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Why Does My Car Stereo Keep Turning On and Off?

It’s frustrating when your car stereo keeps turning off and on, and you can’t enjoy listening to music as you drive.

Several reasons cause the car radio to keep turning on and off:

  1. Locked stereo
  2. Damaged fuse
  3. Loose wire connections
  4. Tangled Wires
  5. Malfunctioned head unit
  6. Malfunctioned memory wire
  7. Incorrect grounding
  8. Using low impedance speakers
  9. Voltage issues
  10. Blown Speakers
  11. Problems with the amplifier
  12. Loose faceplates

As an Amazon Associate, ImproveCarAudio will receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links in this article.

Tip: When troubleshooting your radio, one of handy tools is a good voltmeter which you will need to check for any wiring issues, voltage drops, etc.

Voltmeter that I have been using for quite a long time and works excellent is the AstroAI 6000.

In addition to measuring all electric parameters you may ever need, it can also measure the surface temperature, which is helpful to find out if the stereo is overheating.

In this article, I will show you different reasons why car stereos turn on and off and how to fix them ASAP.

What Causes a Car Stereo to Keep Turning on and Off?

There are several reasons why car stereos behave that way, and each can have a different cause, so to find the root cause, you have to test all and know what’s causing the problem.

Try Rebooting It

It’s normal for radios to break down occasionally. The good news is you can solve the menace with a quick reboot, and here is how to do it:  

  • Turn on your stereo
  • Press and hold the start button (3-5 seconds) next to the CD input button.

The radio will reset, and if the cutoffs persist, do a hard reset. A hard reset is different from a quick reset. How? It’s meant to clear all the current settings. 

Here’s how to do a hard reset:

  • Switch off your car stereo
  • Open your car’s front hood
  • Unscrew the + terminal from your car’s battery

Let your car stay disconnected for 5-10 minutes to drain power from your stereo and reset its memory. After this time, connect the power wire back to the battery terminal. 

Bad Fuse

The fuse is an important component of a car. Here are some of its roles: 

  • Ensures your stereo gets the required voltage 
  • Prevents short-circuiting
  • Protects the stereo from damage, especially during power surges 

Electrical issues like bad fuses make car radios turn off and on. So, check if the fuse is fully functional. If it’s whack or old, you’ll have to repair or replace it.

How to solve it:

If the fuse is damaged, do not repair it. You should replace the blown fuse with the new one. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Check your car manual to locate the fuse panel
  • Look for the radio fuse. You can go through your car’s manual or locate the fuse block drawing.
  • Use a fuse puller to remove the fuse. Alternatively, remove it with a pair of tweezers.
  • Inspect its condition
  • If the fuse has blown out, replace it with another one with a similar amperage rating
  • Check if your radio is working well.

If you don’t have the tech skills, take your car to the mechanic to replace it for you.

To avoid blowing out your fuses, try not to overload your system. Some people use several accessories simultaneously, making the fuse heat up and melt. 

Loose Wire Connections

The frequent cutoff might be arising from a loose connection on the wiring for the speakers, antennae, or steering wheel, to mention a few. 

So, check the wiring diagram to confirm that all wires are connected in the right places.

Apart from wiring, check if you’ve installed your car stereo well. If you bought a used car or changed the car radio, it might be loose.

How to solve it:

You can fix or replace the wires all by yourself, and use your car’s connection diagram to check where each wire should go.

If your car doesn’t have a harness, manually spot the stereo wires and attach them to the right spots.

Tangled Wires

The wire harness has several wires that can inter-twin when you’re driving on bumpy roads, so you can expect short-circuiting to happen when different cables come in contact with each other, especially if they are placed close to each other. And that triggers cutoffs in your car radio.

Also, tangled wires can create unwanted noise coming out of speakers.

How to fix it:

  • First, inspect your wiring. You want to check for tangled wires and separate them.
  • Also, check if there are any open wires and fix them with tapes.
  • Lastly, replace the old wires with the new wiring harness.

Malfunctioned Head Unit

So, you’ve tried everything from fixing the wires to replacing your fuse, but your stereo isn’t working well?

Maybe there’s an internal technical problem. If the wiring is okay, chances are the head unit has malfunctioned, and you need to switch it. 

How to solve it:

You can change your malfunctioned head unit alone. But before that, I recommend you bench test it to see if there’s an internal problem with the wiring or radio.

Here’s what you need: 

  • Your car battery
  • Removed radio
  • Power harness pigtail
  • Alligator clamps

If you need to bench test your radio, below are a few steps on how to do it:

  • Connect the B+ wire to the + end of your battery
  • Connect the ACC wires to the + end of your battery
  • Connect the ground wire to the – end of your battery
  • Turn on your radio.

Ensure all three wires touch the battery terminals, or your radio won’t turn on. If your head unit isn’t working, replace it with a new one.  

Malfunctioned Memory Wire

The wire is called the memory wire because it saves your current radiofrequency. In other words, you can switch off your radio today, and you’ll still be on your previous frequency after turning it on.

It’s a 12V yellow wire with power running through it 24/7 whether you use the radio or not.

If your radio experiences cutoffs as soon as you start the engine, that’s a sign that the memory wire has malfunctioned.

How to solve it:

First, check the wire’s voltage reading. A functional memory wire will give you a 12V reading when turning off your car engine. If you don’t get that, take your car to a legit mechanic to repair or replace the memory wire.

Improper Grounding

All cars have a black grounding wire for:

  • Protecting your electrical devices against overload
  • Stabilizing the voltage levels
  • Safeguarding you against shocks

Most audio problems arise from poor grounding. It causes the amp to break frequently. How? The car stereo will pull the needed power to operate, and if the grounding is poor, the amp will start clipping.

How to solve it:

The only solution here is to do proper grounding but to do it right, you have to remove your stereo and check the connections on the backside. 

Here’s how to ground the amplifier: 

  • Scan for a grounding point. It’s usually around 18” of your amplifier.
  • Fix the ground wire with screws. It should attach to the metal chassis. Drill a grounding point and remember to avoid the gas tanks, brake lines, or another wiring.
  • Ensure the ground wire sits tight. You can use a lock washer or star to tighten it. Also, consider applying some coating like silicone caulk to prevent rust.

Overall, ensure all wires are clean and fit well. Then, repair the loose ones, and you can do it by either soldering or crimping them.

Using Speakers With Low Impedance

All speakers come with an impedance ratingrated in ohms. It defines the amount of current flowing through a speaker/amplifier at a given rate.

Always pay attention to the impedance when choosing speakers for your stereo. Buy ones that match your stereo, and in the vast majority, it will be 4 ohms unless you use low impedance speakers connected to the separate amplifier.

Using a speaker with an impedance lower than the required amount will consume more power, causing your stereo to turn on and off because it will constantly overheat.

Also, if you connect your amplifier to a speaker with the wrong impedance, your amp might overheat when you increase the volume. Chances are it will get damaged or shut itself down to avoid causing further damages.

How to fix it:

First, check that your speaker’s impedance matches your amp. Most brands list the impedance for their amplifiers.

If you’re using low impedance speakers with 4ohm car radio, replace them ASAP. You can connect the amp to any speaker with the right impedance, and it will work perfectly. 

Voltage Issues

Your battery should generate enough power to stabilize the volumes. However, voltage issues on the battery side trigger the car radio to cut in and out.

You can expect to experience a voltage drop if your car has several wirings. Here are other signs of voltage drops:

  • Frequent noise in your radio
  • Hard starts
  • Sound breaks

Do not confuse voltage drops with other electronic elements because you may end up replacing several fully functional parts in your car.

How to fix it:

This problem is common, especially after you increase your radio’s volume. That signifies that your battery is unable to support your stereo.

I recommend you use a multimeter to confirm the voltage reading of your battery. If it’s low, upgrade your batteries or add another to meet your stereo’s voltage needs.

Additionally, check and fix any loose wires to stabilize the voltage

Issues With Blown Speakers

Most car owners focus on checking the wires, amp, and ground wire and ignore the speakers. The truth is damaged speakers can trigger the issue over and over again.

Here’s what happens: 

Maybe your speakers are breaking down, resulting in an open circuitor there’s a short circuit causing a closed circuit.

Apart from the frequent cutoffs, here are other signs of blown-out speakers:

  • Distorted sound when you reduce the volume
  • Lack of bass and treble – use an equalizer to test if your speaker has the two sounds.
  • Loss of vibration – it’s a sign you need to replace your speakers. Place your hands on the front part of your speakers to feel the vibration.
  • Age can be another factor – maybe their time is up.

How to fix it: 

First, check if your speakers are correctly installed.

Next, look at their conditions. If they’re blown out, you can repair them, but I always recommend replacing the speakers rather than repairing them unless you have installed unique or costly speakers. 

Amplifier Issues

You can expect cutoffs if your amp breaks down multiple times. But before you start troubleshooting it, confirm that:

  • It’s properly grounded.
  • The voltage isn’t dropping when you’re increasing the volume.
  • The amp isn’t in the protection mode. Normally, they switch to protection mode due to internal defects, overheating, etc.
  • The amp is receiving enough airflow to keep it cool.

If everything is okay, proceed to troubleshoot it, and here is how to fix this issue:

  • Check that all the wires are plugged in. Wiggle them to confirm there are no loose ones.
  • Ensure the amp is receiving enough power.
  • Test that your amp produces the right sound quality – poor sound quality results from loose wires or improperly setting up the amp.
  • Test the amp’s fuse – if it’s damaged, replace it with an exact match.

If the voltage in the car keeps dropping, you might need to consult a mechanic. 

Loose Faceplate

Almost all car stereos come with a faceplate. It’s a detachable front panel for protecting the radio from thieves.

So, did you remove the faceplate recently? If so, maybe you didn’t fit it well—it’s not sealing the panel like it’s supposed to.

A loose faceplate affects the electrical connection, causing cutoffs. For example, if the buttons on the screen keep on fading, then the faceplate is loose.  

How to fix it:

It’s simple. Just remove the faceplate and fit it back tightly.

  • Switch off the stereo.
  • Remove your faceplate.
  • Wipe the connectors on its back.
  • Add some blob of blu tack on all four corners.
  • Fix your faceplate.

You can push the plate down further to secure it well. By doing so, you’ll avoid electrical disruptions.

Related Questions

Can a Battery Cause a Radio Problem?

Yes, it can. If your car radio is powerful, it will drain your car battery. That affects how the radio and other electrical devices perform. So you better buy the correct car battery or buy more to power your stereo throughout.

Why Does the Car Stereo Turn Off at High Volume?

If it does so, it means there’s a problem with the installation. For example, maybe you’ve not connected the ground wire well, or you’re overloading your amplifier.

You can solve it by installing the ground wire properly or talking to a pro to do it for you. Also, try reducing the number of speakers connected to your amp.

Conclusion

You can expect your car stereo to experience cutoffs at some point. But the good thing is you now know what causes the cutoffs.

Start testing to find the real cause of the problem. For instance, if the wires are okay, check if the head unit, voltage, or speakers need to be fixed. Then, you’ll fix the problem for good to start enjoying music as you drive.