7 Common Problems, Symptoms and Solutions of Car Stereo

Purchasing high-quality components for a car stereo is a good way to avoid common car stereo problems. However, any car stereo will sooner or later experience problems.

There are about three major causes of car audio problems. Of course, one is old age, and the problems thereof are inevitable. The second cause is components that do not match perfectly to enable the production of high-quality sound. The other cause, which happens to be quite common, is incorrect installation.

Many car audio problems can result when any of the above causes happens, many car audio problems can result. Some problems are related to the radio, while others are speaker-related. We discuss the seven most common car stereo problems and how to identify them. Don’t worry, we also suggest solutions for each problem!

1. Car Stereo Not Working

Car stereos fail to work properly when there is a problem with any power source or in parts where current passes through.

Wiring is one of the issues that might cause your stereo to fail. The radio is connected to the power source and speakers through wires found underneath the dashboard. If there’s a problem in the wiring, the stereo will not work.

Secondly, car stereos use fuses to prevent damage due to power upsurges. If the fuse is blown, the car’s audio circuit is broken, and the stereo cannot turn on. Another cause of car radio could be power or ground connector problems.

Symptoms to look for

  • Stereo fails to turn on – wiring problem or blown fuse
  • Stereo turns off at irregular intervals – there’s either a power or ground connection problem
  • Car stereo display and sound go on and off together – the head unit might not be getting enough power
  • Stereo goes off when negotiating a corner or passing a bump – a connector at the back of the unit is loose

What to Do When Your Car Stereo is Not Working

Check whether the fuse is blown using a multimeter. First, make sure that the system’s power is off. Then, after setting your multimeter to ohms, touch the metal caps of the fuse with the multimeter’s testing leads. Is a reading recorded? If the multimeter shows a reading, the fuse is not blown. If there is no reading, the fuse is blown.

Be sure to check for wiring problems and issues with ground connections. If the ground connection is loose or rusted, it has to be fixed for the stereo to work properly.

man driving in luxury car happy after solving common car stereo problems

2. Newly Installed Head Unit Has No Power

If you find out that power cuts out in your recently installed aftermarket head unit, the head unit is likely not receiving 12V.

Another cause for this head unit problem could be that your amplifier has switched to protection mode. There are two explanations for this. One, the power produced by the alternator is too much for the amplifier, and it has to protect itself from damage. Two, the battery cannot provide the audio system with constant voltage.

The most common symptom of this problem is that the head unit cuts out and returns after a while.


Use a voltmeter to check if the power wire sends 12V to the head unit. If the wire is doing so, the problem is with the head unit. But it could be changed if you find out that the power wire is not sending 12V. Some fuses could also be blown and have to be replaced.

3. No Bass from Car Speakers

This car stereo problem usually occurs when factory speakers are upgraded, or aftermarket speakers are installed or repaired. What can cause speakers to lack bass?

For bass to be produced, speakers need to push air simultaneously. The “no bass” problem occurs when one speaker pushes while the other pulls air. This mostly happens when the speakers are out of polarity.

Another reason for the “no bass” scenario is that aftermarket speakers are heavier and harder than factory speakers. These speakers improve the quality of your car stereo but eat up the bass of your factory speakers.


You don’t hear any bass at any volume level.

How to solve the ‘no bass’ car stereo problem

Check whether the speaker wires are appropriately connected to the stereo amp and head unit. The speaker’s positive (+) terminal should be connected to the positive terminal of any other component, including the battery. The same case applies to the negative (-) terminal.

Another potential solution is installing an external amplifier. Some people opt for a head unit upgrade to solve the no bass problem. The bottom line is that your car stereo needs something that puts in more watts.

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4. Unwanted Noises in the Car Audio System

Hearing mysterious noises from the car audio system is a very frustrating experience. Nearly every driver has encountered car stereo noise at one time. There are numerous sources of unwanted noises, but here are some of the most common ones:

Alternator whine: This is the most common car stereo noise. It often happens when the ground for the head unit or speaker’s amplifier is poorly chosen. The poor condition of the charging system and connections between the audio system components and the battery can also result in alternator whine.

Symptom of alternator whine: You hear a noise that fluctuates with the RPMs of your vehicle’s alternator. Alternator whine rises and falls with engine speed in a pretty annoying way.

Accessory pop: This noise is normally associated with a particular electrical event. Usually, accessories like headlights, windshield wipers, turn signal,s and brakes draw high current and cause a voltage spike that travels to the audio system.

Symptom: A sharp pop sound is heard when you switch on or press high-current car accessories like the ones listed above.

Symptom: A sharp pop sound is heard when you switch on or press high-current car accessories like the ones listed above.

Speaker popping and crackling: It’s often caused by breaking down due to old age, poor input quality, or bad radio connection.

Symptom: Speaker crackles when the engine turns on and the car is in motion.

Getting rid of unwanted noises from car stereo

For alternator whine, find the component producing noise and re-ground it.

A clean, bare chassis metal is the ideal grounding. Also, ensure that the charging system is in its best condition. All connections (battery posts, alternator connections, head unit, amplifiers, signal processors, and ground strap) should be secure.

To eliminate noise due to accessory pops, add a small bi-polar capacitor between the power wire of the accessory producing noise and its ground. The capacitor will absorb the power surges, thus preventing their transfer to the car’s audio system.

If the speaker is popping and crackling, swap the channel and check whether the noise will seize. Otherwise, crackling that happens all the time, no matter what channel the radio is on, means that the speaker is broken and has to be repaired or replaced.

5. Sound Suddenly Cuts Off

Sound cuts normally occur when the amplifier is overheating, or a speaker wire has become loose. Amplifiers normally generate heat, especially when music is played at high volumes for long periods. To manage this heat, the amplifier needs to get enough airflow.

This problem is signified by the sound from car speaker(s) suddenly cutting off and coming back after a short while.

To solve this problem, ensure enough airflow where the amplifier is mounted. The airflow keeps the amp cool and prevents sudden sound cut-offs. Also, check speaker wires to ensure that they are properly connected.

6. Car Stereo Becomes Too Hot

Faulty wiring is a major cause of car stereos getting unusually hot. Speakers could be incorrectly wired, or wires that are supposed to run separately have been combined.

There is no problem with the system getting warm since various electrical devices heat up while in use. However, the generation of too much heat could indicate a malfunction. It is important to note that an abnormal heat buildup can be dangerous. The heat can damage various car stereo parts and even cause a fire.

Symptom to check

The car stereo becomes too hot to touch when on.


You probably need to check the entire installation and wiring of the car audio system. If there are no installation or wiring faults and the stereo still runs hot, the ultimate solution might be servicing the entire system.

7. Car Stereo Problems Due to Poor Grounding

The majority of non-equipment-related audio problems result from poorly chosen ground points. Apart from alternator whine, poor grounding can cause the amplifier to clip.

Poor grounding can cause the amp to cut in and out. When the car stereo is turned up, the amps pull more current. The amps cannot pull the needed current if the system has an unreliable ground. This normally sends the amp into clipping.

Symptoms of poor grounding: Alternator whine and the audio system produces crappy sounds.

Proper grounding on car stereo

As you check other connections’ integrity, remember that grounding is of utmost importance. If you install a large car audio system, it will require a bigger ground. Also important to remember is that grounds should be on the car’s chassis. Many people make the mistake of using the negative battery post as a ground for the car audio system. This is a terrible place as the entire ripple from various items, including the alternator, travels through this point. Using it as a ground invites all the noise from these items into the sound system.

When you know how to identify and solve common car stereo problems, you can always take care of your car stereo and enjoy great music on the road.