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Battery died from listening to the radio?

A few years ago, my car battery died because I had left it in accessory mode for too long. I learned not to do that anymore. Someone told me turning the key towards me is better than putting it in accessory (turning the key a notch or two away from me, but not all the way to start).

I like to sit in my car and listen to the radio sometimes. I did that tonight for no more than an hour (with the key turned towards me- nothing on but the radio) and the battery died. So is there really a difference between these key positions? Besides that in accessory the fan turns on.

Is there a better way? I like to listen to the radio but don’t want to risk killing the battery again.

For what it’s worth, the battery is 3 years old and in good condition…not weak or in need of replacement yet.

How old is this Buick? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a car with the accessory position ccw of the off position. A car that old may have a tube type radio in it and they will drain a battery quickly.

  1. It’s possible I’m using the wrong words, but I was taught when the car is ‘on’ but not running it’s called accessory.

The switch is labeled. Off, Acc, Run (or ON), Start. Way back in the old days it was Acc, Off, Run, Start. Acc may run the fan and the radio and the fan uses a lot of power. The only thing not on in Acc is the ignition system and the power windows.

Mine is in a different order. The position closest to me allows the radio to be on and the power windows to work and interior lights if I want them.

Then there’s off.

Then there’s a notch, I don’t know what is for.

Then “accessory” allows all the stuff of the first position, plus the fan. AC doesn’t work, but the fan runs. I think I was told that this position engages the engine, which is why leaving it there drains the battery.

Then the engine ignition that starts the car.

Does any of this make sense? I’m not a car person. But I love Car Talk.

I would not be too sure your battery is in as good a shape as you think it is. An hour listening to the radio should not kill your battery unless you have a big amp and speakers.

The dude who jumped my car checked the battery with a device that said it was in good shape.

Thank you both for trying to help though!

Normally the accessory position just allows use of the radio and maybe other limited options like the power port. The on position would turn everything on like the fan and dash lights, power windows, etc. So you don’t use the on position for just sitting there listening to the radio. I agree though 3 years on a battery that has been discharged a couple times may not be as strong as it should be but still, I never go more than about ten minutes without the car running. Sometimes doesn’t take much to discharge the battery.

Back in high school I used my dad’s 60 Falcon work car for Friday night drive arounds. He told me don’t use the radio or the battery would die. I used the radio anyway and after stopping at a teen hang-out, sure enough the battery was dead and I needed a jump start. I never told him but I never used the radio again in that car. Maybe he knew anyway. I think he was smarter than I thought he was looking back now. So don’t use the radio.

Thanks! So would it be better to just sit there with the car running if I want to listen to the radio for a little while? I would think idling for more than five minutes is worse.

Is the same thing likely to happen with a newer car? My car is quite old and I will probably get something newer at some point, but I’m still going to want to listen to the radio sometimes. If that harms the car, then what are my options?

If the car needed a jump it shouldn’t have tested good unless you had it charged-did you?

I’m not sure. The guy had a machine that allowed the car to start. He had me turn it on and off and then on again and then I drove home. Does that mean it was charged?

It seemed like he was checking the overall health of the battery.

First of all I don’t think that battery is near as good as you think . Second, I don’t quite understand the need to set in your car for that long to listen to the radio . If I had to that I would just start the car , at idle you really use very little fuel.

It sounds to me like the battery might have tested “good” while not under load, but probably is on its last leg. There is no possible way that a good battery would have run down in less than an hour of listening to the radio with the engine off. Heck, lots of people forget their headlights on, which use way more power than a factory stereo, for way longer than an hour, and their car still starts after that.

I would say it’s time for a new battery, and to clean up the battery connections and make sure they’re tight. If you need to listen to the radio without the engine running, such as if you are waiting to pick up someone, the correct position to do this is “acc”. On many vehicles, such as Chrysler products from the 1990s, the “acc” position is one notch counter-clockwise from “off”.

No, it does not . Assuming you are in the US Auto Zone will check your battery and alternator for free except California I think.

Okay, thank you all!

I agree the battery is suspect. If you do lots of short trip driving and rare longer ones, the alternator doesn’t have enough time to recharge the battery. It may need a good long slow charge via a battery charger, or a long day trip. Batteries usually last more than 3 years, but not always - especially if they have been allowed to discharge deeply. A good shop will test your alternator’s output as well as your battery’s condition.

If you are into DIY, you could buy a battery tester and measure the specific gravity of all 6 cells. That tells you the state of charge. No cell should be greatly different from the others. If it needs a charge, take a long drive using minimal electrical accessories and test the battery after. Or hook up a battery charger for several hours. Then test again the next day before starting up. That tells you how well the battery holds a charge.

In the early 1960s car radios went from tubes to transistors. Their power demand went down dramatically. So did their sensitivity, selectivity, and audio quality, but that’s another topic. Now new cars often have very high wattage audio systems, so power demand is on the rise again - but much of that power is only used when the system is playing loudly.

Anyway, good luck and please let us know what you find out.

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Excellent point that @Kannd86_143215 can easily answer and test without much difficulty

I discovered a very odd “feature” of my 2010 Kia Forte. 3 years ago I was picking up my grandson at a school bus stop 2 to 3 times a week. I would typically arrive 30 minutes early and read until the bus arrived. I left the key in the off position in the switch since I was sitting in the car. It was mid Winter with darker days so I was leaving my headlight switch on where they turned on and off with the ignition switch. When the bus arrived I would remove the key to avoid the dinging. One day I forgot to remove the key and discovered the front parking lights and tail lights were on. If I turned the headlight switch to off they went off. If I turned it on and removed the key they went off. The manual identified this as the “battery saving feature”!

I was curious about OPs ventilation fan operating in ACC. Mine does not. Only the stereo operates in ACC.