Why Does My Car Radio Keep Changing Stations?


Many problems can occur with a car radio during a day to day use. For example, it can be a power issue if the radio is turning off frequently.

If a creepy sound is coming out from the sound system, you can say that it’s a problem with the speaker or radio signal, but what happens to a car stereo when constantly changing stations? Let’s find out.

Generally, the car radio keeps changing stations because the buttons of the car stereo or steering are malfunctioning. Other reasons for this problem can be connection issues, faulty motherboard, or external noise interference.

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Tip: If your radio and antenna work fine, there may be a problem with the FM signal strength within your area.

If this is the case, you may need to install a signal booster or antenna amplifier to strengthen the signal further.

If your radio can support it, the better option is to install a satellite radio like SiriusXM.

In this article, I will clarify the most common causes of changing stations in car radios and show you a few solutions to quickly fix this issue. 

Why Does My Car Stereo Keep Switching Stations?

Faulty Stereo Buttons

Faulty buttons are one of the main reasons why your car radio is changing stations.

When you try to change stations on an old stereo, you have to press the button too hard. Sometimes, the button gets stuck, and your stereo is receiving commands to change stations continuously.

Another reason for faulty stereo buttons is that someone may spill a drink or water on your car radio. The car radio will turn on after drying, but there is a possibility that moisture still exists in between the buttons, and the button gets stuck.

Solutions for Faulty Stereo Buttons

If you are using an old stereo, you can install a new strip of buttons or replace the old stereo buttons with new ones.

In the new stereo, there is no need to replace the buttons. Instead, I recommend using an electrical contact and parts cleaner spray and entirely cleaning the connecting points.

Just directly spray the solution onto stereo buttons and then wait for one minute. After this, clean the buttons with a cotton cloth and test the controls.

For sticky radio buttons, you can also clean and dry them. Remove the buttons from the stereo or the face panel, clean them properly and keep sunlight allowing them to dry. You can also use the hairdryer, but do not put too much air pressure on them.

Luckily, the sticky buttons are not a problem in the touch screen radios.

Sticky Steering Buttons

Many cars also have stereo control buttons on the steering wheel that allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road while driving.

But sometimes, when you pass through bumpy or small roads where you have to move the steering wheel more often, these buttons can get accidentally pressed.

This led to damaging the remote located under the steering head, or some buttons may get pressed permanently.

Solution for Problem in Steering Buttons

If you think that your steering buttons are changing stations, then there are three things you can do:

  • Clean the stereo buttons with electrical contact cleaner spray.
  • Cut the connection of stereo control buttons from the steering.
  • Replace the old steering buttons with new ones.

Electromagnetic Interference

The car radio is connected to other accessories like amplifiers, speakers, car batteries, etc. It draws its power from the car battery and receives RF signals from the antenna.

Noise from power wires can create interference with the radio signal, due to which the car radio station keeps on changing.

A solution to Electromagnetic Interference

Electromagnetic interference is the wiring issue, so you have to check the wiring of the car stereo.

To do this:

  • Turn off the stereo and remove the negative lead of the car battery to avoid any short circuit.
  • After this, take out the stereo from the dashboard and see if there is any damaged wire. If you have not found any damaged wire, then look for any loose wire or connectors.
  • Tight them properly or replace them if needed. 

If the wires and connectors are OK, check whether the antenna wire is lying close to the power wires and if yes, then probably the power wire is interfering with the antenna signal.

If you see the wires are close to each other, you have to separate them, and that should reduce the interference or replace the antenna wire with the new one.

Faulty Motherboard

The old stereos have delicate motherboards and can malfunction by a sudden spike in the power supply.

So, if your car radio is aged and you cannot find any of the above faults, it probably means that the motherboard in your stereo has been damaged.

Older stereos motherboards are difficult to repair, so you can either search for the same model and replace its motherboard or install new car radio. 

Why Won’t My Car Radio Pick Up Any Stations?

It sometimes happens that you are searching for stations on your radio, and it cannot pick up any AM/FM signal, or an old cracking sound keeps coming out of the radio.

There are many reasons why your car radio is not picking up any station. In most cases, it is the wiring issue of the wire coming from or going to the car antenna, or it has bad grounding.

However, it is also possible that any internal components of the car radio have been damaged.

There is a setting of LX/DX in the car radio. The LX setting filters out weaker signals and only tunes to stronger signals, while DX helps your radio in locking weaker signals. Try switching between these modes and then search for your stations.

Here are the possible causes why your car radio is not picking up any signals.

Head Unit Issues

Try switching between the stations and see if your radio is working for other stations.

If the radio works fine for some stations and not for others, you may need to install a signal booster or antenna amplifier to strengthen the signal.

It is also possible that some internal circuitry issue in your head unit is causing this problem. In this case, I recommend replacing the head unit because repairing the car radio may not be cost-effective.

Amplifier Noise

Did you notice the issue with the radio picking up random stations or not picking any? If yes, there may be an issue with the amplifier itself or with its internal components.

Amplifiers contain transistors that boost the signals, and they also send electromagnetic interference back into the antenna.

To solve this problem, disconnect the amplifier and then see if the radio picks up the signal. If the radio tunes with any station, then the problem is due to the amplifier. 

To solve this, try to lower down the gain on the amplifier and connect it again.

Check Antenna Connections with Head Unit

The working of your car radio depends on the antenna’s ability to capture signals and pass them to the radio through the wire.

To check if there is a problem with the car antenna, you have to remove the car stereo from the dashboard and check the antenna connections at the back.

A loose antenna plug can also lead to the car radio not picking up any stations.

After this, unscrew the conductor and see if the wiring is correctly soldered inside. A poor soldering or twisted wire can also cause the radio not to pick up any station.

If the connection looks fine, check whether the antenna’s plug is in contact with the conductor or outer metal part.

Fixing a car radio that is not receiving any RF signal is quite tricky, and it’s hard to pinpoint the problem. In many cases, especially in older cars, the best solution is to replace the entire antenna with the new one.

Check the Grounding of Car Antenna

Grounding of car antenna is important otherwise, the excess voltage will produce interference into the stereo, and in effect, the radio cannot pick up any signal.

The antenna’s grounding should be bolted to the car chassis or any existing good ground points within the car.

You should look for signs of damage or corrosion on the grounding wire or the connection point with the car to see if it requires either cleaning, tightening, or replacement.

In many cases, you will see an improvement in the radio signal quality just by unbolting the antenna’s ground wire, cleaning it entirely, and bolting it back to the same place.

How Do You Change Car Radio Presets?

Changing car radio presets may vary from model to model, but the basic steps remain the same.

Go to the radio setting screen, start the tuner or manually search for a station. Then press and hold the preset keys to save that radio station.

Many new car radios have more than 30 presets, and below, you will see how to change presets in your car radio:

  • Power up your car radio by starting your car or by turning the car into accessory mode.
  • Go to the radio, and you will notice six buttons numbered individually on the radio screen.
  • Press the Tune+ or Tune- to tune the radio to the desired station. You can also search for stations manually.
  • As you have reached the desired station, press and hold any preset numbered button for a couple of seconds until you hear a beep or radio screen flashes. This shows us that the channel has been saved.
  • Repeat the steps for each radio station that you want to save.

How Do You Remove Car Radio Presets?

Your car radio has a limited number of presets, but the good news is you can delete old ones and free up space for the new station.

  • Turn on the radio and press the “Home,” which will take you to the home screen.
  • Go to the “Settings” and then go to “Radio.”
  • Search for “Manage Favorites” and select it.
  • This will open the presets screen, select the preset you want to delete and then press “Delete.” In some cases, you may see an “Options” button on the screen. Click on that and then press “Delete.”

How Do I Turn off Seek Radio?

Disabling seek function in the car radios can be quite tricky in some models. Although there are two ways to turn off seek radio, I recommend checking your radio’s manual in any doubts.

Method 1

This method applies to most modern stereos with infotainment screens:

  • Go to the home screen of your car radio and then go to “settings.”
  • In the settings menu, find “Autoset,” or in some models, you have to open radio settings, then you can see this option.
  • Turn off this feature, and it will automatically disable the seek function in your car radio.

Method 2

This method applies mainly to older factory car stereos:

  • Press the Power/Vol button for two seconds, and it will open a hidden menu in which you can change Radio Data System. In this menu, you will see two functions, one for disabling PI seek and the other for changing the time format from 12 to 24 hours.
  • The screen will display “1 AF ON” which means that the seek feature of the car radio is on.
  • Now press preset button 1, and your screen will display “1 AF OFF,” which indicates that the seek feature is turned off.

What Is the Difference Between Seek and Tune?

A seek button helps you in reaching the next available station on your car radio.

For example, when you listen to a radio station of 98.5 FM and the next high-quality reception station available is 100.3 FM, then by pressing seek+, the radio tunes to 100.8 FM, automatically skipping all stations in between.

In tune mode on the other hand, the radio behaves as an increment tuner, and each press/touch sets the car radio to the next station.

If the previous radio station you were listening to is 98.5 FM, then by pressing tune+, the radio will pick the next available, for example, 98.7 FM, etc.

What Does TP Mean on Car Radio?

A Traffic Program (or TP) is a technology used to broadcast information to drivers regarding traffic jams or bad road conditions. This data is transmitted in numerical code using radio frequency signals.

When you see TP on your radio screen, then it means that a particular channel can send information about traffic by interrupting your broadcast. 

If this mode is on, your car radio will only broadcast channels that convey traffic information.

If TP is grey, the channel does not convey traffic information on the radio data system (RDS).

This feature is helpful because it gives you information about the traffic in your route, and you can plan your commute accordingly, but unfortunately, only RDS-enabled receivers have this feature.

In modern head units, the traffic reports are recorded and stored periodically, like one before the morning commute and the other in the evening during the return journey.

How to Turn Off TP on Car Radio?

It is very annoying when you listen to your favorite songs or news and keep getting interrupted by traffic announcements.

A TP/TA button on your car radio allows you to cancel the current announcement, but the next time you listen to the stereo, the traffic announcement message will broadcast again.

Here are the steps to turn off TP on your car radio and stop receiving the announcements:

  • Turn on the car radio by starting the car or by putting it into accessory mode.
  • Now go to the “settings,” then “radio,” and after this, search for “Traffic Announcements” and disable this function.

This will disable the TP feature, and now you can listen to your favorite songs, news, or podcast without any interruption.

Conclusion

The car radio is an essential part of the car. With all radios, there are various ways you can tune in to your desired station, but it becomes pretty frustrating when it keeps on changing stations or not being able to tune your favorite ones.

In the above guide, I have explained the possible causes and solutions to this problem and if you still have a question, contact me, and I will try to answer as soon as I can.

Martin

Welcome to ImproveCarAudio! I am Martin, and I love to write about everything related to car sound systems. I strive to provide the most accurate and helpful information about car audio through extensive research, as well as my experience with car audio installations.

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