Are you headed to a concert or catching a flight, wondering if your lighter will set off a metal detector and throw a wrench into your plans?
Your carefree friend tells you not to worry about it. They’ve snuck through security a million times.
Your other, more cautious friend insists you’re sure to get searched after your lighter sets off the metal detector.
Cautious friend will probably even say, I told you so.
So, what do you do?
Keep reading, and I’ll explain why both your friends are right and wrong.
Will a Lighter Set Off a Metal Detector?
A lighter is made with metal components, though small in size, and will likely be detected by a metal detector.
Specifically, lighters contain a variation of steel, brass, and aluminum. These impact a metal detector’s magnetic field, causing an audio response.
Is there a chance your carefree friend is correct, and you sneak by without setting off the alarm?
Most security metal detectors are set to a level of sensitivity that may be too high for the metals found in your lighter.
TSA, school officials, and concert security usually worry about traditional weapons like firearms and sharp blades.
That’s why walk-through metal detector sensitivity is set high enough to catch these more significant pieces of metal.
And ignore the smaller items like the zipper on your jeans or the lighter in your pocket.
The science of metal detecting frequencies and fields is a consistent one.
Your friends experience different results due to the human variable, i.e., calibrating the metal detector.
So, in a perfect world, any metal detector should detect lighters passing through their magnetic field.
But this isn’t a perfect world. And results will vary.
Types of Lighters
Not every lighter is as likely to set off a metal detector as the next. You may use a disposable lighter made chiefly of plastic instead of your neighbor, who favors an electric arc lighter.
Each serves the same purpose but uses varying materials to get there.
For the sake of argument, let’s continue with the idea that you use a standard BIC lighter or the fancier Zippo.
These are the two more common types of lighters used, especially for you concertgoers and festival junkies.
Knowing how your lighter is made will give you a better idea of how a metal detector will react.
So how are these two types of lighters made?
What Are the Parts of a Lighter?
Each type of lighter has varying parts in its construction.
When looking at BIC and Zippo lighters, the parts they have in common are the spark or flint wheel, the spring, the gas seal, the case, and the flint.
From there, each lighter type starts to differ.
For example, the standard BIC lighter has a hood and guard covering the sparkwheel. And a Zippo lighter is made with a cam and cam spring that produces that addictive clinking sound when you open and close the lid.
Do Lighters Have Metal in Them?
Lighters have some metals making up their parts, like the flint, springs, and sparkwheel, to name a few.
Depending on the lighter, the case, jet, and valve may also be metal.
The metals primarily used in lighters are aluminum, steel, brass, and other alloys like ferrocerium which gives the flint its spark.
Do BIC Lighters Set Off Metal Detectors?
While BIC lighters have a case made of plastic, it still sets off metal detectors because of the aluminum valve, the brass jet, and other steel and steel wire components that produce a flame.
Even the tiny gas reservoir seal shaped like a minuscule BB is made of carbide steel.
A metal detector will detect a BIC lighter if it’s set to a higher sensitivity level.
Unfortunately, you don’t know the settings on a walk-through metal detector, so you can take a gamble or try to sneak it through security.
But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Are Zippo Lighters Made of Stainless Steel?
During World War II, zippo lighters were made of stainless steel because of the brass shortage needed for ammunition.
After the war, Zippo reverted back to brass lighters and hasn’t made stainless steel lighters since.
Today, Zippo does make lighters using sterling silver, chrome, and gold, besides the traditional brass.
Any of these metals will undoubtedly set off a metal detector. Especially considering the amount of metal used is much more than you’ll find on a BIC lighter.
You could get lucky if you’re fortunate enough to own a vintage stainless steel Zippo.
Stainless steel isn’t the most electrically conductive metal, depending on the grade. So you might be able to sneak that past a metal detector.
But given the size of a Zippo lighter, I wouldn’t count on it.
How to Sneak a Lighter Through a Metal Detector
Since you don’t know 100% whether or not your lighter will set off a metal detector, you should just assume that it will and plan accordingly.
If you’re worried about taking your lighter on a plane and having to outsmart TSA, don’t bother.
First, anything more substantial or containing more metal than a disposable lighter will be detected between the random pat-downs, advanced imaging technology, and handheld scanners.
Second, you’re wasting your time even agonizing about it.
Similar to vapes and cigars, zippo and disposable lighters are permitted on airplanes.
The only lighters TSA has a problem with are arc, plasma, electronic, and e-lighters. And even then, you can keep them in your carry-on bag with exceptions.
Now, if you’re talking about a concert, festival, or alternative event secured by metal detectors, that’s a different story.
Do Lighters Set Off Metal Detectors at Concerts?
Metal detectors at concerts work the same as most security metal detectors.
They detect changes in the magnetic field caused by the presence of metals classified as a good conductor of electricity.
Your lighter will set it off as long as the concert metal detector is set to a high enough sensitivity.
How to Sneak a Lighter Into a Concert
To sneak a lighter into a concert or festival, you need to choose one with the least amount of metal and hope the metal detector sensitivity is too high to detect it.
This means you can forget about the Zippo. With an all-metal casing that big, it’s sure to set off a metal detector.
To successfully sneak a lighter past a metal detector, it should either be a simple disposable lighter or a novelty flammable that would go unnoticed.
For example, you can buy a mini lighter that’s only an inch tall and inconspicuously hooks on your keychain.
This way, you pass through the metal detector with no alarms while your keys are handed back to you on the other side.
All that’s left is to enjoy the concert!
I get it. These kinds of scenarios can cause a little too much anxiety.
But I promise it’s not a big deal.
Knowing the facts about what metal detectors can and can’t detect gives you more knowledge and preparation for a smooth experience.
In other words, metal detectors can detect lighters. But if you’re using a lighter with minimal conductive material, the metal detector sensitivity is usually too high to alert security.
And if you still don’t want to take that chance, you’ll have to get creative and sneak your lighter in another way.
Or, bring some matches.
Before you go, you might be interested in my articles on other items you’d like to sneak through a metal detector.
Just an idea…
Oh, and one last thought.
For any of you getting excited about the rumor of aluminum foil blocking a metal detector, don’t buy it.