Does using a car radio burn through more gas?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband insists that driving with the car radio on uses extra gasoline (except when the baseball games are on). If the gas tank gets low, he says we will run out of gas sooner if the radio is on. Is this true? I find it rather hard to believe. We both agree to accept your answer as the final authority. Thanks.

RAY: Well Kaye, we can certainly see the logic in exempting the baseball games from this theory. I mean, after all, there is all that dead air while you're waiting for the pitcher to get the sign, and waiting for the batter to scratch himself and get back into the box. Because of all those quiet moments, I could certainly see where a baseball game uses less gas than say, Paul Harvey.

TOM: Actually, Kaye, in theory, your whacko husband is correct (not about exempting the baseball games, but about the radio using gasoline). Obviously, you can't get something for nothing. So whenever you use energy, it's got to come from somewhere. And the place it comes from is the engine.

RAY: And the place the engine gets it's energy from is the gasoline. So any device in the car that uses energy; the air conditioner, the headlights, the portable juicer, and even the radio does reduce your gas mileage by some amount.

TOM: But the amount of energy consumed by the radio is so miniscule that it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. Remember, you can run a radio for months on a little pocket battery! So it's really not even worth thinking about.

RAY: We suspect that your husband doesn't really believe this story either, Kaye. He just doesn't like your taste in music. So he came up with this hare-brained theory, hoping that you would fall for it...and you almost did!

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