Survival Hack: How to Refill a Bic Lighter Like a Pro


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Last Updated: April 23, 2021

Technically, Bic lighters are not supposed to be refillable.  But I hate the idea of buying a new lighter every time mine runs out of fuel.

It’s financially wasteful.

Creates more plastic waste.

And goes against the morals of self-reliance. 

So, I learned some hacks to refill a Bic lighter.  Some of these work better than others.

*I wrap strips of duct tape around my Bic lighter so I always have some with me.  Here are some other examples of everyday carry (EDC).

A Word of Warning

Refilling Bic lighters is pretty common in some parts of the world.  On a trip to Palestine, I saw market vendors who would refill your lighter for a fraction of the cost of a new lighter.  Apparently, this is also done in places like Cuba and Nepal.

However, I’ve also heard stories about hacked refilled lighters exploding.  All these stories are anecdotal, but it probably could occur (even not-hacked Bic lighters sometimes explode in high temperatures).

There’s also the issue of leaking anytime you hack a lighter.  Again, I doubt it would happen, but butane could leak from a lighter and then ignite if someone lit a flame nearby.

In other words, refill a Bic lighter at your own risk!

Why Would You Want to Refill a Bic Lighter Anyway?

If you use lighters so often that you have to refill them frequently, you will probably better off buying a refillable lighter.

There are plenty that are cheap and just as good as (if not better than) a Bic lighter.  As far as butane lighters go, I like the UST Floating Lighter (Amazon Link).

You can see our picks for best survival lighters here.  If you don’t know much about lighters, I suggest reading this guide to types of lighters.

However, knowing how to refill a disposable lighter is a good survival skill.  For example, in this interview, a Bosnian War survivor talks about how he refilled lighters as a barter item.

“I had a container of cooking gas. But I did not use it for heat – that would be too expensive! I attached a nozzle to it I made myself and used to fill lighters. Lighters were precious. If a man brought an empty lighter, I would fill it and he would give me a tin of food or a candle.”

Read other SHTF barter item ideas here.

3 Ways to Refill a Bic Lighter

Method 1: Push Pin Plug

This method of refilling a Bic lighter is straightforward and very messy!

You will end up with some butane spraying around. 

Also, the push pin doesn’t always create a perfect seal.  You might have some butane leaking out of the lighter, especially if you try to refill the same Bic lighter multiple times.

So, while this method might work one or two times on a lighter, it isn’t a permanent solution for refilling Bic lighters.

Supplies Needed:

  • Push pin/thumbtack
  • Rubber grommets, rubber gasket or wide rubber band
  • Snips or pliers and a file (optional)

Step 1: Open Valve At Bottom of Lighter

Push your pin into the little hole at the bottom of the Bic lighter.  There is a small ball in that hole that seals the gas in the reservoir.  You want to push that ball inside the lighter.   You’ll be able to hear it shaking around inside.

Note that if the lighter isn’t empty you will get a spray of butane.  It can take you by surprise, so don’t be scared. 🙂

Step 2: Put Grommets Over Butane Canister Valve

If you just pushed the butane canister valve into the hole you made, butane would spray all over the place.  So, you need to put something on the valve to make a better seal.

One solution is to use a few rubber grommets.  Choose grommets that fit snuggly over the valve.  You can also use a rubber gasket.  In a pinch, you can use a wide rubber band.  Use your pin to make a tiny hole in the rubber band and put the valve through the hole.

Step 3: Fill the Lighter

Holding the lighter upside down, fill it with butane.  It will take about 30 seconds for a classic-size Bic lighter to fill.

Step 4: Put Thumb Over Hole

As you remove the butane canister, quickly put your thumb over the hole in the Bic lighter.  Otherwise, all the butane will just spurt out.

Step 5: Plug Hole with Push Pin

Move your thumb off the hole and quickly put a push pin in it. This will plug the hole and keep the butane inside.

The video shows a standard type push pin being used to plug the hole.  It looks really ugly, so you can use snips to shorten the pin and a file to smooth it down.  Or use a flathead push pin.

Method 2: Installing a Refill Valve (No Pin Method)

With this method, you install a refill valve at the bottom of the lighter. This allows you to refill the Bic lighter over and over again.  There are no annoying push pins, putting your thumb over the hole, or butane spurting everywhere when you refill.

You’ll need a small gas refill valve to do this.  Replacement valves for airsoft guns work well, such as this one (Amazon Link) or this one.

It might also be possible to remove the refill valve from a broken refillable lighter and put it in your Bic lighter. Unfortunately, lots of cheap refillable lighters use valves that don’t have screw heads and have very long stems. You won’t be able to get them into a Bic.

*If anyone knows anywhere else to find lighter refill valves, let us know in the comments section!

Supplies:

  • Drill and drill bits
  • Gas refill valve

Step 1: Push Ball into Lighter

Find the little hole on the bottom of your Bic lighter. Using a pin or drill bit, push on it until the ball falls inside the lighter.

Step 2: Widen the Hole with a Drill

Next, you will need to drill into the hole you made.  You want to widen it so your refill valve can fit inside.  The drill bit should be no wider than the valve you plan on using.  Ideally, the valve will be just a hair larger than the drill bit.

Step 3: Shake Out Ball Bearing

Once your hole is drilled, flip the lighter over.  Shake it to get the ball and any debris from drilling out of the lighter.

Step 4: Break Divider Inside Lighter

BIC lighters have a plastic divider inside the fuel chamber. You won’t be able to get your refill valve into the lighter if this divider is still in place.  So, you’ll need to stick something inside the lighter (such as a drill bit) and chip away at the divider. When you are done, shake out the debris.

Step 5: Insert Refill Valve

Screw the refill valve into the hole.  You might need to use a razor to scrape out the edge of the hole a bit.  Some people put a dab of silicone around the valve threads to create an airtight seal.

Step 6: Fill with Butane

Now you can refill the Bic lighter just like you would any refillable lighter.

Method 3: Refill Bic Lighter from Top

Despite what many online tutorials say, you can NOT refill a Bic lighter from the top.

When I tried it, I ended up with butane spraying everywhere.  Some people still claim that this method will work if you get a butane nozzle that fits exactly on the Bic lighter.  But, I doubt it: the jet and valve mechanism in a Bic lighter are different than those in other disposable lighters, so butane won’t go into the lighter from the top.

If you want to refill a non-Bic disposable lighter, though (one with an adjustable flame), the method shown in the video works well enough.

Have you refilled your Bic lighter? How did it go? Let us know your tips in the comments section below.

Leave a comment

  1. Worked!!! I used a rubber band and constantly tied and twisted the band around the butane refill part and once I did that it started to fill and as soon as I took it off IT STARTED SPRAYING!! I put the thumb tack at the bottom and my lighter works again! Amazing article!

    Reply
    • Glad it helped. The process is definitely not as easy or smooth as some articles would have you think. Hope you were outside when it started spraying 😀

      Reply

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