Why Does My Car Radio Not Work When It’s Cold


While driving a car during winter, you probably noticed that the car radio does not work well when it is freezing outside.

But why does car radio not work in cold weather when the temperature is below minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit or below minus 28 degrees Celcius? Let’s find out.

In general, car radios do not work in cold weather due to contracting internal soldering joints on the circuit boards. Also, cold temperatures make loose connections affecting car radios’ overall functioning.

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Tip: When you are struggling to turn on the engine in cold weather due to a weak battery, you may use the jump starter and then replace the battery right away. 

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In the article below, I will dig deeper into the problems with car radios not working well during cold weather and how you should warm the radio before starting.

How to Warm up the Car Radio in Cold Weather?

If your car is standing in cold weather, you must take precautions before turning on the car radio.

In cold weather, the materials contact and eventually crack sometimes. So before turning the radio on, you should properly warm up the car.

Modern fuel-injected gas engines do not require longer times to warm up, and even in the cold weather, it does not take a long time for a car to warm up.

Here are the simple steps you should consider before turning on the car radio:

  • Make sure to park the car in sunlight during winters. The sunlight will help maintain a warm temperature inside the vehicle. 
  • After starting the car, rotate the heat control knob to the hottest setting, turn the air control knob to head and feat setting (for even distributing hot air inside the cabin), and the fan control knob should be fully open. 
  • Turn on the AC and set it to the hot air. Air condition will help warm up the air inside the car and remove any congested moisture from the air. After a few minutes, all the car stereo parts, like speakers, amplifiers, will be at the optimal temperature. 
  • Now you have warmed up the car radio, and it’s time to turn it on. 

If the car radio screen is still showing weird things or the car radio is not functioning well, you should take a car to the professional to check the radio. 

How Does Cold Affect Diodes in Car Audio?

Unlike every electronic device, car radios are made of tiny components like diodes (rectifiers), resistances, power amplifiers, tuners, integrated circuits, etc. Therefore, the health of car radio depends on the proper functioning of these electronic components. 

What is a diode, and how the temperature affect it? 

A diode is a semiconductor device that acts as a one-way switch in an electronic circuit. It allows the flow of current in one direction and restricts the current flow in the opposite direction. 

The power output of a diode is directly proportional to the temperature. It means that in cold weather, the diode acts as an open switch in the circuit. 

Lowering of temperature increases the resistance of all semiconductor components used in radios. Thus when you try to start your radio in cold weather, the amount of current is not high enough to balance out the resistance caused by cold temperature. 

This is why your car radio starts working correctly when the car is warmed up for 10-15 minutes. 

How Cold Affects Reception in Car Audio?

The reception of car radio varies with the atmosphere and types of radio frequencies.

Typically for colder weather and especially in the rain, the air humidity increases. Since water is an excellent electric conductor, it absorbs radio waves, causing a decrease in the reception of car radio signals.

On the other hand, snow has a more negligible effect on car radio reception than rain because snow is less dense than water.  

In addition, in freezing temperatures, radio transistors lose their ability to amplify the signals what also affects proper radio functioning.

How Cold Weather Affects Solder Joints in Car Audio?

Soldering is the process of joining two things by solder to make electrical connections. Unfortunately, due to cold temperature, the soldering joint on the PCB board of the car radio may shrink.

Shrunk soldering joints interrupt the electrical signals, so sometimes, the touch display or buttons of the car radio are not working correctly.  

When the car is warmed up, and the temperature in the cabin has increased, the soldering joints expand, the electrical circuit is restored.

This problem is complicated to troubleshoot. If you notice this issue with the radio functioning in various temperatures before the car is warmed up, you may need to check the radio for improper soldering joints on the circuit board. 

Can Cold Weather Cause Shorts in Car Audio?

When the humidity in the air is high in cold weather, tiny particles of water get into the car stereo.

Because water is a good conductor of electricity, it can cause short circuits in various electronic components when the radio is turned on. Also, water and even moisture lead to corrosion or oxidation in metal parts. 

How Cold Weather Affect Car Batteries?

Cold weather causes more breakdowns in car batteries, and at the temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the battery loses its strength of about 35%. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, car batteries lose around 60% of their strength, and with these reduced capacities, car batteries are unable to start the car’s engine. 

In effect, when the car engine is not turned on, the car radio gets its power from the car’s battery.

As you can imagine, car radios stop working when the car’s battery is dead. This is due to the activation of the “anti-theft” feature, which activates when the battery is removed.

Conclusion 

Car radios are sensitive devices that need proper care and maintenance, especially in cold weather, so don’t immediately turn on the car radio.

Be patient and let the car properly warm up. The electronic components in them operate well under a specified range of temperatures.

The manufacturers of car radios test their devices under harsh conditions. The optimal temperature range is specified in the manuals, but freezing temperatures can easily cross that barrier.

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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