting the lighter, wait five minutes for the butane to reach room temperature. Butane at this temperature gives an optimal burn. Being patient for these five minutes also allows any excess butane on the exterior of the lighter to evaporate. It’s also good practice to wipe your fingers in case you’ve spilled any butane on them.

Grab your screwdriver from earlier and turn the flame adjuster counterclockwise to roughly the midpoint. Hold the lighter a safe distance from you and activate the trigger that ignites the lighter. This should give you a good strong flame. The reason you don’t immediately open the valve all the way is because it can trigger an intense burst of flame.

After you’ve sparked it up a few times to ensure it flows smoothly, you can adjust the dial up or down to your desired height. You can now light your cigar and get smoking again. 

Storing your lighter after use

After refilling your lighter, store the butane in a cool, dry, and secure location. It needs to be away from heat to avoid the risk of an explosion or fire. If you plan on storing your lighter for a long period without using it, try to use up as much fuel as possible, then empty all the remaining fuel.

If you don’t clear the entire contents before storing, it may appear to be no longer working when you press the ignition trigger after prolonged inactivity. To fix the problem, you’ll need to go back to the “Bleed your lighter” instructions, then refuel and adjust the flame level to your preference.

Top tips when refilling your cigar lighter

  • The refill process is the ideal opportunity to check your lighter’s burner nozzles and remove any residue or soot that might have accumulated.
  • Don’t ruin the efficiency of your lighter by using cheap or incorrect fuel. This can damage the inlet valve and, more commonly, clog the burner valve.
  • Use common sense when using your lighter. Aim away from the face and steer clear from any open flame or ignition source. Also, read any instructions or warning labels on the butane can.

Final thoughts

Try to avoid lighters that take a liquid-based fuel — a butane torch lighter offers a cleaner burn and easily controllable flame. 

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