Air conditioning and drive-in movies



I have a 10-month old son and hate paying $30 for a babysitter ever time I want to go to a movie. I’d like to try the local drive-in so I can bring the kid along. I recently moved to South Carolina. It’s hot, even in the evenings, and the mosquitos can be vicious. Can I run my air conditioner without running down my battery? Is there a reason why I shouldn’t run the AC for the whole movie?


Well you can run the FAN all you want and the battery should last several hours. But if the engine isn’t running, the A/C isn’t running either. So that sort of defeats the purpose.

The problem with idling the engine for extended periods is that it’s not too great for the engine. It’s not horrible, but not wonderful. The other big problem is that the engine pumps out alot of harmful gasses when running, and if you’re going to sit in the car with it idling for several hours, you’re going to endanger your life and the life of anyone else in the car. A long time ago, my great uncle’s son and his girlfriend were both killed by CO2 poisioning after sitting in an idling car for a long time. It’s odorless and colorless and can render you unconcious before you have time to act, especially if you’re focused on a movie.

If you want to go and enjoy the drive in, bring the moonroof car, or the convertible, if you have one of either of those. If not, bring the car with the biggest windows, and put em down. Enjoy the night air and the movie. =)



Not CO2, CO. My mistake.

-Matt (again)


My, how times have changed. It used to be that one of the charms of the year-round drive-in movie was the al fresco experience. You fanned yourself in summer and cuddled under the quilts in winter.

Cars have also changed. The addition of the catalytic converter as a standard feature in the last generation has virtually eliminated the hazard of CO poisoning. Suicide fans have all but abandoned this method.

But back to your question. I recommend you go to the drive-in, with your young-'un, and make no attempt at climate control. The recent heat wave has abated and DEET foils the mosquitos. This is a good way to get out of the house at minimal expense. Buy your snacks in advance. If for any reason you are not satisfied you can always drive away.

Running the car’s engine to use the AC is harmless but if you check the evening’s weather forecast, it should be quite unnecessary.


I agree, but it also does a lot of harm to the Catalytic Converter. It will get very hot if the engine idles for to long.


You are aware, I hope, that the AC requires that the engine be running. If you’re willing to allow the engine to idle for the length of a movie, and if the drive-in theater allows it, go ahead.

Assuming your car’s cooling system is functioning properly it won’t hurt a thing. Waste of gas, but no harm done.