Having a killer sound system in your car that costs thousands of dollars can be amazing, but something that doesn’t cost anything like radio reception can play a dramatic role in the audio quality that you hear coming from your stereo.
This is especially true if your radio reception is poor and needs to be improved. Let’s look at how to fix this.
You can improve your car’s radio reception by checking the antenna and stereo and replace or rewire if broken. The weakest points are connection points and wires, which can be weathered or damaged. It also helps to check a stereo for interference and installing a signal booster.
In this article, I will look at the various ways you can boost the reception in your car utilizing simple tools. Also, I will look at how to improve other forms of reception with different types of radio such as:
- HD radio,
- DAB radio.
As an Amazon Associate, ImproveCarAudio will receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links in this article.
Tip: When your radio has poor reception, and you have new car audio installed, the reason can be from the location that receives a poor radio signal. If this is the case, the only option to strengthen the signal is installing a signal booster, for example, Bingfu AM/FM booster.
It is cheap, does the job really well, and is equipped with two additional anti-interference magnetic rings to prevent any noise coming from the engine or alternator.
How Can I Make My Car Antenna Signal Stronger?
Boosting the signal in your car is more simple than you think, and you do not have to spend thousands of dollars in doing so. I have listed nine ways you can achieve this, and the most expensive fix if you plan to do everything yourself might cost you approximately $30.
Extend Your Vehicle’s Antenna
The first fix is pretty straightforward, but you would be surprised at the number of people that overlook this.
In the past, older vehicles to pick up radio frequencies used to have incredibly long antennas that were not retractable. Nowadays, with the invention of better technology, cars have antennas that you can push in and pull out, or you can steer them with a remote.
Always make sure that your antenna is extended to its maximum length to pick up radio frequencies much better.
Also, don’t forget to retract it when you take it into the car was because car washes are famous for damaging and breaking the exterior parts of your vehicle.
Check to See if Your Antenna Is Faulty.
In some cases, your antenna may be damaged. Many factors can cause this to happen, and I already mentioned the main one, which is a carwash.
Besides breaking your antenna right off, a carwash could bend or get your antenna waterlogged, and because antennas are made from metal, they can rust and degrade with time.
Other factors such as the elements can have your antenna getting weathered over time, also causing it to become rusted or brittle. These aspects of a weathered, damaged, or broken antenna will cause it not to pick up radio frequencies as well as it should.
Therefore, if you find your antenna in this condition, it is best to replace it because there is no real other solution.
Check Your Antenna’s Connections and Wiring
For the most part, an antenna is just a long metal conductor that can pick up radio waves in the air with great accuracy.
Unfortunately, this means that if any part of the antenna is damaged (even the wire or connection points), it will not be able to work correctly.
You will have to get to the antenna connection point and wiring system, and to do this may require you to remove inside panels from your car. Remember that over time, wire, and especially audio wire that is pretty thin (typically 18 gauge), will weather away due to continuous movement (it gets rubbed against something else in the car) and being subjected to the elements such as cold and heat.
You will need to check that the entire length of audio wire that goes from your stereo to your antenna is still in good condition, and if not, this will need to be replaced.
This also goes for the connection point at your antenna and your stereo. Your stereo may be attached to a wiring harness, so you will need to check that connection point, and then you will need to check for any problem such as rust or a loose connection at the antenna point.
Check Your Wiring and Car System for Interference
If there is a problem with your antenna’s wiring, it may be susceptible to interference from your car.
I am not talking about lousy wiring per se (as in it being damaged or faulty), but rather where it has been put in relation to other wires in your car.
Remember that if an audio wire is not shielded, it can easily pick up interference from other electronic sources, which means you will hear noise and static.
Another factor to consider is if your stereo has been wired correctly and does not pick up interference from your vehicle.
A car’s alternator and engine are a typical issue causing interference in a car radio if the stereo is not wired correctly, but not only. Some instances of this happening when the stereo is not grounded correctly.
Check to See Your Stereo Is Not Faulty.
There are some cases where you will still get poor reception even if the wiring for your stereo system, including your antenna, seems fine, and there is no damage to the connections.
Also, you already have installed a signal booster (I will explain that next), and you are trying to listen to a radio station within range of your vehicle.
In this case, there may be something internally wrong with your stereo, and there is no easy solution other than to take it to a car audio specialist and have them look at it.
For the most part, they may be able to fix your stereo, but in some cases, it may need to be replaced.
Check if You Need an Antenna Booster.
If you have gone through the list above and found nothing wrong with your stereo, antenna, or wiring system, the next step is to purchase and install a signal booster. My favorite is the Bingfu AM/FM booster, which is easy to install and equipped with two additional anti-interference magnetic rings.
You need to understand that this device will do nothing for the radio waves that the radio stations are putting out, but rather it will boost the power of your antenna, making it stronger and covering a larger area.
The one caveat, though, is that it will also boost any noise and interference picked up by your stereo. That means if you are listening to a radio station that is sending out a poor signal or there is interference coming from your car, a radio signal will be amplified.
This is why it is imperative to go through all steps above before incorporating a signal booster.
Check the Radio Stations You Are Trying to Receive
I have already covered all the hardware aspects of how you can improve your radio reception.
The first non-hardware issue you need to check is that the radio signal from the station you are trying to receive is acceptable.
In some instances, you may be trying to receive a radio station’s frequencies that are so far away that it is weak when it reaches your antenna. Remember that the radio station’s transmitter is only so powerful and can broadcast a signal only a specific distance. The distance is still large and can span over a hundred miles, but there is a limit.
If this is the case, you will either need to choose a different radio station, stream it via the web or get a DAB radio.
Check the Surrounding Terrain Where You Drive.
You have to remember that radio waves are inhibited by solid obstacles and are affected more by the longer distance that weakens the signal strength.
This means that if you are driving in the mountains, and the radio station you are trying to receive is a relative distance away, the surrounding terrain may be obstructing the radio waves.
The same goes with Urban areas, although urban areas will have other radio transmitters that may be broadcasting the same signal making the signal stronger.
If this is the case, then the best thing you can do is get a signal booster to boost the power of your antenna.
Check to See if Your Stereo Is in Stereo or Mono Mode.
This is the last element that you can check to increase your radio’s reception, although some modern stereos won’t come with this option, so that is why it is last on the list.
In some instances, a radio station that is putting out a weak radio signal can affect your car’s radio if it is in stereo mode, meaning it will pick up more noise and interference.
In this case, if your radio has the option, you should switch it to mono. Doing this will increase the reception of your radio quite dramatically, however you will lose the stereo surrounding effect.
How to Improve the HD Radio Reception in a Car?
HD radio is another way in which technology is pushing the boundaries. Instead of listening to analog radio frequencies, many radio stations in the US, Canada, and Mexico incorporate HD radio, meaning that they broadcast a digital signal which is stronger, more precise, and less susceptible to interference.
The best thing you can do to improve your HD signal strength is to purchase a signal booster. I already mentioned a signal booster when we talked about antennas, but these aspects will also apply to HD radio.
The best possible solution for boosting a digital signal if everything is correctly functioning is to install a signal booster.
How to Boost Sirius Satellite Radio Signal?
Sirius is a form of satellite radio available in the USA with kits available to install and use in your vehicle. This kit will come with a receiver that includes an antenna module and a receiver module.
The antenna module is designed to pick up signals from ground repeaters or the satellite, amplifying the signal and filtering out any interference.
What you can consider doing with satellite radio if the reception is lacking is to check that your kit is working correctly and make sure that the antenna is pointed towards the sky.
Another factor to consider is that although there is significant coverage, many rural areas and underground parking lots will not get any reception, so make sure you are not in these locations.
Other than that, If there is anything wrong with your Sirius module, you will need to get it repaired or replaced.
How to Improve Dab Radio Reception in a Car?
If you are receiving poor reception from your DAB radio, then it is possibly due to the position of the antenna, your location, or interference.
You can try and disconnect the possible sources of interference, such as dashcams, USB chargers, and anything else electronic that could possibly interfere with your DAB radio.
Location is significant when it comes to DAB radio, so what you can try and do is move to a different place and see if the signal strength and reception are better. Also, switching between AM and FM signals may help with the reception in this case.
The last factor to consider is if you have your antenna placed in your car. The best spot for any antenna is on the roof or rear window. This will give it a clear line of sight, and you should always check the angle of the antenna, making sure that it is positioned vertically because DAB antennas work best this way.
How to Improve AM Radio Reception in My Car?
AM stands for Amplitude Modulation and has a lower sound quality when compared to FM signals. It can, however, be sent over long distances, especially at night.
If you find yourself wanting to increase your AM signal reception, then you will have to go through the nine simple fixes that we stated above.
Remember that even though AM frequencies are different from FM signals, they work on the same principle with a transmitter and receiver, and the same factors that affect your FM signal will apply to your AM signal.
That means you should check your stereo, antenna, connections, wiring, and perhaps look to invest in a booster if you find that your AM signal is poor. However, note that some AM signals will be poor, and there will be interference no matter what you do.
How to Improve FM Signal on Radio With a Single Wire Antenna?
You have to remember that an antenna is used to pick up radio waves, and even a simple piece of wire would technically increase the surface area of a point where radio waves can be picked up.
Think of the headphones that you plug into your phone. Phones used to (and some still do) come with a radio, but to use it, you need to plug in your headphones because it will utilize them as the antenna.
The same principle will apply to any piece of audio equipment, whether it is your home theatre system, your car’s stereo, or any other element of audio equipment.
Although a wire antenna will improve your radio’s reception, it would be more practical and beneficial to go through the above tips and purchase a signal booster or an aftermarket radio antenna.
Wire antennas will have to sit in your car and, therefore, won’t provide the most incredible reception.
Moreover, aftermarket antennas and boosters are inexpensive, and you can find one that fits the make and model of your vehicle quite easily.
Is It Worth Buying a Long-Range FM Radio Antenna?
Long-range FM antennas are a great option if you enjoy listening to the radio, want to listen to radio stations outside your area, and don’t have satellite radio or DAB radio in your vehicle.
Furthermore, they are relatively cheap, and the only thing you will need to worry about is installing one.
If you consider yourself a DIY person, then this won’t be a problem because the installation will entail the exact method of installing a typical antenna. The only difference is that this type of antenna will have built-in technology that supports it to pick up FM signals from far away.
An antenna is a critical part of your stereo if you plan on picking up AM or FM signals from radio stations, and without one, you probably won’t be able to get a signal, and if you do, it will be very weak.
There are many factors to consider that could be causing poor reception in your vehicle, with the leading hardware issues being that of a damaged or weathered antenna or its wiring and then that of your car stereo itself.
Now, you can deduce why you are receiving such poor reception from your vehicle or your antenna, and you should be able to boost your antenna’s reception along with any other form of radio you may have. That includes Sirius, DAB, and HD radio.