There’s hardly any lighter that is more iconic, or ubiquitous, than the humble Bic. Seemingly sold by the billions and found everywhere, there’s not much to these cheap little lighters.
They work, and being disposable when they run out of fuel you just throw them away. What could be simpler?
But considering that they are disposable you probably haven’t stopped to wonder whether or not you can refill them when they’re out of fuel. So, is it possible to refill a Bic when it’s empty?
Yes. You can refill an empty Bic yourself, but it might involve modifying the lighter, and is not guaranteed to work.
It turns out that designating these lighters as disposable or non-refuelable is really just a recommendation and not a strict technicality.
But if you’re going to refuel your very favorite Bic, or if you’re forced to refuel one by necessity, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.
The process is fairly tricky, no matter how you do it, and you run a pretty serious risk of damaging or destroying the lighter, or potentially rendering it unsafe.
This article will tell you what you need to know, and also direct you to some videos that can give you a good walkthrough.
Bic Lighters are Not Supposed to Be Refilled…
Before we go any further, you might be wondering what the manufacturer of Bic lighters has to say on the subject of refueling.
I’ll save you some clicking and searching and tell you that, no, the company that produces Bic lighters says that they are designed to be disposable and they are only safe and guaranteed to function optimally when used as such.
But You Can Actually Refill Them
That settles that, but like I said above that is really just the manufacturer’s recommendation, and if you have a little bit of know how and are good with your hands it is entirely possible to safely refuel your Bic for continued use.
You’ll need some butane, obviously, a few simple hand tools along with a couple of improvised ones, a little bit of patience and steady hands. So long as you have all that, you can refuel your favorite Bic.
Aren’t Bic Lighters Disposable? Why Refill Them?
Before we get to the step by step guide on refueling your Bic, I think it’s a good idea to address the elephant in the room.
This particular elephant is a question: why, oh why, would anyone go through the trouble, effort and potential danger of refueling a dirt-cheap lighter that is so cheap and inherently disposable?
Well, aside from the obvious answer of simply seeing if it’s possible, we could look at it in a survival context and say that you have an otherwise functional Bic that is out of fuel, and you also have a supply of said fuel. Being able to maximize the tools you have is definitely important!
Considered in a more mundane, everyday context, maybe you have a Bic lighter that you had for a long time and like, or you particularly like the art or graphics on it and don’t want to throw it away.
Maybe you are just hell-bent on reducing waste in an increasingly disposable world.
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter why you want to refill your Bic, only that you do. If that describes you, know that it is indeed possible.
Never Try To Refill a Bic That Isn’t Totally Empty!
Caution: You should never attempt to add fuel to a Bic lighter that still has fuel remaining, or one that you know is full. Doing so can result in a dangerous condition that could end in a fire or explosion.
Before going any further, it is critical that you double-check that your lighter is actually empty. First, try to strike the lighter. Try it repeatedly, and if it lights at all there is still fuel inside. Shake it a few times, try to strike it, shake it and then try again.
If there is no flame, press the button and hold the lighter close to your ear in a quiet place. Listen for the hiss of fuel being released while the button is held down. No hiss, no fuel, assuming the mechanism isn’t malfunctioning.
Lastly, if you have a Bic or similar lighter that is made out of transparent plastic, just look into it and observe for any fuel that is sloshing around as you tilt the lighter from side to side.
Once you are sure there’s no fuel, move on to the steps below. Note there are two methods: both work, but refilling your Bic through the nozzle is less obtrusive though it is more difficult.
Refilling Your Bic Through the Bottom
The most straightforward way to refuel your pic is through the bottom of the case. This is actually how it was fueled at the factory, but the major difference here is that the factory has specialized machines needed to do that and then immediately seal up the opening to prevent the fuel from escaping.
You’ll need to punch a hole in the bottom with a thumbtack or similar pointed object, fuel it up with your butane canister and then seal the hole using a gasket and another thumbtack.
It really is pretty easy, but it’s harder to explain than to demonstrate, so check out this video to learn more.
Refilling Your Bic Through the Tank Opening
Refueling your Bic through the top, that is through the tank opening, is a more involved and delicate process, one that has a reasonable chance of damaging or destroying the mechanism of the lighter if you don’t have steady hands but it has the benefit of not requiring you to seal up any holes you punch in the body when you are done.
To pull this off, you’ll need to remove the shield or guard around the igniter mechanism without breaking anything, and remove the flint assembly. This will allow you to reach the opening in the fuel tank.
By holding a small valve release, called the fork, out of the way with a bent paper clip or a hoop of thin wire you can depress your butane canister nozzle into this opening and refuel it that way.
Once it is topped off, you pull the fuel can nozzle out of the opening and at the same time release tension on the fork, shutting the valve. Presto! Your Bic is refueled.
If it sounds like I am speaking a foreign language this video will give you a simple, step by step walkthrough.
Failure is Always a Possibility!
One thing to keep in mind before you get underway is that failure is always a possibility no matter how careful you are. Again, Bic lighters are designed to be disposable. They are full of tiny, dirt-cheap parts that are easy to break.
Your lighter just might quit working after trying either of these methods, or it could start to leak fuel. In either case, be prepared to get a new lighter or have a backup way to start a fire.
Will Refilling a Bic Save You Money?
Here’s another good question: utter necessity notwithstanding, is it worth refilling a Bic? Can it save you money?
Strictly, yes, it can save you money. At press time, a full-size Bic lighter holds about 15 cents worth of butane. You’ll rarely find a single full-size, Bic-brand disposable lighter for less than a dollar, so the savings are there.
However, it’s important to put it in perspective and consider how much your time is worth. For most of us, Bic lighters are extremely cheap and our time is precious, and wasting it is potentially expensive.
Also, while refueling the Bic is certainly very cheap if you already have the fuel, you can buy a half dozen new lighters for the cost of a single, small can of butane.
I say: file this under one of those skills that is nice to have, but not strictly necessary unless you want to learn for survival preparation.
Can Other Disposable Butane Lighters be Refilled?
Yes. Although most other disposable lighters broadly imitate the Bic in design, the internal layout might be slightly different but you can generally use either of the methods outlined above to the same end.
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.