Going to the drive-in movies is a fun way to get out of the house and enjoy a movie with friends or family without worrying about coronavirus risks from being indoors near others. However, one common concern is that running your car radio and lights for 2+ hours might drain your car’s battery! Luckily, there are some simple ways to make sure your battery stays charged so you can enjoy the whole double feature.
Use a portable radio
The easiest solution is to bring along a battery-powered portable radio. This allows you to turn your car completely off while still hearing the movie’s audio broadcasted over the drive-in’s radio frequency. Look for a radio that includes AM/FM capabilities so you can tune into the drive-in’s station. Some good options are:
- A hand-crank emergency radio – can be charged manually or via USB
- A Bluetooth speaker with radio built in
- A battery powered AM/FM Walkman style radio
If using a radio without its own speaker, you can connect it to your car’s stereo using an AUX input or FM transmitter. Just make sure to test it out ahead of time so you know it works!
Use a power inverter
Another option is to use a power inverter that plugs into your car’s 12V DC outlet and converts the power to standard 120V AC electricity. This allows you to plug in devices like speakers, TVs, or projectors. Just make sure the inverter is powerful enough to handle the load of your devices – you’ll usually need at least 150 watts.
With an inverter, some options are:
- Use external battery-powered speakers and connect these to your smartphone or radio via AUX cable
- Use a projector designed for outdoor use and point it at a portable screen
- Connect a small battery-operated TV
The inverter approach avoids draining your car battery, but be aware that running an inverter does use some power. Use intermittent power save settings if possible.
Charge your battery beforehand
To minimize the risk of running your battery down, make sure it’s fully charged beforehand by driving around for at least half an hour. It’s also a good idea to get your battery tested ahead of time to make sure it’s still in good condition and able to hold a full charge.
Some other tips for maximizing your battery life:
- Turn off any unnecessary electrical accessories like seat warmers, mirrors heaters, interior lights etc.
- If it’s cold weather, give the car 5-10 mins to idle and warm up before shutting off the engine.
- Park facing outwards so you can pull forward when leaving – starting takes more power than running accessories.
- Check the battery terminals are clean and corrosion-free.
Use a portable power station
A portable power station is essentially a big rechargeable battery with AC and DC power outlets designed for camping or emergency use. With a 300+ watt power station, you can power a TV, speakers, phone chargers, and more. Just fully charge it beforehand and connect your devices. Some popular options are:
- Jackery Explorer 300
- Anker PowerHouse 200
- BLUETTI EB240
- Westinghouse iGen200s
Look for one with pure sine wave AC outlets for powering sensitive electronics without damage. Estimated runtime will depend on the station’s capacity and your devices’ draw.
Jump start your battery as needed
Even with the above precautions, it’s still possible your car battery might get run down – especially if it’s older. If so, a portable jump starter allows you to give your battery a quick recharge.
To jump start the car:
- Attach the jump starter’s positive and negative clamps to your car’s battery terminals (positive to positive, negative to ground). Make sure the clamps have a solid connection.
- Turn on the jump starter and let it charge for a few minutes.
- Try starting your car as normal. It should now have enough charge to start up.
- Let the car run for at least 15-30 mins to recharge the battery.
Some top-rated portable jump starters to consider are:
|Jump Starter||Peak Amps||Battery Capacity|
|NOCO Genius Boost Plus GB40||1000 amps||1000 amp-hours|
|DBPOWER 800A||18000 amps||18000 mAh|
|GOOLOO 800A SuperSafe||12800 amps||12400 mAh|
Look for one rated at least 1000 peak amps with a capacity over 12000 mAh. Higher capacity units can charge phones and laptops too.
Listen on an FM transmitter
Here’s one last clever option – use an FM transmitter to play the movie audio right through your car’s FM radio. Here’s how it works:
- Tune your car radio to an unused FM frequency like 88.1
- Set the FM transmitter to the same frequency.
- Connect the transmitter via AUX cable to a smartphone, portable media player, or radio app tuned to the drive-in movie.
- The movie audio will now play through your car stereo.
Some top FM transmitter options are:
|Nulaxy Wireless In-Car||Bluetooth hands free calls + QC 3.0 USB charging|
|JETech Wireless FM||LCD display with channel scan|
|ROAV SmartCharge||Phone charging + car battery monitoring|
This avoids any battery drain since the car is off while transmitting the audio.
Listening to audio at a drive-in movie without killing your car battery is easy with the right gear:
- A portable radio avoids any battery drain and is the simplest, cheapest option.
- An inverter can power a TV or projector but uses some power.
- Make sure your battery is fully charged to start with.
- A portable power station is perfect for powering multiple devices.
- An FM transmitter can play the movie audio through your car stereo.
- Keep a jump starter on hand just in case your battery does run down.
With a little preparation, you can enjoy the drive-in for hours without worrying about your car battery. Focus on the movie and have fun under the stars!