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Why My Car Radio Is Not Working?

Driving can be a bit monotonous, especially if you are on the road constantly and for a long time.

One way to beat boredom on the streets is to listen to music, and everybody pretty much does this, but why sometimes car radio may not work? Let’s find out.

Your car radio may not be working because of a blown fuse, faulty wiring, faulty connection points, no power, damaged antenna, or even a faulty tuner.

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

Tip: If your car stereo is installed in the car, there are no signs of life, and you have no clue where to begin, the best bet is to get your multimeter and check that the current is passing through all the connection points.

The multimeter I have been using for a long time is the AstroAI, and it works really well.

In addition to testing all electric parameters, you can also check the surface temperature that is handy if you face issues with overheating stereo.

In the article below, I will explain what all the causes are to why your radio can and may stop working, and then we will help you troubleshoot to determine what the problem is and how to fix it.

Additionally, I will go over how to test your radio whether it is installed in the car or not.

What Is Wrong With My Car Stereo?

You might find yourself overwhelmed if your car stereo is not working correctly. Additionally, the term “not working” can refer to various problems when it comes to your radio.

There are situations where your radio may not turn on at all, may turn on at random times, may switch off at certain times, and many other problems.

The most common problem with a car stereo is that it won’t turn on, and within this problem, there can be a variety of issues that can be causing it.

Blown Fuses

The most common issue with a car stereo not turning on is usually related to a blown fuse.

Fuse is simple enough to replace, and you will not need to send your car to a service center or mechanic, which will cost you quite a lot of money, whereas a fuse is a couple of cents.

Blown fuses occur when there is a short in the circuit that is powering the stereo. As such, the fuse pops in order to safeguard against damaging your delicate electronic equipment (your car stereo).

Faulty Wiring

Other reasons why your car stereo is not working could be related to the wiring of the radio.

In some cases, when the car gets older, the wire and circuits start to degrade with time, and hence wires can break, snap, and get damaged in 

some way.

Issues with broken or damaged wiring can cause a multitude of issues such as your radio not turning on, and it only turns on sometimes, it turning off sometimes, having sound coming only from specific speakers and not others, and so on.

The problem with faulty wiring sometimes can be a bit more tricky to solve and will require patience, some DIY skills, and knowledge of the wiring in your vehicle.

Incorrect wiring

One thing to note is that if you have installed the car stereo yourself, you would have noticed the sheer amount of wires there are to connect. There are wires for speakers, power, switches, remote, ground, accessories, and so on.

These wires are more straightforward to understand because they have a universal color combination that most vehicle and accessory manufacturers adhere to. There are even harnesses that come with your car stereo that make connecting them easier.

However, in some cases where you are new to wiring up a car stereo, you may not have connected the wires in the right place just because of the sheer amount that could cause some confusion.

No Power

In some instances where your radio does not turn on, it could be receiving no power or not enough power.

This can, in some cases, relate to faulty wiring, but in other cases, it could also be associated with the battery of the car.

Faulty Connection Points

As with faulty wiring, a defective connection point can cause a boatload of issues that we went over.

Faulty connection points don’t specifically relate to faulty wiring. This is because the wire for the stereo could be in perfect condition; however, the end where it makes contact to continue the circuit, whether it be at the harness or even at the ground point, could not be connected fastly.

Also, if you find that your car radio is turning on and off constantly and at random times, you most probably are looking at a faulty connection point.

How Do You Fix a Car Radio That Won’t Turn On?

As we have now gone over, many issues can cause your car stereo not to turn on.

If your car radio is not turning on, you will need to troubleshoot where the problem may be occurring and what the cause is.

There are a few steps that you need to take in order to do this, and you will need a bit of DIY knowledge about car stereos, how they work and how they are connected.

If you intend to troubleshoot your car radio and fix it yourself, you will also need a couple of simple tools to proceed.

Tools and Accessories You Will Need:

Below, I detail the troubleshooting methods you can take to determine what is wrong with your car stereo and fix it.

Note that some troubleshooting methods will require more work and effort than others.

How Do You Troubleshoot a Car Radio?

When trying to troubleshoot your car radio, there are a couple of things that you can check to determine where the fault lies.

Additionally, you will be able to go through some of these troubleshooting methods when the radio is installed in the car and when it is not.

Testing for Voltage and Ground With a Multimeter

If your car stereo is installed in the car, there are no signs of life, and you have no clue where to begin, the best bet is to get your multimeter and check that the current is passing through all the connection points.

This will be the first point to address because you can clearly understand what is going on regarding power being sent to your stereo.

Don’t worry if you do not know how to use a multimeter. I will explain that now.

  • You will first need to ground your negative test lead (usually the black clip) to ground. This means clipping or clamping it to a metal section of your car (the chassis).

Next, you will set your meter to the 12v direct current setting. Looking at the back of the stereo, you will see a ton of wires. We will only need to check the ones that are sending and receiving current to the stereo.

Note that it will read 12V regardless of whether the car is on or off and in what position the key is in. So the multimeter should read 12v at this point.

If it is not, then the fault most probably lies with a blown fuse inside the factory fuse box.

You will need to check your car’s fuse box distribution panel with the manual or search online to see which fuse correlates to the stereo and 12V memory wire.

If the fuse is blown, then you will only need to replace that fuse, and the stereo should work.

  • If you find that there is voltage running through the yellow wire, then the next wire to check is the switch wire (typically the red wire). This wire should also read 12V but only when the car key is in the accessory or on position.

If there is no voltage when you test this wire, there is probably a blown fuse in the factory fuse box. Once again, check for the appropriate fuse and replace it if it is blown.

Now If there is voltage along this wire, you will also need to check that there is a ground presence located at the wire.

Take your multimeter, set it to the continuity check setting, and probe the red wire with the black lead.

  • If there is continuity along the circuit, your multimeter should beep when the black lead contacts the red wire.
  • If your multimeter does not beep, then check your connection and circuit wires for ground and fix accordingly.

Check Connection Points

Once you have used the multimeter and have found that there is 12V of power running to the stereo and no fuses are blown, you will need to check all the connection points. There are two ways to go about this troubleshooting method.

  • The first is to systematically go through the connection points of every wire. You will check that they are fastened correctly and tightly where they make a connection. This may take a bit of time, but once this is done, you can rest assured the problem does not lay with any faulty connection points.

The next method will depend on the problem that your stereo is having, and you will need a little bit of knowledge on how wiring a car stereo system works. However, it will save you a bit of time.

Depending on the problem, you will only check the appropriate connection points.

  • For example, if your right rear speaker is not working, but everything else is, then you will only check that wire’s connection point. I.e., you will check the purple wire of the car stereo harness.

The same principle would apply to various problems. Depending on the issue, you would check the correlating wire.

  • For example, if your remote turn on or the antenna for your stereo is not working, then you would check the blue wire.

Check for Faulty Wiring

Checking for faulty wiring may be in some cases beyond the expertise of some individuals because it may require you to strip interior panels of your car and follow the path of the entire circuit for your stereo.

If you understand what needs to be done here, then there are two options.

  • You can either take your car into a service center or audio shop to get repaired because the amount of time and effort is not worth it to try and find a faulty wire.
  • Otherwise, you will have to find the wire that you think is faulty (hopefully, there is only one), follow its path, strip any interior panel and lining from your car to get to it, and then replace it.

How Can I Test My Car Radio Without Installing It?

To test your car stereo when it is not installed is actually easier than you think. However, you will need a couple of accessories and tools to do this.

Tools and Accessories You Will Need:

What you will do with the power adapter is cut off the end and strip the two wires so you can see the inner wiring.

  • Then turn your multimeter to the 12v or 20v setting, and then proceed to use the positive and negative leads connecting them to the exposed wires to determine which is positive and negative.

The correct reading on the multimeter will read between 12 and 15V, depending on the adapter when you have correctly placed the leads on the right wires.

  • Next, you will take your car stereo’s yellow and red wire (the 12Vmemory wire and the accessory wire), strip them if need be, and connect them to each other.
  • Following that, you will take the adapter’s exposed wire and connect it to the accessory and memory capable (which are now joined together) and the ground wire (the black wire).

The accessory and memory wire will be positive, and the ground will be negative. So make sure you connect up the adapter’s wires to these accordingly.

  • The last thing to do is to plug the adapter in, turn on the power and then turn on the power to your stereo. If all goes well, it should turn on without a problem.

Take important notice that the negative and positive wires should not touch at any point when the adapter is plugged in and turned on because then it will cause a short.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why your car stereo stops working or works incorrectly. These problems range from minor (a blown fuse) to significant issues (faulty wiring).

Troubleshooting is the only way to determine what is wrong with your radio correctly, but if you do have some knowledge regarding car audio, then you may have insight beforehand to what the problem could be before you start troubleshooting.

Once you have troubleshot what the problem is, and depending on how severe it is, you will know whether you can fix it or whether you need to take it in for repairs.

Take into consideration that troubleshooting and fixing your car stereo is somewhat easier than you think, and it could save you a lot of money.