Car Radio Problems

A site visitor asked me how to handle his car radio problems. So I decided to write a quick article about how we handled radio problems at the dealerships I worked for. The short answer is we would do some basic checks and then send the unit out for repair if the problem was internal. The Company we used was Called H&R Factory radio repair. They do deal directly with the general public.

Picture factory car radio problems

First of all the kind of car radios we are talking about would be factory installed units not aftermarket ones. In the case of the site visitor that asked the original question his specific radio problem was poor reception and a ticking sound from the CD player.

When your factory car audio system has problems there are a few things that you can check. The first thing would be to make sure that the fuses are good. Your owner’s manual in most cases will identify which fuses power the radio. Some car manufacturers will use more than one fuse to power the audio unit.

Also note on some factory car radios that there will be an additional fuse in the back of the unit itself. On some models you may have to pull the radio out to gain access to this separate fuse. Another thing that you can check would be the antenna.


You can check to make sure that the antenna is properly plugged in to the back of the factory car radio unit. It is not unheard of to see this connection loosened or back out due to vibration or the vehicle slamming potholes.

The other thing that you can check is to verify that the antenna height is correct. Some vehicles are equipped with manual antenna masts that can be pushed down when the vehicle goes through car-washes. You want to make sure that the antenna is fully extended.

You can also test the car antenna with an ohm meter. The antenna mast should be isolated from the antenna base. If you connect one end of an automotive meter to the top of the mast and the other end to the mounting base there should be no continuity and the ohm meter should read open or out of limits when the resistance scale is selected.

Car radio reception problems

Picture Cadillac SRX

On my own vehicle which is a 2009 Cadillac SRX the factory audio unit is capable of receiving satellite radio. This is an attractive option that can eliminate many car radio problems when it comes to pulling in stations.

Satellite radio can provide high quality reception that is not interrupted by distance from the transmitting station. In my case it is a factory installed option but you can get satellite radios as an add-on option. Satellite radios pick up sound waves transmitted from satellites in orbit around the Earth.

Since the radio waves are transmitted by more than one satellite at all times and each in their own orbit one radio station can be heard from coast to coast. Note that although distance does not hamper the reception the radio waves cannot penetrate some buildings or even long tunnels. If you are going through the Lincoln Tunnel you are going to lose your satellite radio station.

If you’re interested in learning more about car audio systems in general I have a dedicated section on my other website that discusses both factory and aftermarket stereos and car alarms. If you would like to see the latest articles posted on this website this next link takes you to the online auto repair blog from this page about car radio problems.


7 comments

  1. hello,i own a 2004 toyota avensis and i am suffering with inconsistent radio reception.During last winter the reception deteriorated when i put on the rear de-mister but was ok when in the spring and summer when the de-mister wasn’t in use.However,now here in the height of summer,the problem appears to be worse than ever..I presume i need a new rear windscreen with the antenna attached but if you can help with any checks/advice that would be appreciated..thank you.

  2. I got factory radio problems on a 2007 Mercury Milan w/GPS nav system. The GPS DVD drive has become very noisey (high speed ticking sound) occasional screen message that DVD needs cleaning, it does not. Dealer says entire unit (sat radio, nav system, etc) must be replaced. Question is, can (and who) the GPS DVD drive alone be replaced? BTW, the car w/120k miles is easily the best car I’ve ever owned.

  3. John J: I don’t see why the factory unit couldn’t be disassembled and repaired like any other factory installed radio. But maybe the GPS changes this? I would call HR radio and get there opinion! Website is available from the first link in this story or contact them at Telephone: 215-672-3707 or 1-800-523-6605 Address: 153 York Road Warminster, PA 18974

  4. I have a 2007 Suzuki sx4, over a period of approx. 4months ( up to June 2014) the AM reception has failed. when first turning radio on it will work on AM but after 5 > 10mins ceases to work. FM has no problem at all. any comments would be appreciated

    1. Same with my Suzuki SX4 AWD hatchback with the OEM Clarion PS 3143K-A model AM/FM radio CD player onboard. There is a powered antenna circuit in the base of the rear roof mounted stub aerial and both the aerial and 12v connection to it were sound (it’s quite a task to remove the roof liner) and even unplugging the aerial connector by the passenger side foot well (while checking all possible connectors) the FM would still work fine. Plugging a cheap telescopic aerial into the radio would still get no stations on AM while FM still fine so it’s likely the AM tuner inside the radio has died like others have experienced with these Suzuki Clarion radios fitted to a number of Suzukis.

  5. Have a 2006 Subaru Outback with a rear window auto antenna. Radio does not function cd works fine. Replaced radio, same problem. Replaced antenna amplifier, no change. Question: my next step is to check the window antenna for functionality. How can I check that to determine that the problem is not there?

  6. My dad’s radio isn’t working in his 2006 CTS Caddie.
    All instruments are lit up and visible just no sound.
    Any ideas on what may be wrong and how I can repair it.
    Thanks JG

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