Common Car Audio Problems and Solutions Tips for Beginners

Everyone desires to listen to their favorite music or radio station during travels, especially when going out for a long road trip as well as long-distance drives.  However, it becomes frustrating if your car audio system starts malfunctioning when you have already started your trip. Some opt to purchase high-quality components for car stereo, which may be a good measure of avoiding common car stereo problems.


any car stereo is prone to experiencing these problems and they will occur sooner or later despite its quality. Numerous things can go wrong with the car audio, mostly due to the installation of multiple audio systems. In such situations, the malfunctioning of one of the components paralyzes the entire sound system. 

There three major causes of car audio problems.

One is inevitable old age. Mismatch of the audio components is the other major cause.  This leads to the production of poor quality sound which is irritating to hear. Incorrect installation is the third cause which happens to be the most common problem among most car stereos. If the above occurs, chances are that your car audio may experience problems related to the radio as well as other speaker-related problems. The discussion below is meant to identify the common car audio problems and their possible solutions upon their occurrence:

Car radio not working

Car radio not working

The major cause for car radio failure is a result of a problem in any of the power sources or current transfer paths. Poor wiring has proven to be one of the reasons which lead to car radio failure. This is because the radio is connected to the power supply and speakers via wires mostly found underneath the dashboard. Therefore, if there is a problem with the wired connection, the radio will fail to work.


car radios use fuses which are meant to prevent damages if excessive power upsurges occur. If the fuse happens to blow, the car circuit system breaks or rather is disabled and therefore the radio cannot turn on. Power or ground connector problem may also make the radio not to work.  The below symptoms may ease your job of identifying where the problem might be:

  • When the radio fails to turn on, chances are that either the wiring has a problem or the fuse is blown.
  • When the radio goes off at irregular intervals, chances are that there is a power or ground connection problem.
  • If the car radio display and sound turn on and off simultaneously, the head unit might not be receiving sufficient power supply.
  • If the radio automatically goes off when negotiating a corner or crossing a bump, a connector at the back of the unit happens to be loose.

when your car radio fails to work you will need to check if the fuse is blown with the aid of a millimeter. While performing the following task, you are needed to ensure that the system’s power is off. Having set your millimeter to ohms, touch the metal caps of the fuse with the millimeter’s testing lids and observes if or not reading will be recorded. A reading will imply that the fuse is not blown since a blown fuse should not show any reading due to power shortage.

It is also advisable 

to check for wiring problems and issues with ground connections. A lose ground connection will necessitate proper fixing to make it tight for the radio to function properly. If the ground connection is dirty or rusty, it ought to be cleaned up. Scrubbing the metallic surface with a dry, stainless steel scrubber will help eliminate the rust.

An amplifier is overheating and shutting down

An amplifier is overheating and shutting down

If your car amplifier keeps on overheating and shutting down, you need not assume that it is faulty and immediately replace it or send it for repair. The problem might be something simple within your control and therefore you can fix it on your own without incurring unnecessary charges.  The reason behind such amplifier misbehaviors might be low impedance, extremely high gain or bass level, poor grounding, blown speakers, or speakers connected to the car chassis.

Turning the gain and bass levels up may 

cause the amplifiers to overheat and eventually shut down. High input sensitivity also results in overheating and eventual shutdown. Besides, a connection of speakers with low impedance than the speaker rating can result in overheating and permanent damage to the amplifier. Ensuring that the gain and bass level are not turned to their maximum will help curb damages for high input sensitivity speakers. It is also advisable to use the correct sizes of grounding and power cables. The recommended wire gauge for amplifier power and grounding should be 8 gauge and above.

If you have checked everything and the overheating problem persists, it will be prudent if you invest in an external cooling fan. Alternatively, you can add several personal computer fans around the amplifier. They will help keep the amplifier cool and overcome the overheating difficulties.

An amplifier is cutting off and on in a repetitive manner

An amplifier is cutting off and on in a repetitive manner

This mostly occurs due to the lost power connection as well as amplifier grounding. In such situations, it will be wise to check the power connection and ensure that it is well connected. Just as before, ensure that the proper grounding is done on a clean and rust-free metallic surface.  The firmness of the grounding connection is also of utmost importance. This is to avoid the clipping sound produced by speakers when the amp is not properly grounded.

Car speakers not working 

Car speakers not working

Sometimes you happen to have turned your head unit on and the speakers do not respond by producing any sound.  This, therefore, calls for a proper diagnosis to find out the source of the problem. The first thing you ought to do is to check the speaker cable connections. You start by checking the speaker cable connected to the source, whether it is the amplifier, radio, and stereo, CD player, or any other devices that you opted to use.

In case 

all the speakers lack sound, the probability is that the cables connected to the amplifier or the head unit are broken or loosely connected. The likelihood of all the speakers failing at the same time is minimal; hence the issue may be from the music player, radio, or any other sound source in the application.

Using a wire 

to run the speakers directly from the sound source will be the best test method to confirm if it is faulty. The absence of sound after testing externally with an excellent speaker will imply that the head unit has a problem. If the external speakers produce sound after a direct connection with the head unit, then the car speakers are faulty and need to be replaced.

Speakers producing a popping, buzzing, or crackling noise

Speakers producing a popping, buzzing, or crackling noise

In most cases, if not all, buzzing noise from speakers is a result of bass or gain being turned to the maximum level? It is also caused by direct contact of the speaker cones with external objects which causes them to vibrate.  


one is required to ensure that the speaker cone is away from objects such as wires or any other foreign items which may be in contact with it. After isolating such items, test the speakers to assess whether the buzzing sound has stopped. If it persists, confirm if you have lowered the bass or gain level is low.

Stoppage upon lowering the bass and gain level implies that the speakers are not in a position to withstand much bass or gain. Distortion of voice coil or suspension also leads to the production of buzzing sound by car speakers. This, therefore, calls for proper checking to ensure that they are always in a good shape.

 If your speakers produce a crackling and popping sound, chances are that the amplifier is too powerful for your speakers to handle such power levels. It is advisable to try connecting the speakers directly to the head unit in absence of the amplifier. If the crackling persists, they are probably blown and therefore call for repair or replacement. If the crackling subsides, then you will need to upgrade to more powerful speakers.

There is the production of sound but no bass

Just like any other essential sound component, the bass is important. It makes the music feel deeper and therefore everyone wants their car to possess the best bass. But situations arise whereby you have just installed new speakers which still do not produce any bass.

In such encounters, 

the probable problem might be the head unit which seems to be too weak to power the speakers hard enough for bass production. A bad speaker cable connection might be the other contributing factor to poor bass. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the terminals are properly connected. If still no bass is produced, then it will call for the installation of a car amplifier able to feed the speakers with enough power bass.

Overheating stereo

Just like the amplifier, the stereo or the head unit also experiences overeating issues. The leading factor to such scenarios is incorrect wiring. It is therefore prudent to check the entire wiring for any problems. Usage of the right cable gauge is also of utmost significance. One should also check if some cables have come into contact and they are not supposed to be in contact. Overheating of the stereo may imply that there is a burnt component that needs to be replaced. You can either take it for repair or replacement.

Unwanted noises in the car audio system

Unwanted noises in the car audio system

The production of mysterious noises from the car audio system is a very unpleasant experience. It distorts deserved comfort while traveling.  Nearly every driver has experienced car stereo noise at one time. Alternator whine is one of the major sources of car stereo noise. It is caused by the poor selection of the head unit or speaker amplifiers. The poor condition of the charging system and connections between the audio system components and the battery are among the major contributor's occurrence of the alternator whine. The best indicator is the hearing of a noise that fluctuates with the RPMs of your vehicle's alternator such that the alternator whine rises and annoyingly falls with engine speed.

The other source of the unwanted sound is the accessory pop. This is noise associated with a particular electrical event such as headlights, windshield wipers, turn signal, and brakes which draw high current and cause a voltage spike that then is transmitted to the audio system.

To get rid of the alternator whine, one has to find the component that is producing noise and re-grounding it. The ideal grounding is that of a clean, bare chassis metal. One is also required to ensure that the charging system is in its best condition.

On the other hand, 

elimination of noise due to accessory pops is done by adding a small bi-polar capacitor between the power wire of the accessory producing noise and its ground. The capacitor must absorb the power surges thus preventing their transfer to the car's audio system.

Discover also How to upgrade Car Audio System .

The sound suddenly cuts off

The sound suddenly cuts off

In most situations, sound cuts usually occur when the amplifier is overheating or a speaker wire is loose. Amplifiers produce a lot of heat especially when loud music is being played for long durations of time. To manage heat generation, the amplifier needs to get enough airflow. To deal with this problem, one should ensure that there is sufficient airflow where the amplifier has been mounted. A thorough check of the speaker wires is also important to ensure that they are properly connected.

In conclusion, 

with this basic knowledge, you will not have to rush your problematic sound device to a repair center. Instead, you will try to diagnose as well as solve the problem without necessarily having to part away with a significant amount of cash at the repair center. However, it will be prudent to visit a repair center if the problem is beyond your control.

Joe Carrow

I'm Joe Carrow, a specialist in Automobile audio systems. I have more than 10+ years of working experience in these relevant areas. Always I research and love to learn new things. I publish my research knowledge regularly, So, if you are concerned about your vehicle's audio/sound system or musical instruments, I suggest you checking! Thank you.

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