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How to Keep the Radio On When the Car is Off?

How to Keep the Radio On When the Car is Off

 You can turn off any vehicle while keeping the radio on by putting it in the accessory mode.

In push-to-start vehicles, you can activate this mode by putting the gear in park mode, removing the foot from the brake, and pressing the start button once.

On the other hand, if you have a car that uses a physical key for start/stop, you’ll need to insert the key into the ignition switch. And turn it to the halfway position (ACC).

What is Accessory Mode?

One of the common questions car audio enthusiasts ask is about being able to play music while their cars are off.

There can be many reasons why you’d want to do that.

Let’s say you’ve parked the car and are about to meet someone in a few minutes. And they suddenly text you about being a half hour late. Now you don’t know how to kill that time in the car.

Fortunately, vehicles come with the ‘accessory’ mode.

As the name implies, this mode allows the drivers to use different accessories in the vehicle (such as radio, power windows, sunroof, power seats, charging port, and climate controls) without actually turning the car on.

How does the Accessory Mode Work?

To understand the accessory mode, we’ll first understand how a vehicle’s battery and alternator work.

When you first start the engine, the battery sends a powerful current jolt to the starter motor to start the engine.

Once the engine starts running, it causes the alternator to rotate and generate electricity. At this point, the alternator recharges the battery and provides electric power to other vehicle systems, including the radio.

And keeps on powering them unless the demand is too high. Then, the battery provides additional power to the vehicle.

Since the accessory mode doesn’t turn on the engine, the alternator doesn’t turn on to power the vehicle. Therefore, in this mode, the battery powers all the vehicle systems.

How to Keep the Radio On When the Car is Off?

So now that we’ve discussed the accessory mode and how it works, we’ll learn how to activate it.

While the exact method varies (depending on your car manufacturer), two standard methods exist to activate this mode.

Activate Accessory Mode in Keyless-Ignition Systems

Activate Accessory Mode in Keyless-Ignition Systems
  • Put the vehicle into Neutral (or Park for automatic transmission).
  •  Apply the e-brake.
  •  Make sure the fob is in the car or nearby.
  •  Put the foot off the brake pedal.
  •  Press the engine start/stop button once.

Now you can listen to the radio while keeping the radio off. When you want to turn off the radio, press the start/stop button twice – make sure your foot is off the brake or clutch pedal.

Activate Accessory Mode in Key-Ignition Systems

Activate Accessory Mode in Key-Ignition Systems
  • Put the vehicle into Neutral or Park.
  •  Apply the e-brake.
  •  Put the key into the ignition.
  •  Turn the key to the ‘ACC’ position, usually one or two clicks back from the ‘start’ position.

To turn the car radio off, turn the key back from the accessory position to the off position and remove it from the ignition.


So this is how you can keep the radio on even when the vehicle is off.

One word of caution, though. Since the battery powers the radio, if the vehicle is in accessory mode, keeping the car in this stage for too long can drain the battery.

If the battery goes too low or is 100% drained, it won’t be able to start the vehicle. And you’ll have no option other than jump starting it – either by jumper cables or a jump starter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Turn On The Radio While The Engine Is Off?

Yes, you can turn on the radio while keeping the engine off through the accessory mode.

Does Accessory Mode Drain The Battery?

Yes, the accessory mode drains the battery because the alternator is not powering the vehicle then. But how much it drains the battery depends on how many electrical components you’re using at that time.

How Long Can I Leave My Radio On Before My Battery Dies?

It depends on the power consumption of your car audio system, other accessories, and your car battery’s age/capacity.

Can I Play My Music As Loud As I Want In My Car?

Playing music too loud in your car can damage your hearing, have legal consequences, and damage your car’s audio components.

Is It Illegal To Use A Car Stereo While Driving?

Using a car stereo while driving is generally not illegal, but there may be specific regulations or restrictions in certain jurisdictions.
Some vehicles have a parking brake mode that doesn’t allow drivers to use car stereos unless the vehicle stops moving.

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Miles Walker is the founder and lead reviewer at CarAudioWise. com. With over 20 years of experience in the car audio industry, he is an acknowledged expert on all aspects of car audio technology and installation.

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