Wondering why your car's USB port isn't charging your phone? You're not alone. It happens all the time and it's one of the more common questions we get.
If your car USB port isn’t charging your phone, the problem could be with the port, the cable, or even the phone. Not all car USB ports are designed to charge phones, or power peripheral devices at all, so there’s a chance that you’re dealing with that type of situation.
There’s also a chance that there is a compatibility issue between the port and your phone, which may or may not be solved by using a different cable.
The Strengths and Weaknesses of USB Phone Charging in Cars
USB is great because it’s a standard that pretty much everyone has picked up, so you can use the same cables to connect a whole bunch of different things. The problem is that while USB is capable of transmitting both power and data via the same connection, not every USB port is wired to do that. And even if a USB port is designed to provide power, minor differences in the way that some companies, like apple, handle USB charging can get in the way.
When USB was first introduced, the initial standard allowed for two different versions of USB ports: data ports and powered data ports. USB data ports only transmit data back and forth between a device and a computer, while powered data ports transmit both data and power.
This is why some devices, like hard drives and scanners that draw power through a USB connection, have to be plugged into specific USB ports to work.
Powered USB Ports in Cars
While it is possible for a car to include a power-only port, most USB ports found in cars are still connected to the infotainment system. So even when a vehicle does include a powered port, the primary use of the port will still be to transmit data. The issue here is that in some cases, you may plug your phone in, and the infotainment system will fail to recognize what type of device it is.
If that happens, it may fail to charge your phone even if the port is actually capable of doing so.
One way that you can sometimes get around this issue is to use a USB cable that is specifically designed for charging. This type of USB cable is totally incapable of transmitting data, so you won’t be able to use it to transfer files or listen to music. However, the fact that the infotainment system has no way of telling that a device is plugged in means that your phone will receive power from the port anyway.