Does Using A Zippo Butane Insert Make Me An Impostor Or Zippo Apostate?

I am a huge proponent of petrol lighters. I have devoted a large chunk of my time and livelihood to these fantastic little fire making machines. I am also a Zippo fan and appreciate the historical significance and elementary nature of their petrol heritage but does using a Zippo Butane Insert make me an impostor or Zippo apostate? In this article, I will make my case for the legitimacy of taking advantage of advances in butane technology(or any other tech for that matter) while still appreciating and honoring Zippo’s petrol legacy.

Making My Case

All the way back in the 1930s, Zippo made the “fan test” famous by demonstrating that the windscreen design of their lighters made them difficult for the wind to extinguish. I have performed this test myself and found that the petrol flame of a Zippo is indeed somewhat impervious to actually being extinguished regardless of the strength or power of the wind experienced.

The fact that a flame is resilient to the wind, however, does not necessarily mean that it also retains its usefulness when trying to ignite certain smoking expendables in even mildly windy conditions. In other words, though the flame may not blow out that doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to light what you intend to smoke off of it.

Depending on what you smoke, different types of flames may be more or less useful and the presence of wind can definitely complicate the matter. Take, for instance, a commercially produced tobacco cigarette which doesn’t require much effort to light in any kind of condition as the product has been developed in such a way to light and burn easily, requiring only a hint of inhalation as the flame simply touches the end of the cigarette and you are off and running.

A Zippo Yellow Flame Butane Insert In A Vintage Look Case

Not so easy though with cigars, pipes and medical marijuana products which may require more and consistent time at the flame in order for proper combustion of the product to occur. Pipes often ignite more easily with a sideways oriented flame just as cigars, joints and blunts may benefit from the use of a stiff jet torch.

What’s A Fella’ To Do?

Understanding the limitations of a Zippo(and just about any other petrol lighter design) in the wind makes coming up with an alternative necessary if you find yourself needing to light up in the wind, which I do often where I live in Oklahoma. There’s plenty of other windy environments though, not only in the United States but around the world, meaning that there are vast numbers of people who find themselves in the same boat as me regarding the practical usefulness if their Zippo petrol flame.

For this reason, when Zippo came out with the Single and Double Butane Torch and Electric Arc inserts a few yrs back, I was keen to try them. There were previously third party butane insert alternatives made to fit a Zippo case that I wasn’t so quick to check out but figured if Zippo was going to market an alternative themselves then why not give it a shot?

The initial Single Torch Butane insert that I purchased worked well enough and did the job of lighting what I needed it to though I did have some questions about its quality of design after a drop led to sporadic ignition via the piezoelectric spark that it employed. I really wished it had been designed using the tried and true flint and file wheel type ignition.

Fueling A Zippo Yellow Flame Butane Insert

The Electric Arc insert performed flawlessly in the wind or any other environment, once I became familiar with the nuances under which it operates. The Electric Arc does not produce a flame and therefore will only light exposed product that is placed directly on the arc element and is not very good for burning through thicker blunt wraps or even rolling papers or cones. Though I’d never used an arc lighter before, I had expected this “close contact” limitation of the Arc insert.


After using those first two Zippo alternatives to varying effects and satisfaction, I was stoked when I saw the promotions for the Yellow Flame Butane insert as it provides a similarly presented flame as a Zippo petrol insert while also employing the traditional flint and file wheel ignition that Zippo’s previous alternative inserts had lacked. I couldn’t get one fast enough and haven’t stopped using it yet!

The regular Yellow Flame Butane insert provides a much stronger flame than the petrol variety, which proves extremely helpful in the Oklahoma wind as I can easily twist a joint around in the flame as I inhale for several seconds in order to develop an even cherry ember which makes for a better smoke and much less canoeing of the joint. The flame of a normal petrol insert will tend to dance around like a Tube Man waving you into a car dealership parking lot!

Zippo has since released a Yellow Flame Butane Pipe insert which is on my list of inserts to acquire. The Pipe version also employs the flint/wheel ignition and has the same look as Zippo’s traditional Petrol Pipe insert.

Blaze Your Own Path

There are always going to be naysayers anytime you choose to modernize a product that has remained basically unchanged for such a long period of time. Zippo is synonymous with petrol in most enthusiast’s minds, thus leading to the charges that I have seen expressed both in threads in Facebook Lighters Groups like Zippo Addicts and also in the comments below our YouTube videos that Zippos should be left unchanged as they have been for all these yrs.

Zippo has made changes in the past anyway, most changes may have been way in the past but they still have made changes. There were several varieties of hinges before settling on the ones used today, as well as different file wheels, windscreens, etc. Even the shape and size of the lighter has changed in the past.

I love petrol! I work on them, repair and collect them, use them and show others how to fix them as my mission. I love everything about petrol lighters! But they are not suitable for every application for which I need a lighter and this has led me to use alternatives in order to be able to light up without losing my mind in frustration.

Zippo Soft Yellow Flame Butane Insert In Use

I use butane lighters. I don’t love them nor do I repair them but that doesn’t mean that they are not valuable tools that at least at times, can make my life much easier. Using a butane lighter in windy conditions does not impugn petrol lighters as useless, it only recognizes their limitations which exist no matter what I choose to use.

Carrying On

Using a butane insert in a Zippo does not defile or degrade the brand or its historical significance. It doesn’t mean that butane is better than petrol, it only recognizes that different type flames can be more or less useful in different lighter applications.

I still carry more petrol Zippos than I do those equipped with these modern upgrades but you can bet that I have a butane lighter on me at all times to use in unison with whatever petrol lighters I also have. There are circumstances that everyone experiences where each of these fuel system’s limitations may surface so it’s always good to have a backup!

I would love to hear your experiences and feelings regarding any aspect of using butane or petrol inserts in your Zippo lighters. Please use the comments section below or if you would like to post a video or photo to illustrate your point then consider posting your insights, suggestions, questions or comments on the Facebook Group where others can see and interact with them as the website does not support the posting of media in the comments.

Please also check out our YouTube channel where we regularly publish vintage lighter show & tell and instructional repair demonstration videos and conduct the weekly live stream Vintage Coffee & Lighters Live! where we gather with you all over a cup of coffee to talk about old lighters and any other subject that may come up.

Until next time…✌️

Author: Joseph

Be cautious when anyone tells you what you need or have to do...

8 thoughts on “Does Using A Zippo Butane Insert Make Me An Impostor Or Zippo Apostate?”

  1. As you mentioned, the petrol flame of a Zippo is very wind resistant, but it can be difficult to use to light certain things, such as cigars and pipes. Butane flames are much more powerful and can be directed more easily, making them ideal for these applications.

    I also think it is great that Zippo is now offering butane inserts that are compatible with their classic lighter cases. This means that you can still have the look and feel of a traditional Zippo, while also enjoying the benefits of butane technology.

    I think the piezoelectric spark ignition is a bit of a letdown, but overall I think the butane inserts are a great way to modernize your Zippo lighter. I would definitely recommend them to anyone who is looking for a more versatile and reliable lighter.

    1. Hey Jeffrey, that’s one of the reasons that I like the Yellow Flame butane insert so much is that it is equipped with the old style flint/file wheel ignition rather than the piezoelectric mechanism that the first Zippo butane inserts came with. It is also very nice to see Zippo making an effort to improve upon the technology they employ as consumers obviously desired it. I think many of the people that complain about modernizing a Zippo have never actually tried to use theirs period, let alone in any windy weather conditions.

  2. I have now learned a new perspective about Lighters as a whole as I had originally thought that people only used them for cigarettes and other things like stoves, candles, etc.
    I didn’t really think about all of the things they can be used for, so I honestly thank you for giving me that new perspective.
    And it’s cool that the Zippo can stay lit in the wind.
    Anyway, thank you for this post.

    1. Staying lit in the wind is certainly a necessary element for any lighter to be useful regardless of what that use may be but just because it stays lit In the wind does not mean that the lighter will be as useful as it could be. You are correct also about there being many uses for a lighter besides those who smoke. To be honest, I think probably over fifty percent of lighter collectors never use their lighters at all and a good many of them have never even lit a lighter once.

  3. Well Joe, since I don’t smoke anymore but I dip Ol Man Cope , I now have a much different perspective on my love for Zippo. Zippos lose fluid as we know BUT in an emergency situation it might be a good thing to have a petrol insert, a double jet butane, a soft flame butane and electric. The old fluid gem will go with a wide variety of volatile flammable liquids. Denatured Alcohol, Everclear, 151 rum, Coleman fuel and of course ZLF and Ronsonol. As we discussed to KEEP a fire going is good , so you can make a rope match by soaking a cotton or jute rope in wax threaded into a length of metal tube to extinguish it. The LESS of ANY fuel you use the better off you would be. There are lots of man made materials that light faster with a jet flame. The electric advantage is obvious…charge it. I don’t see it as apostate, rather wisdom to be equipped

    1. Yes, I agree with you in principle but I really am turned off by piezo ignitions especially. Thanks for sharing your insights Mark. Great and interesting conversations!

  4. Mr. Bossman,

    As you are probably aware: I favor liquid fueled devices (including lighters). However: I have a pair of Vector Thunderbird Zippo inserts. One: Soft Flame and one: Single Torch. I use them as (extended) travel, and work/chores require. I bought them in 2013, and with a bit of purging and port cleaning they still work perfectly in 2024….

    The ability to use a Zippo case – but with additional, more focused and specialized tools ad* lib* is a potent advantage for me. No apologies – or apostacy – in choosing a correct tool for the task at hand Brother!

    Keep* The* Dependable* Flame* Lit*!


    1. Good to hear from you Robert and very interesting to hear your experience with the Thunderbird inserts. I actually did not know that they were made by Vector so that is an interesting note as well. I may have to try one out my friend, thank you for the review!

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