Will Linda's dad drain the car battery, listening to Car Talk?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2010

Dear Tom and Ray:

My father is a HUUUGE fan of your NPR radio show. Every Saturday, he is a devoted listener. At their weekend cottage up north, the reception is sketchy at best. When your show is scheduled to come on, my father disappears like clockwork. Finally we found him camped out in the driveway, in Mom's Cadillac, tuned in to your show, no less, on the car stereo. He argues the car stereo has a better receiver than a conventional radio. I tell him he's going to drain Mom's battery. I relayed this story to a co-worker, and we decide it was a great topic of conversation for "Click and Clack." Is the car radio that much more superior than your standard FM stereo receiver? And how many shows can he listen to before he drains Mom's battery? Thanks, and say "Hi" to Ralph sitting in Daina's Caddy!

-- Linda

TOM: He probably doesn't even like our show, Linda. He's just hiding from the grandkids.

RAY: We don't know a lot about radios, other than how to drive people away from them when our show is on. But we do know that car radios tend to be better in quality, and higher in price, than tabletop radios.

TOM: Because they're constantly in motion, they have to be better in order to hold onto the broadcast signals. And, often times, the more expensive cars, like Cadillacs, will have the best radios.

RAY: Plus, reception is influenced by several factors: radio quality, antenna quality and location. And he may have found the perfect spot in the driveway to grab the signal he's looking for. So it's very likely that he's right about getting better reception in the car.

TOM: And the radio uses very little of the battery's power. It can run for hours without running the battery down.

RAY: And, of course, if he wants to keep sitting out there through "Weekend Edition," "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" and "This American Life," he can always just run the engine for 15 minutes. That'll restore the small amount of energy he used. So I'd leave Ralph alone, Linda. Daina's Caddy will be fine.

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