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How To Turn On Radio Without Starting Car: Tips & Tricks

Last Updated on: July 10, 2024

If you’re used to operating a keyed or keyless vehicle, then you know that you can easily turn the radio on with the car engine running and enjoy your ride.


What would you do if you found yourself in a parking lot and needed to listen to your favorite music without starting the car while waiting for someone? Unfortunately, a simple thing like turning the key can be a tad challenging for some folks, so if you want to know how to turn on the electrical system without starting the car, please read on…

Keyless Car Vs. Keyed Car

Keyless Car Vs. Keyed Car

With the older keyed models, most folks can easily do some simple actions without worrying about anything. All you have to do is insert the key into the ignition system and flip your wrist for the first click, and the car’s electronics will be activated. But if you’re operating a keyless car for the first time, the car’s features may seem strange and hard to operate.

The newer models come with a push button for starting and stopping the engine; unfortunately, they don’t come with a second button for switching on the accessory mode of the car without turning on the engine.

In fact, with the keyed models, anyone can insert the key in the ignition and start the car’s electronic accessories without starting the car.

You can even operate the car stereo and wipers with the engine switched off. Unfortunately, this was not the case in the past.

How Can You Turn The Stereo On With The Engine Off?

Be Curious

In the past, car owners could only use the accessories with the engine already started. Fortunately, things have evolved over the last few decades, and now drivers can listen to the car stereo with the engine switched off thanks to a function referred to as the accessory mode.

The accessory mode lets all drivers use numerous car accessories like air conditioning, navigation, and the car radio with the car switched off. Therefore, when you figure out how to turn on the radio without starting the car, then you can access all the other electronic accessories.

Furthermore, using the radio with the car switched off doesn’t use much power. A great car battery drain occurs when you run most of the car’s functions simultaneously with the engine switched off.

Unfortunately, most folks don’t know how to access the accessories. After all, the monitor has no buttons for activating this mode. If you want to know how to activate the accessory mode without starting the engine, then read on.

The Ultimate Guide On How To Listen To The Radio Without Starting Car


Depending on the vehicle model, the method you use to switch on the car radio may vary. For instance, if you’re driving a keyed car, you can use its ignition systems and the key to access its electronics.

On the other hand, most modern vehicles come embedded with a secondary feature referred to as the accessory mode to the start/stop button.

In this guide, you will find out how you can enjoy your car radio without switching the engine on for keyless and keyed cars.

A. For Keyless Cars (Start/Stop Button)

Activating the accessory mode and accessory power can be a bit challenging when your vehicle has a smart key system. So here are the 3 key things you should do when dealing with a keyless car and climate control:

Step 1: Make Sure You Have Your Key With You In The Car

The smart key technology has grown in popularity over the last few years, eventually becoming popular among many drivers thanks to its convenience.

But to operate a keyless system, you must have the smart key near you.

Step 2: Shift Its Gear From Park Mode To Neutral Mode

When the car’s gear is in park mode, and you press the start/stop buttons, the car will turn off the engine and all the other accessories. Therefore, you should shift the gear to neutral mode before proceeding to the next step.

You may have to press the brake pedal before shifting to neutral in some cars. Therefore, you must understand how the car functions before trying to listen to the radio with the engine off.

Step 3: Activate The Accessory Mode By Pushing The Button

With the car in neutral mode, you can finally push the start button and activate the accessory mode. But make sure you release the brake pedal before doing this. After all, the engine will start if you press the button while your foot is on the brake pedal.

With the car in accessory mode, you can finally listen to the radio with the car parked.

B. For Keyed Cars

If you’re driving an older vehicle that doesn’t have a smart key system, it can take little-to-no effort to enjoy your music with the engine off. All you have to do is insert the key into the ignition and twist it clockwise to the 1st position, and you can listen to the radio.

Pro Auto Thought: You might want to know how to load music into your USB stick for easy access to your collection! Read this post — How To Organize Music On USB For Car.

Can Activating Accessories Drain Out The Car battery?

The accessories mode on its own doesn’t use any power, so it can’t drain the battery, but the car’s accessories need some power from the battery. Therefore when you use too many accessories while in accessory mode, you may drain the battery.

Remember, car batteries only recharge when the engine is switched on, so you should be cautious when listening to your radio with the car’s engine switched off.

For How Long Can I Listen To The Radio When The Car Is Off?

Generally, the battery’s duration will depend on many factors, including the number of accessories used, battery conditions, and the amount of time you use it. Therefore, it is hard to give a concrete answer to this question.

To avoid over-draining the batteries, you must restrict your usage to 120 minutes, or you may find yourself practicing how to jump-start the car.

How Can I Switch Off The Vehicle When Its Accessory Mode Is Turned On?

Some folks find it quite hard to switch off the car after activating the accessory mode in keyless cars, but it’s very simple.

Keep the foot away from the brake pedal and press the start/stop button. After a few seconds, the electronics will turn on. When this happens, you can press the button again and get out of the car, knowing everything is switched off.  

But make sure the gear shifter is in park mode every time you switch off your car. 

Pro Auto Thought: How about learning how to wire a car stereo first to your battery? Proceed here for more information on doing this project — How To Wire A Car Stereo To A 12V Battery.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Listen To The Car Radio With The Car Off?

Yes, you can always listen to the stereo even when the car is switched off. All you have to do is switch on the accessory mode of your car, and you can access all the electronics without switching on the engine. However, you should never use the car in the accessory mode for a very long time as you can easily over-drain the car battery.

How Do I Keep My Keyed Car In Accessory Mode?

Keeping the car in this mode is simple — you must leave the key in the ignition system after activating the car’s electronics. If you move the key even further clockwise, then you may end up switching the car on.

Will The Radio Drain The Battery?

Yes, if you use the radio for a long time, you may drain the battery. The draining also depends on the number of accessories that you’re using.


Just because your car is switched off, it doesn’t mean you can’t listen to some music; all modern cars come with the accessory mode. Unfortunately, most drivers, especially the ones with keyless cars, don’t know how to activate the accessory mode. But with the above guide, you can easily turn on the radio without switching the car.

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