car audio troubleshooting

Car audio problems? Here is how to fix any of them yourself

You are trying to solve any of the issues and don’t know where to start because if you come unstitched, your car audio system will be blown up immediately.

A car audio system will naturally go through some wear and tear over time, which means you’re probably gonna spend thousands of dollars repairing them. Well, you are in the right place because you can save your money after reading this article.

This guide will meet your needs about the amplifier, speakers, or head unit problems. Keep reading up on and then you no longer need to wait for the mechanic.

Problems with the power source

At times, your speakers, amplifier, or stereo can malfunction, affecting the entire sound system. The power source may be creating difficulty for you here. Here, we have covered car audio hurdles you may across, along with their solutions.

COMPONENT
SYMPTOM
CAUSES/ PROBLEMS
SOLUTIONS
Speakers
No power/ Not workingProblems with other drivers or wireChecking wire, fuse
Read more
AmplifierCannot turn on/ No powerThe wire which connects to radio has problemsRun a new wire with the correct gauge
Read more
The amplifier is cutting off and on repeatedlyThe loose power connection or poor amp grounding+ Check the power connections
+ Connect and reconnect the amp turn-on wire
Read more
StereoThe stereo is not powering on/ won't turn onBlown fuse or bad/damaged wiring+ Use multimeter to check the cable’s transmit
+ Check for any blown fuses
Read more
Stereo turns off irregularly/ Car radio stopped working suddenlyPower or ground connection problemCheck for the power and ground wires
Read more
Stereo display and sound turn off and on togetherHead unit isn’t getting enough powerCheck by the voltmeter
Read more
Stereo turns off when driving over a bump or around a cornerLose connector at the back of the head unitTighten the butt connector
Read more
The car radio cannot turn onIncorrect installation

Replace the pigtail connection
Read more

Speakers are not working

From incompetent cable to faulty amplifiers, there are many reasons why speaker systems stop working completely. Here are steps that you can take to deal with the issue at hand.

  • Screw-in loose or unplugged wires, if any.
  • Replace any onboard fuses to see if the speaker powers on.
  • Check if ground wires are broken.

If none of these steps help, chances are your speakers are blown out.

The amplifier cannot turn on

The failure of an amplifier to turn itself on is fixable. Thus, you do not have to send it immediately to repair or replace it. There may be a minor mix-up with an incorrect cord or loose connection.

The existing wire may be worn out or corroded. It will help if you run a new wire with the correct gauge compatible with your head unit.

good fuse vs blown fuse
The blown fuse can lead to numerous troubles for your car audio, so you have to replace it if needed.

If the amplifier is still not switching on, the issue may lie in the amplifier’s interior. In that case, open it up and check for anything that looks blown. A blown fuse may be the source of your troubles. Inline fuses are replaceable, and you can repair them at home on your own.

The amplifier is cutting off and on repeatedly

An amplifier turning on and off at random is usually a victim of bad wiring. It is due to the wiring complications like loose power connection or poor grounding connections.

To fix such wiring mix-up, you are not required to do any laborious work. All you need to do is check whether the power connections are well-connected and not muddled up. You can connect and reconnect the amp turn-on wire to the remote amp wire.

If this does not work, the amplifier may not be grounded the right way. So, confirm that the amp is hooked on properly. You can scrub your amplifier with a stainless steel scrubber to remove any rust or corrosion. Once you do that, check the ground wires and make sure they are tight.

Stereo is not powering on

Bad wiring and/or blown fuse means no stereo. These kinds of power source difficulties will shut the stereo down even though it has power. With a little checking, you may be able to troubleshoot this hitch.

digital multimeter
Using the multimeter for checking the cable – Image: Wikimedia

Begin your search by ensuring that the power cable is connected and working properly. Use the multimeter to check the cable is transmitting current through the connection or not. If the multimeter shows no voltage, it is time to replace the cable with a new one.

Next, check for any blown fuses. There is no real way to fix a blown fuse except by replacing it with another one. On the bright side, most of these units are easy to screw-in fuses. So, you can get a new fuse and bolt it in yourself!

If the fuse is working, but the stereo is not, which means that the cause for concern is the stereo itself. The next step will be to send the stereo for repair or get a new one altogether.

Stereo turns off irregularly

Bad power or ground connections are held accountable for turning your stereo on and off. A stereo that works intermittently means that you did not install its wires properly.

Firstly, check for the power and ground wires. When the issue is the wiring harness, you will need to get the rewiring done through soldering to melt and join the wire strands. Your mechanic should be able to help you with that.

In case it is not the power or ground connection, the troublemaker is your head unit. To rule out every possibility, replacing the head unit sounds like a good idea. However, some head units do come with built-in fuses. You might be able to salvage it by simply changing the fuse in it.

Stereo display and sound turn on and off together

This sound and display difficulty is a result of the head unit not getting enough power. Power cuts mean the head unit is not getting enough voltage to work the audio systems.

A head unit receives 12V from the power wire. Check with a voltmeter to see if the power wire is sending the voltage. If not, you should have it replaced with a power wire of appropriate voltage and gauge.

Stereo turns off when driving over a bump or around a corner

Driving over a bump or corner may switch off your stereo. The wires at the back of the head unit may have come loose due to a loose connector.

You will need to take a look at the back to see which wires have come loose. After that, tighten the butt connector of these wires to make sure they stay connected for the rest of the ride.

Radio fails to turn on

When the radio is not working, it means the installation of this system was done incorrectly. Here is a list of steps you can take to fix the difficulty.

  • Replace the pigtail connector to see if the radio turns on.
  • Unplug and plug the head unit and adapter to check if the radio gets power.
  • Check for proper ground connection.

With this, you should have an idea of what to do to get your radio back to working mode.

Overheating

If your audio system is overheating, there may be too much load being put on your speakers. Then, the solutions are given here helping your car audio go back to performing up to spec.

COMPONENT
SYMPTOMS
CAUSES/ PROBLEMS
SOLUTIONS
AmplifierThe amplifier is overheating and shutting down.+ Low-quality amplifier
+ Limit ventilation
+ Speaker to amp connection issue
+ Lower bass level
+ Cooling fan installation
Read more
StereoThe stereo is overheatingIncorrect wiringEnsure the space between the cables.
Read more

The amplifier is overheating and shutting down

An amplifier with low impedance tends to overheat, which makes it vulnerable to shutting down quickly. There are several reasons involving the amplifier, grounding connection, and bass level.

Sometimes extremely high gain or bass levels can increase the load on your amplifiers. This can cause the amplifier to overheat, especially when its input sensitivity is high. Lower the bass settings to avoid such situations.

install cooling fan for amplifier
Cooling fan will be the best choice if your amplifier is overheating

If you don’t have a cooling fan for your car already, it’s time you get one for your car’s amplifier. This way, the amplifier can power the speakers without overheating. Speakers that are grounded on the car chassis are harder to power. So, to lower the load, try using the amplifier after disconnecting these speakers. 

The connection between the speaker and the amplifier has to be secured for transferring the current properly. For this reason, you should have the right-sized grounding and power wire to avoid any incidents of loose connections.

The wire itself can also be a part of the problem. It should have an amp power of 8 gauge and above. Anything smaller will not be enough for the amplifier to transfer power to the speakers.

The stereo is becoming too hot

The stereo is just as likely to experience overheating issues as the amplifier. With the stereo, the likely cause is incorrect wiring or cable gauge.

power wires
The incorrect wiring can make your stereo hot

You can move around the wires to see if they are connected to the right source or not. At times, cables get muddled up and come in contact with each other. Incompatible and shortened cables touching each other can cause overheating. So, make sure there is some space between the wires.

It is essential to be careful while checking wires in an overheated stereo. If the stereo is still hot to touch, you may find some burnt wiring component. In that case, you should call a mechanic and have it repaired professionally.

Sound problems

Audio distortion can happen for many reasons. It means your audio system may be lacking somewhere in the stereo and speakers. Now, let’s take a look at what the most common sound problems are and their solutions.

COMPONENT
SYMPTOMS
CAUSES/ PROBLEMS
SOLUTIONS
StereoStereo has sound but no bassImproper speaker to stereo connectionsConnect and reconnect the speaker and stereo wires
Read more
No sound from the stereo+ Shorted wires
+ Fault head units or speakers
+ Incorrect audio setup
+ Check the fuses and replace if needed.
+ Check the entire stereo setup.
Read more
SpeakersAmplifier goes on but no sound comes from the speakers.+ Loose wire
+ Blown fuse
Examine the fuses
Read more

Stereo has sound but no bass

Improper speaker-to-stereo connections result in this stereo mishap.

You can connect and reconnect the speaker and stereo wires. Make sure the positive and negative terminals of the wires and batteries are in place. Improper placement will result in speakers going out of polarity and thereby have no bass.

If this does not work out for you, you can upgrade your head unit or amplifier. The end goal with this is to have a system that feeds more watts to the stereo by whatever means possible.

Stereo has no sound

A stereo may be giving you trouble by producing no sound at all. Shorted wires, fault head units or speakers, and incorrect audio setup are a few reasons why this may happen.

The wiring set up between the speaker and stereo should be disconnected and connected again. Wires in the dash panel should also go through the same process to verify that they are working.

Sometimes the stereo does not have enough juice to produce the sound you are looking for. For this, you can easily replace the battery and see if the difficulty persists.

Another solution is to replace all the fuses. The inline or onboard fuse may have short-circuited due to possible overheating.

As a last measure, check the entire stereo setup. There are several settings in a stereo, and some default settings may not be ideal for sound quality. You should disable the fader setting for good measure and keep the rest of the frequency settings on. This will hopefully have your stereo working again in no time.

The amplifier goes on, but no sound comes from the speakers

If the amplifier switches on but without sound, the speaker wires may have come loose. This is easy enough to fix. Check the speaker wires to see if they are connected.

In case you see no loose wires, the speaker cord may be damaged. Mechanic shops can replace the cord. You can invest in a thicker cord to avoid this kind of damage again in the future.

A blown internal fuse can also silence the speaker. To rule this out, carefully examine the fuses before sending the amplifier off for repair. Replace them all to check if the sound can be heard now.

Unwanted noise

unwanted noise in your car

If your car is producing unwanted noises, there may be a specific defect in your car’s audio system. However, we’ve got most of the common troubles covered right here.

COMPONENT
SYMPTOMS
CAUSES/ PROBLEMS
SOLUTIONS
StereoA whining noise from your car stereoGround Loops+ Ground Loops Isolation
+ Install noise filter
Read more
Radio staticAntenna noise+ Check the ground connection
+ Check the antenna
Read more
AmplifierSounds distortions+ Overtaxed
+ Not enough power
+ Reduce the bass level
+ Equip the signal processors
+ Resort high-quality sound files
Read more
SpeakersSubwoofer Sounds Like It's Farting+ Overpowered
+ Underpowered
+ Incorrectly installed
+ Turn down the volume levels
+ Reglue the external unit
+ Re-coning the external unit
Read more
Hissing, popping, crackling, and buzzing noise+ Patch cables/ wires problems
+ Old age/ poor/
input quality
+ Bad radio connection
+ Reduce the gains or bass
+ Reroute the reciever's wires
Read more
Engine noise through speakers+ Inadequate grounding
+ Faulty RCA cables
+ Faulty speaker wires
+ Reduce the volume
+ Increase the gains
+ Replace the new RCA cables
Read more

Car stereo/ Alternator whining noise

If your car’s stereo is making a whining noise, it is possibly originating from the alternator. Plus, it may be related to a ground loop. This occurs when any two components get grounded but with varying potentials.

This issue produces an unnecessary current that results in a whine or hum-like sound. Simultaneously, the easiest way to fix this problem is to ground all the loops in the same location only. If that does not work, we have another repair.

noise filter
Using the noise filter is one of the best solutions for the whining noise issue.

You can install a filter right between the battery and the alternator. This filter will block the noise at the alternator and won’t transmit it further. Moreover, installing inline filters inside the head unit cable can also do the job for you.

Either way, these solutions are sustainable because the noise generated by your speakers won’t reach your head unit cable. This way, your speakers won’t whine anymore.

Radio static

five steps to solve the radio static
Follow the guide above and no longer stand for the radio static in your car

When you hear your car’s radio produce static, this usually stems from the tuner or the antenna. Here are some easy steps in which you may be able to tackle this trouble.

  • Always ensure that the sound is not external.
  • See if the ground connection is proper.
  • Remove the antenna to see if the noise persists.
  • Move the antenna to check if the static stops.
  • Carefully move other wires to see if the static continues or ceases.

These steps can help you locate the source of the noise and tackle the issue in no time at all.

Sound distortion from the amplifier

If you’re dealing with car audio distortion, your amplifier may be causing the trouble. However, there are some simple ways in which you can treat this problem.

  • Try reducing the bass when you play music at very high volumes.
  • Make use of high-pass filters that prevent the bass from distorting.
  • Equip your car with signal processors to block the distortion.
  • Alter your amplifier’s gains to three-quarter so that you can hear seamless music.

If you feel like the issue is not internal, you can resort to high-quality sound files for a better audio experience.

The subwoofer sounds like it’s farting

If your subwoofer is producing embarrassing fart-like sounds, it’s evident that your woofer cannot handle the power. Every sound system comes with its set of limits.

When volumes go beyond a certain point, the speakers fail to produce a clear sound. So, the first thing you should try is to turn down the volume levels. The subwoofer reacts abnormally when it can’t handle the high volume.

If the problem is with the hardware, the speaker’s outer frame is probably worn out. To avoid this, you can try to re-glue the external unit and repair the distorted hardware.

If this does not work, it’s probably a case of a damaged coil. You can proceed to re-coning the external unit.

Hissing, popping, crackling, and buzzing noise from the car speakers

When you turn up the bass or the gains in your speaker, it tends to create a buzzing sound. Plus, when something physically touches the cone, it causes similar buzz-like noises. If reducing the gains or bass does not deal with the trouble, your speaker may have reached its limit.

However, sometimes distorted voice coils can also lead to crackling or buzzing sounds. Always ensure that they’re not dysfunctional. Check for the ground wires for all the components in your car’s audio system. These wires should be short and firmly tethered to the car’s metal structure.

The obstacle might also lie in the car’s electrical system. It sometimes results from old spark plugs and malfunctioning ignition components. You can contact your mechanic to fix these issues on the electrical side.

Other noise sources, like air conditioning, lights, cell phones, and similar, can also cause such buzzing or crackling noises. You can try to reroute the receiver’s wires to move it away from these noise sources.

Lastly, ground loops may also be the reason for this issue. To solve this, you can use a filter to avoid this problem.
If it persists, sadly, you need new speakers.

Engine noise through speakers

When your engine or alternator produces unusual noises through the car’s speakers, there may be a system defect. Such defects occur in the ground loops, head unit cable, amplifier, or other cables.

Sometimes a flawed charging system may also cause engine sounds to reach you through the speakers. If you’re looking to reduce this noise, you can follow these steps:

  • Reduce the volume to zero on the system’s head unit cable.
  • Increase the gains on the system’s amplifier.
  • Remove the RCA cables from the amplifier.

In case this problem persists, you may need to replace your RCA cables with new ones. This step may fix your trouble with ease.

Find a car mechanic if…

The problems mentioned till now are the common ones that car owners face in their daily lives. However, in some cases, you will require a mechanic’s expertise for it.

CD/DVD keeps ejecting discs

The CD or DVD player will keep ejecting discs without any prompting. This is usually a mechanical fault, unfixable by an untrained individual. The issue lies in the interior of the DVD player. The mechanic will have to disassemble it to do further diagnostics. The player will have to go through a special cleaning system to get rid of the dust and other particles.

Display inoperable

Your radio may work, but the display might be showing nothing on the screen. The display panel comes with soldered connectors. If inoperable, the connectors may have been damaged. You cannot reconnect soldered connectors without the help of a mechanic. It requires remelting and repairing with new solder material that you may not have easy access to.  

Tape or cassette player

Your tape player may give you trouble by creating static sounds and clicking sounds as you play it. It can also get stuck in the player. All these are operating complications within the interior of the player itself. The only way to narrow down the difficulty will be to run further diagnostics by pulling it apart. The interior of the tape player is not something you can easily access. That is where a mechanic comes in.

FAQs

1. How do you know if your car radio is blown?

You can come to this diagnosis by keeping an ear out for fuzz sounding audio. Distortions, rattling, and popping sounds are commonly observed in a blown radio. The biggest sign of a blown car radio is one where the radio itself stops working completely.

2. Will a blown speaker make any sound?

If the speaker is blown, you most likely will not hear any sound from it when you play it. However, there may be a very low hissing or ringing sound audible from time to time. You should listen out for these at different volumes to see if the hissing is becoming worse.

3. Can a bad battery cause a radio not to work?

Yes, a bad battery can stop your radio from working properly. The radio requires battery power to function. A bad battery may create problems like inconsistent sounds, no bass, amp damage, or even display messages.

4. How do you reset your Infotainment screen?

A reset can be as simple as unplugging and plugging your phone from the USB port. In case that does not work, another way to reset the screen is to switch the system on and off again. A complete reboot might take place if none of these measures work.

5. How do I reset my car radio?

Every car has a four-digit code manual for a factory reset of your radio when needed. You can input this code, and the reset should take place. If the code is not accepted, you will have to call the dealership from where you bought the car.

Final thoughts

No car is complete without a good audio system. With so many technical aspects, there are chances of some mishaps from time to time. Guides such as this one can help you solve the audio complications yourself. If you do, you end up saving time and money that you would have otherwise spent at a repair centre.

Audio systems with damaged or blown-up parts cannot be fixed by you alone. Certain problems require the expert knowledge of a mechanic. Therefore, never hesitate to get in touch with a professional!

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