Does moving my electric seat with the engine turned off drain my car's battery?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

Before I start my car, I move the electric seat forward so I can reach the gas pedal. My boyfriend screams at me constantly, and informs me that I am killing the battery this way. I doing something to damage the battery, or is he a nut?

TOM: He screams at you constantly? I'd dump him, Ann. It's not a long way from "the battery" to "assault and battery." I don't care whether he's right or wrong, I say get rid of the bum.

RAY: And what's even worse is that he IS wrong. In theory he's got a point. When the engine is off, and you use anything electrical, you're using the battery. Whereas when the car is running, your electricity comes from the alternator, which is powered by the engine.

TOM: But he's grossly exaggerating when he accuses you of killing the battery. I mean, if the amount of electricity it takes to adjust the seat is enough to make the car not start, then the battery was on its death bed anyway, and it's time to buy a new one.

RAY: I'm assuming that you two share a car, and that he's taller than you are, so he drives with the seat further back. And if that's the case, here's my suggestion. If you decide to ignore my advice and give this guy another chance, make a new rule. When he parks the car, make HIM responsible for moving the seat FORWARD before he shuts off the engine.

TOM: Right. That won't drain the battery, since the car is still running, and it will preclude you having to do ANY adjusting before you start the car.

RAY: And if he ever forgets to move the seat up...scream at him...constantly.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One