Trusty Bic lighters are a stalwart of many bug out bags and everyday carry kits because they’re so affordable and lightweight. But, are Bic lighters refillable, or are they meant to be thrown out when they run out of butane?
According to Bic, their lighters are single use tools that are not refillable. However, ingenuity always wins out and there are ways to refill a Bic lighter if you’re resourceful enough.
Up next, I’ll walk you through the basics of Bic lighters, and offer some tips for refilling your lighter in a pinch.
DISCLAIMER: Bic’s website clearly states that their lighters are not refillable. The company recommends using caution when trying to manipulate or alter their lighters so that they function in a way other than what was originally intended. If you attempt to refill Bic lighter, you do so at your own risk and Survival Sullivan, nor the author of this article are responsible for your actions.
Can You Refill A Bic Lighter?
Technically speaking, Bic lighters are single-use disposable lighters. So, unlike Zippo lighters, which are meant to be used and refilled with lighter fluid an endless number of times, Bic lighters are designed to be discarded when they run out of butane.
However, people don’t like being told that something they bought needs to be thrown out. So, it’s no surprise that people around the world have found ways to refill their disposable Bic lighters.
None of these methods are sanctioned by Bic, of course, but if you have some spare time and a few tools, nearly any disposable Bic lighter can become a refillable lighter for long-term use.
How To Refill 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.
Anatomy Of A 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.
- 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.
- 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 reservoir in place.
- Ball Bearing. A tiny ball bearing contained within the base, which seals off the gas reservoir after it’s filled to prevent leaks.
Refilling A Bic Lighter From The Bottom
Perhaps the simplest way to refill a Bic lighter is from the bottom. Here’s how this method works:
- 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.
- One it is clear that the lighter is truly out of fluid, turning the lighter upside down, and find the ball bearing on the bottom.
- Take a push pin, and use it to push out the ball bearing to open up the fuel reservoir.
- Take your can of lighter fluid and push the nozzle into the opening.
- While gripping the lighter tightly, fill it for about 30 seconds.
- Once the lighter is full, firmly press down on the opening using your thumb to prevent butane from spurting out.
- Stick a push pill into the bottom of the lighter to seal it shut.
- Take a pair of wire cutters, and snap off the end of the push pin.
- Use a file to sand down the edges of the push pin.
- Light, and enjoy!
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 lighters from the bottom, you’re simply poking a hole in the bottom, 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 process is much more complex, 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.
Safety Precautions When Refilling Bic Lighters
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.
Bic might not like it, but their lighters can, indeed, be refilled. Refilling a Bic lighter isn’t necessarily difficult, but anyone that chooses to refill their lighter does so at their own risk.
If you want to refill your Bic lighter, be careful and follow the proper precautions to ensure that you don’t expose yourself to butane, or to any other dangerous situation in the process.
Gaby is a professional outdoor educator, mountain guide, and survival expert with a passion for helping others be prepared for whatever might come their way. She is an expert rifle and firearms handler, thanks to her work in polar bear territory in the Arctic region and is an experienced wilderness medicine instructor/EMT.