Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
How Long Do Lighters Last?
How long does a Bic lighter last? This question has three components: how long can a Bic lighter burn when you need it, how long can you use a Bic lighter, and how long can a Bic lighter be stored for use and still work when you need it?
How Long Can a Bic Lighter Burn?
Full-sized Bic lighters are supposed to burn for an hour, though not continuously. Mini Bic lighters contain less fuel and generally burn for around twenty minutes. However, if you light it and keep it lit, your lighter has around ten minutes before the top starts to deform from the heat.
Ironically, the mini Bic lighters are the better choice for most survivalists because the flints can be replaced and the fuel more easily refilled. A side benefit of the mini Bics is that they can be burned while held upside down, such as when you’re using the Bic lighter to start a fire in the fireplace.
How Long Can You Use One?
We’re going to assume that you don’t lose the lighter after a few days of use.
It isn’t uncommon to find old Bic lighters in a drawer that are several years old and still work. If you have a source of fuel to refill the lighter, the limit to the life of the Bic lighter is how fast you wear out the flint and the mechanical components that strike the flint to create the flame. Bic advertises that its full lighters last for 3000 lights. Many smokers attest it lasts for a thousand or more lights.
How Long Can They Be Stored?
Assuming the lighter doesn’t rust, it can be stored for years and still work. The only major reason for it to not work is if it runs out of fuel or if the butane fuel is able to escape from the lighter. The escape rate is determined by the aperture of the vent, the temperature of the air, and usage patterns. Don’t fiddle with the Bic lighter, holding it in your hand and heating it up via body heat, or flipping the flame on and off, releasing trace amounts of vapor beyond what burns in that brief spark. Since the lighter loses trace amounts of fuel to the lower pressure atmosphere, you can extend its life by storing it under pressure; this prevents the fuel from leaking out. Do not exceed one or two pounds of pressure.
Buy lighters that are sold in a sealed package to help preserve the liquid fuel inside.
Tips for Extending the Life of a Bic Lighter
Note that if there is only a little liquid left, warming it up in your hands will increase the pressure and allow you to get another few uses out of the lighter. If the lighter loses some of the fuel and the pressure inside drops, the lighter will go out even if there is fuel inside. If you are able to heat up the liquid faster than it is losing pressure, you’ll be able to light the fuel. Otherwise, you’ll lose pressure and be unable to use it even if there is liquid fuel inside. With mini Bic lighters, you may be able to pour that fuel into another lighter for use.
Storing the Bic lighter in a cool place extends its life. Vacuum packing the Bic lighter and storing it in a freezer will extend its life as long as the freezer is cold and there isn’t a leak in the seal. If there is a leak in the seal, vacuum packing it will cause the fuel to leak out faster and die until you can refill it.
Another option is storing it in a slightly pressurized mason jar, as long as you don’t end up exploding the lighter trying to pressurize the jar or melting the plastic body in the process. However, simply storing it in a cool dry mason jar with a sealed lid can help prevent rust and fuel leakage. Storing them in a plastic bag allows for a little fuel to be lost to evaporation, but the lighter should still work after a few years.
A Long Time!
The short answer is that Bic lighters burn a long time compared to other types of fire starters, which is why they are a popular inclusion in many survival kits. They are easier to use than matches, they’ll start far more fires than a box of matches assuming the mechanical components and fuel are good, and you can use them even if they get wet. Keep them dry and store them in a cool place to be able to use them for years.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I had just bought a BIC lighter last week, and I was very disappointed with it. I smoke 18 cigarettes a day. Just a few days later, on Tuesday, I had to buy another lighter because this one had quit on me. Don't you think it should have lasted me a lot longer?
Answer: It sounds defective. Take it back to the retailer and demand a refund.
Question: How much does a Bic lighter cost?
Answer: Buy them in bulk, and classic lighters cost about a dollar each. Decorative ones cost $2 or more.
Question: Have you heard of Bic lighters being refillable now?
Answer: No, I had not. That does make them "last longer" if you can add more fuel.
Question: How long does it take for a bic lighter to burn up?
Answer: In general, an hour of continuous usage. Other factors determine how long it lasts if you're using it in many short bursts such as when you're smoking.