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Car USB Ports Not Working? Check These Things

A USB cable is plugged into a car radio.

Auto manufacturers started adding USB ports to new vehicles in 2006, changing the way we connect our smartphones while driving. Along with Bluetooth, and later Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, in-car connectivity is something we take for granted. But what happens when you discover USB ports not working? There could be several reasons. Fortunately, diagnosing and making most repairs are easy.

What is a USB?

Connecting to a USB port sometimes requires flipping the plug to insert.

USB stands for “Universal Serial Bus,” technology that links computers with input/output devices. USBs arrived in 1995, with a technology developed by leading computing companies to connect hardware to personal computers. USBs are a faster and more efficient way to connect and download data from your device to your computer. One example is a digital camera. When connected to the computer with a cable, you can easily transfer the images.

Just as USBs are useful with computers, they perform a similar function in cars. There are a few types of USB ports. The most common is a USB-A port that connects to a vehicle’s infotainment system, enabling music sharing or driving directions supplied by the smartphone while also allowing it to charge. Another type is USB-C, which works similarly but is smaller.

USB Ports Not Working

It’s easy to overlook something that’s second nature to most users, but these steps will help you diagnose any USB problem step-by-step.

1. Are You Unable to Connect?

Connecting to the USB port is usually easy. If you have a USB-C port, it doesn’t matter which way the plug goes in. With older USB-A ports, it does. If the plug does not connect the first time, simply flip it to line it up correctly, then connect the other side to your device.

2. Is There a Frayed Cable?

Some modern vehicles include wireless charging, which allows users to connect without the cable. They are popular because it is easy to forget a cable when you need one. Also, the cable may eventually become kinked or frayed, rendering it useless. Replace an old cable once it no longer works.

3. Is There Trapped Debris?

Dirt, dust, debris and food can get wedged in small places like a USB port. Examine the port to see if there are any obstructions. If you find something, then use a CRC parts cleaner to fix it. Even the smallest amount of detritus can stop a USB port from working.

4. Check the Fuse Box

A blown fuse can shut down the circuit that feeds electricity to the USB port. Find the fuse panel (typically on the driver’s side of the car) and the diagram that identifies what each fuse does. If there’s no diagram or it’s too small to read, a full drawing can be found in your owner’s manual. Manufacturers typically bundle certain functions on the same circuit. For instance, the USB ports may share the fuse that controls the audio system and power antenna. If these do not work, then it’s likely the fuse requires replacement. Make sure to replace the fuse with one of identical size and amp.

5. A Bad USB Port

Sometimes a USB port simply fails or wears out. If your vehicle is under warranty, the repair should be covered by the manufacturer. For older USB ports, consult a repair manual.

USB Considerations

Modern crossovers have multiple USB ports, with some located across two or three rows. Routine maintenance will help you diagnose and solve any problems with your USB port.

Check out all the UBS products available on NAPAOnline, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare Centers for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on USB port products, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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