How to Keep Radio on at Drive in? – The Simplest Way

Written by RPennington / Fact checked by R. Combs

When you drive your car, the working engine constantly charges the battery and provides continual power. But what if you need the accessories on without the engine running? How to keep radio on at Drive in?

This article will take you through the steps to using car radio at Drive in. Even if your car is designed to completely turn the accessories off with the engine, we’ll introduce gadgets to power the radio. Keep reading!

The Simplest Way to Keep Radio on at Drive in

To keep radio on when car is off, all you need to do is switch the key to the accessory mode. But the problem starts when your car’s battery runs out so fast that the radio doesn’t last through the entire movie.

Below are the things you need to listen to Drive-in movie without draining car battery:

  • Your smartphone
  • Auxiliary cable
  • Battery pack and a cable

Step 1. Put your car in accessory mode

The accessory (ACC) mode allows you to listen to the radio without the engine on. After you navigate your vehicle into your slot at the Drive-in, turn off the engine and switch the key to this mode.

  • Cars with key

To turn on radio without starting car, you need to switch the key to the second position. You might see the word ACC or ACC ON written there.

  • Cars with keyless ignition

For cars with push-button ignition, such as Chevy Equinox, Traverse, Kia, and GMC Acadia, the procedure is different. To turn on the radio of a Drive- in Kia, you will release your foot from the brake, then press the engine stop/start button.

On a Nissan Rogue, you will turn on the radio using the power button or volume knob after the engine completely shuts down.

  • NoteIf your car doesn’t allow radios without the engine running (a mechanism for protecting the battery’s lifespan in some modern cars), you will need to power the radio with an aftermarket radio adapter.

But don’t worry! You don’t have to do any complicated installation. These adapters can be plugged directly into the car’s cigarette lighter. They will provide a constant supply of power for your radio and thus keep car battery from dying at Drive in movie.

Step 2. Connect your radio to the Drive-in’s sound system

Outdoor speakers can ruin the sound experience of a movie, so Drive-in broadcasts the movie’s audio via an FM frequency or stream it on an app. Here’s how to connect your radio to the Drive-in’s audio system.

  • Using your smartphone

If the drive-in enables app streaming, you will download the app to your smartphone. Then, turn it on and stream the live audio of the movie. Make sure that your phone has strong wifi or cellular signals so the streaming goes smoothly.

After that, connect the phone to your car’s sound system via an auxiliary cable or Bluetooth. Now, you can watch Drive-in movies on the big screen with high-quality sound playing in your car.

If you want to listen to a Drive-in movie without the radio, you can let the audio play directly from your phone’s speaker.

  • Using FM radio for Drive-in movie

You can also connect to the Drive-in’s movie audio via an FM channel. After the Drive-in provides the frequency, you will:

  • Select the FM band on your car’s radio
  • Use the channel+/- button or frequency knob to find the channel (In some cars, you can type the frequency number and press enter to tune into it)

Step 3. Connect the battery pack

A good car’s battery can keep its radio running for three to four hours, but an old one can’t sustain a full-on stereo system through a two-hour movie. Aftermarket head units and subwoofers consume much more energy than factory radios.

If that is your case, you must turn on the engine and let it run to charge the battery in the middle of the movie. How to avoid the annoying engine noise? You can purchase a battery pack.

The gadget will constantly supply power to the head unit, amplifier, and speakers. It comes with a USB-port cable, which you can plug directly into the radio. Now, you no longer have to worry about the car’s battery running out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a special radio for the Drive-in?

No, you don’t. Both factory radios and aftermarket stereo systems will work as long as they can tune into an FM frequency or connect to your phone.

Tips to save battery when the radio is on

All accessories in your car consume energy, especially the AC/heater. So, when you watch movies at the Drive-in, remember to turn off all the lights and AC/heater, leaving only the radio on.

In addition, an extensive stereo system with an aftermarket amplifier and subwoofers will consume more energy. If you have an old car battery, it’s best to stick to the factory radio that the car manufacturer installed.

Lastly, the car’s battery will drain more quickly when you listen to the radio at a high volume. So, make sure to keep the volume low. Also, turn on your engine and let it fully charge the battery before the movie starts.

How long can my radio run without the car engine?

Generally speaking, a radio can run for two to three hours in accessory mode. The specific answer, however, depends on many factors, such as your car’s model, battery quality, and radio system.

If you own a new car with a factory radio, your car’s battery will certainly survive the two hours of a movie.

How much battery do car accessories consume?

The accessories in your car don’t consume the same amount of energy. The heater’s battery consumption, for example, is much larger than the radio’s.

  • Radio

At its best, a car battery can power the radio for four to six hours without the engine running. But if you install aftermarket stereo equipment, expect this time to remarkably reduce.

For instance, a good battery, while able to keep a factory radio on for four hours, can only sustain subwoofers for one to two hours.

  • AC/Heater

If you leave the AC/heater on at the Drive-in, the battery will drain out after thirty minutes. Among car accessories, AC/Heater consumes the largest amount of energy.

  • Lights

Though lights don’t use as much energy as the heater, they can deplete the battery when turned on for too long. So, make sure to turn off all the lights when you park at the Drive-in.




Drive-in movies can create lovely memories. So, don’t let a dead battery ruin them! As a big fan of the Drive-in’s big screen myself, I guarantee you will find investing in a power bank worth every penny.

I hope this three-step guide on how to keep radio on at Drive in helped elevate your sound experience. But do you want to take a step further? How about eyeing some aftermarket stereos? Browse our website for the best reviews and buying guides.

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