Bic lighters are so cheap and reliable, everyone should have a lying around just in case.
Whether you’re looking to have means to start a fire in an emergency, light up some candles at your cabin in the woods, or in your car in case of an emergency, Bic lighters are an item you should definitely stockpile.
Bic lighters, lighter fluid, and pliers
But what if you don’t want to buy so many lighters? Or, maybe you’re trying to step up your prepping game, and looking for a way to refill them.
Lighters may or may not be available in a long-term emergency, but maybe you don’t want to stockpile dozens.
In that case, can you actually refill them? The manufacturer says you shouldn’t, but ding it is pretty easy and safe.
If you have an inclination for all things DIY, refilling a Bic lighter is pretty easy so long as you have the right equipment have follow the steps in order.
There are two ways to do this: refilling it from the bottom, or from the top. The first one is the easiest, while the second one involves disassembling the lighter.
But before we get into the how-to, let’s see what these tiny gadgets are made of…
Anatomy Of A Bic Lighter
Bic lighters are surprisingly complex little devices, so before I dive into some tips for refilling them, let’s look quickly at the anatomy of a standard Bic lighter.
Knowing the basics of how one of these lighters works is important if you want to avoid any issues when refilling them. Here are some of the major parts to know about before you start:
Hood. The steel covering at the top of the Bic lighter. It protects the lighter from wind and offers a small amount of heat protection from the flame. It can also adjust the flame height.Spark Wheel. Located partially within the hood. It is the moving part that creates a spark that lights the lighter fluid.Guard. The half-circle piece of metal that covers the spark wheel on Bic lighters. It offers a bit of child-resistance by making it harder to move the spark wheel.Fork & Fork Spring. The red push button that’s depressed to release lighter fluid from the jet to create a flame. Press it to hear the hissing sound of gas being released.Flint. The piece of metal located below the sparkwheel that’s used to generate sparks through friction.Body. The main plastic part of the lighter that holds the lighter fluid.Base. The plastic underside that is welded onto the body. It holds the fuel tank in place.Ball Bearing. A tiny ball bearing is contained within the base, which seals off the gas reservoir after it’s filled to prevent leaks.
Keep in mind you’re doing this on your own risk. Refilling Bic lighters, although easy, is not recommended by the manufacturer.
Refilling A Bic Lighter From The Bottom
Perhaps the easiest way to refill a Bic lighter is from the bottom. Here are the simple steps for this method:
Step 1. Ensure that the lighter is truly out of fluid by shaking it, and listening carefully. Then, attempt to light it a few times by turning the spark wheel:
testing a Bic lighter for flame
Step 2. Once it is clear that the lighter is truly out of fluid, turn the lighter upside down, and find the ball bearing on the bottom:
bottom of Bic lighter with the ball
Step 3. Take a push pin, paper clip, or small drill bit, and use it to push out the small ball to open up the fuel reservoir:
pushing the ball at the bottom of a Bic with a pushpin
Step 4. Take your can of lighter fluid and push the nozzle into the opening:
refilling a Bic lighter with lighter fluid
Step 5. While gripping the lighter tightly, fill it for about 30 seconds.
Step 6. Once the lighter is full, firmly press down on the opening using your thumb to prevent excess butane gas from spurting out:
holding bottom of Bic lighter with thumb to insert pushpin
Step 7. Insert a pushpin into the bottom of the lighter to seal it shut and create a refill valve:
pushing the ball at the bottom of a Bic with a pushpin
Step 8. Take a pair of wire cutters, and snap off the end of the push pin:
cutting pushpin in half with pliers
Step 9. Use a file to sand down the edges of the pushpin and blow away any debris:
smoothing out bottom of pushpin
Step 10. Light, and enjoy!
functioning refilled Bic lighter
Refilling A Bic Lighter From The Top
While there are certainly videos and guides out there that show people how to refill a Bic lighter from the top, it’s not a recommended method.
When you refill one of these from the bottom of your Bic lighter , you’re simply poking a tiny hole in the bottom of the fuel chamber, filling the body up with fuel, and then sealing the base up.
Alternatively, when one fills up a Bic lighter from the top, you have to open up the lighter’s operating mechanisms, fill it up with butane, and then put all the parts back together.
This is a harder trick to pull off, which makes it much easier to mess up or to forget an essential component. Best case scenario, if this happens, the lighter just won’t work.
Worst case scenario, the lighter could be dangerous, which is the last thing you want when SHTF.
So, if you are going to refill a Bic lighter, it’s better to do so from the bottom.
Installing a Gas Valve Without A Pushpin
One downside to installing a pushpin valve is that there is a high chance the lighter will start squirting butane out the bottom. This can be remedied by installing a small gas valve which turns the Bic into a standard refillable lighter.
You can purchase small gas valves online (Airsoft gun replacement valves are a good choice) or you can just plunder the gas valve from another refillable lighter, preferably one that is broken.
Pencil butane torches have small gas valves that are perfect for Bic lighters.
You’re going to need to perform some modifications to your Bic lighter in order for this to work.
The tools you’ll need are the gas refill valve and a drill with a very small drill bit. Here are the steps to turn your Bic lighter into a refillable option.
Deal with the existing ball bearing at the bottom of the Bic. Accomplish this by pushing it inside with a pin. This step is similar to refilling the lighter from the bottom.Use the drill to open the hole at the bottom of the lighter. This is so the hole is big enough for the gas valve to be installed.Use this opportunity to clear out the bearing and debris. You don’t want these things floating around in your lighter.Clear away the plastic divider in the fuel chamber. Just keep drilling away at it until all or most of it is gone. You can shake it out the bottom of the lighter.Insert the gas valve and screw in until snug. If there is no o-ring to seal around the valve a tiny dot of silicone will do the job. Afterwards, you can fill your Bic with butane much as you would a refillable lighter.
That’s all there is to it, you now have a refillable Bic that will work as long as the flint still creates a spark.
Bic does not endorse or condone the refilling of their lighters. So, the company isn’t going to offer much in terms of good precautions that you should take when trying to refill their disposable lighters.
But, even if Bic doesn’t think that this is an “acceptable” thing to do with their lighters, people are going to refill disposable lighters, so they ought to know about some good safety precautions to take should something go wrong.
So, here are some good things to keep in mind before you get started:
Make Sure The Lighter Is Actually Empty! If you push the ball bearing in on the bottom of a Bic lighter that isn’t actually empty, you’ll spray butane everywhere. So, take some time to ensure that your lighter is actually empty by spinning the spark wheel a few times before starting.Wear Gloves. According to its material safety data sheet, butane is irritating to the skin. So, wear a pair of nitrile gloves to protect yourself should you spill any during the refill process.Wear Glasses. Technically butane isn’t irritating to the eyes in vapor form. But, when it is highly pressurized, such as in a lighter fluid refill canister or in a lighter, it is in liquid form and may cause irritation if it gets in your eyes. So, wear a pair of safety glasses or goggles to protect yourself.Refill Lighters Outside. If possible, it’s best to only work with lighter fluid when you’re outside. This is because butane can cause dizziness and irritation to the airway when inhaled. So, being outside in the fresh air can help reduce the likelihood of any ill-effects while refilling a lighter.
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