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Common Car Audio Problems

fault finding car audio

There is nothing more irritating whilst driving your car than car audio problems. You may be travelling on some country roads or stuck in traffic and all of a sudden the music will stop. I personally find one speaker broken on the other side of the car the most infuriating.

Car audio problems are usually caused by two issues. The first being old age where the electronic component has simply aged after prolonged use. The second cause is where aftermarket parts have been installed correctly or are faulty.

The car audio problems are split into two categories that are radio and speaker related. This troubleshooting guide will be updated on a regular basis to become the ultimate car audio fault finding guide.

Table of Contents

Why Is My Car Radio Not Working?

If your car radio is not working then the speakers will of course not work too. Your car radio may be a double din head unit or a single din head unit but they share the majority of the same problems.

The operation of a cars radio begins from the alternator whilst running or the battery when the car is switched off. With the wiring (mostly underneath the dashboard) connecting the radio to the speakers and power source in order to produce sound.

All radios require fuse(s) to prevent dangerous high power surges and premium cars that require more power for their high wattage speakers will have an amplifier. Power must be going to all aspects of the audio circuit for correct running of the cars audio system.

Car Radio Broken – Problems and Solutions

  1. Fuse has blown.
    The most common cause for radios not turning on and can be confirmed by using a voltmeter on the radios power and ground connection. OEM radios fuses are usually located in the main fuse panel box. If its an aftermarket radio, its usually located as an inline fuse protecting circuit. Therefore, check behind the radio (likely) or behind the dashboard (unlikely). Fuses are relatively cheap and should be changed first rather than other expensive “potential” fixes.

  2. Radio intermittently turning off.
    One of those irritating issues that is difficult to problem solve as it will work sometimes and not the other. If the display is turning off as well as the sound, then this would mean the head unit is not getting enough power. If it turns off when going round a corner or on a bump, this would mean that a connector is loose at the back of the unit. This would not be a fuse issue as there would be no power all the time. If the wiring is all connected correctly, check the ground connector that attaches to your vehicle. If this is loose or there is rust around the connection, look into a new ground connection on your car.

  3. Faulty Head Unit.
    Not the most common radio issue due to technological advances. However, you may be unlucky enough to have a new faulty head unit or the current radio is simply aged.

Why Are My Car Speakers Not Working?

So you have just installed your new and expensive radio but there is no audio from the speakers. The first thing you should do before checking wires is to test different audio inputs. Anything from the radio, CD player, AUX and more. If there is no sound coming through the speakers on all inputs, you may have a problem.

The most likely cause of no audio from the speakers is disconnected/broken wires or the connection to the amp. A wire from the head unit to the speaker is fairly common with new audio builds. Its very unlikely that every speaker will break at the same time, so do not go replacing each and every speaker in your car.

The best way to test the speaker wires is to run a temporary speaker wire from the head unit directly to the speaker itself. There is no point ripping the wiring harness until you are sure the speaker wire is at fault. You will need to remove interior parts such as the door card to gain access to the speakers.

The use of a multimeter can also prove useful when testing for problems such as polarity. This can be achieved by switching to DC Voltage, which the best automotive multimeters should feature.

Another way to test your car speakers is by unplugging the wiring harness from either the head unit or the amplifier. You are then able to use the positive and negative wires of the speaker against the positive and negative of a car battery. If the speaker wire is in working order, you should hear a pop/bang from the speaker.

Car Speakers Broken – Problems and Solutions

  1. Radio has power but no sound.
    This is usually due to two main causes both involving wiring. Cars that have an amplifier must have a 12v signal connector (blue/white) for it to work, which is often forgotten with audio installations. The more common reason is speaker wires becoming damaged or have bad connection to either the speaker or wiring circuit.

  2. Head Unit Settings.
    As silly as it sounds, the settings such as the default volume level, fade and pan, balance and more may be set incorrectly. They could have even been set this way as a joke by your friends, so check the settings out before looking at the speaker wires.

  3. Speaker Crackling or Popping.
    Usually due to age, the speaker can break down and start to crackle. Of course, a bad connection or poor input quality (AUX/CD) can cause a crackling sound. To see if the speaker itself is at fault, simply swap the channel of the speaker. If the crackling noise is still coming from the speaker, you know that this speaker is broken.

High end audio installation will more than likely have top rated car amplifiers in order to get the best sound. This being said, the amplifier is one of the first things you should check if you are having troubles. Powerful car subwoofers are often connected up to an amplifier and if it also isn’t working, the amplifier is more than likely the culprit.

Car Audio Installation Costs

Installing a single din or double din head unit is a relatively simple job if you have the correct tools such as radio removal keys. The best radio removal keys usually come as a set with a few dozen combinations. Without the radio removal key sets, you will have a hard time removing your radio.

The cost of installing a radio should be no more than $100 max. It is as simple as removing the radio using the keys, pulling the din connector and other wires from the old unit and putting them into the new unit. I strongly recommend that you try installing your radio yourself.

Always try to avoid having a free or very cheap audio install. The self proclaimed audio installers will rush the job and as its not their car, they will be as rough as they like. The previous owner of my E Class clearly didn’t care about the walnut wood when removing the radio.

damage when not using radio removal keys

Installing car speakers is slightly harder as you will need to not only remove and install the new speaker but carefully handle the interior.

The best car speakers will last much longer and be less troublesome, therefore we always recommend doing your research.

The interior of the majority of cars is very difficult to remove and requires tools to remove panels such as the door cards off. Expect to pay anywhere between $40 to $80 dollars per speaker depending on your car.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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