So, your car radio has power but no sound?
In most situations, you’ll find a fuse has blown. There could also be a glitch in the system or a deeper electrical fault.
This guide runs the various potential causes of your problem.
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How Does A Car Stereo Work?
Without going into too much detail, here’s how your car’s stereo works. It’s crucial to understand this so you can grasp the problem.
If you’re already familiar with the system, skip to the next section.
The bit you refer to as the stereo, radio, or infotainment system is technically known as the head unit. From here, you control the sound output levels. It contains the hardware and software needed to read input sources, such as radio signals, CDs, AUX cables, Bluetooth connections, etc.
Wires take the electrical signals from the head unit to the speakers. Along the way, they pass through an amplifier to increase the output. At the speakers, electrical energy is converted into kinetic. The speaker cone vibrates, creating sound.
When all the speakers work in harmony to produce a “surround-sound” (stereophonic) effect, it’s known as a stereo.
In short, that’s all there is to it.
You should know that a car stereo draws a surprising amount of current. At full volume, it’s usually pulling more from your battery than any other electronic component.
This means the circuits (wires, connections, and fuses) must be able to handle these loads.
Why Does My Radio Have Power But No Sound?
If the head unit works but there’s no sound from the speakers, the problem lies in the connection between the two.
This could include (in order of likelihood):
- Blown fuses
- Faulty amplifier or pre-amp
- Software glitch
- Faulty wiring
- All speakers are broken
Blown Fuses: No Sound From Car Speakers
A blown fuse is by far the most likely reason for this problem.
You’ll find the location of the fuses responsible for your sound system in the owner’s manual. Look for “Fuses” in the glossary. You should see a labeled diagram of your fuse box.
(The owner’s manual will also tell you where the fuse box is if you don’t know.)
Check the fuse box and analyze the respective fuses with a test lamp.
If you find any that aren’t transferring current, you’ll need to replace the fuse. Use a high-quality OEM part from a reputable location. You can’t simply look for one that’s the same color and force it in. In fact, that’s dangerous and likely to cause a fire.
The most likely fuse to have blown in this situation is the one for the amplifier or pre-amp.
You might have sound now, but the problem isn’t fixed. Remember, something caused that fuse to blow.
In many cases, the root cause will be an aftermarket stereo drawing too much current for the circuit to handle. The fuse has blown as a safety precaution.
There’s no easy fix here apart from replacing your stereo with the stock original or a lower-rated aftermarket one.
The alternative is paying for a thorough and professional rewiring job. This is likely to be expensive.
Amplifier Or Pre-Amp: Car Speakers Make No Noise
Rather than the fuse blowing, the amplifier might have broken or developed a fault.
In this situation, you’re more likely to hear strange, distorted sounds. Think along the lines of crackles and tearing noises.
However, it’s possible that a breaking amplifier could result in no noise at all. You might find a small amount of volume if you turn the system up to its maximum.
The amplifier or pre-amp is often built into the head unit for stock units. A technician might opt to repair or replace the amp or perhaps the entire head unit.
Either way, expect the total cost to be between $300 and $500.
Modern infotainment systems are more complicated and, therefore, more expensive.
Software Glitch: Car Speakers Silent
The software for modern head units is essential. This is especially true for the infotainment systems found in cars over the last five or ten years.
Software glitches will plague almost every circuit board from time to time. Manufacturers can’t account for every possible input, process, and output. This will inevitably lead to glitches.
As a consumer, the only thing you can hope to do is reset the system.
Restart it by turning it off and on again. If the standard standby button doesn’t work, you’ll need to try a forced reset. You’ll find information on doing this safely in the owner’s manual.
If the old “off-and-on-again” trick doesn’t work, you’ll need specialist assistance.
Faulty Wiring: Silence From Car Speakers
Wiring connects the head unit to the speakers and the amp.
If any of the wirings are loose, frayed, or faulty, the current can’t travel to the speakers.
Faulty wiring is almost impossible to diagnose at home. You’ll need an automotive electrician.
They’ll comb your car with a multimeter to find where the faults lie. It will most likely be near the head unit since it affects all your speakers.
Although the issue might seem small, expect to pay quite a lot. It might take a while for the technicians to find the problem. It could then be a tricky wire to repair.
All in all, it could come to between $150 and $500.
In an extremely unlikely but technically possible circumstance, all your speakers could have broken simultaneously.
This is only really possible if your fuses don’t protect the circuits and the current overloads the speaker cones.
They could also have been sabotaged.
An auto electrician will test the speakers to check for continuity. If any have broken, they’ll need to be replaced.
Stock speakers cost around $150 each, depending on the specific speaker.
Aftermarket Stereo Has No Sound But Turns On
An aftermarket stereo is often the cause of all your speaker problems. If you don’t get one suitably rated for your car’s existing electronics, it’ll blow your fuses and damage your circuits.
The best course of action is prevention rather than repair.
If you’re intent on getting an aftermarket stereo, have an electrical professional install it. You can then be sure that it’s appropriate and won’t damage your car or blow any fuses.
It might also come with a warranty.
You might have already installed an aftermarket stereo and found there’s no sound. In this case, you should run through the causes listed in this article.
Don’t work on the electrical system yourself. Head to a qualified and experienced automotive electrician.
If your car radio turns on, but no sound comes out, it’s not ideal. It might be challenging to fix and could cost you a few hundred dollars in diagnosis and repair fees.
Stock head units and devices should be covered by the existing vehicle warranty if it’s still valid. If not, your insurance might cover the cost of repairs.
The costs will be yours to bear regarding aftermarket radio problems. While aftermarket stereos might be appealing, don’t underestimate how expensive they are in the long run.