Factory car audio problems are not as common as they used to be, mainly because the systems are much more reliable.
However, there may be an occasion when you have poor sound quality or even problems pulling in the local stations.
Some basic things to check are to follow in the article below. Included near the bottom of this page is a special section on common power antenna problems.
Keep in mind that car audio systems come in a wide variety of models and the complexity of the system varies greatly from not only the company that makes the sound system, but also the auto manufacturer that installs them in the vehicles.
Also keep in mind that sound quality depends on the basic system, but also the quality of the speakers and their placement in the automobile.
Deteriorated speakers are one of the most common problems when it comes to the quality of the sound itself. Problems with front speakers are more common and noticible to the driver.
Some factory mounted speakers are located on the top side of the dash or top side of the rear panel near the back glass. These speakers are exposed to high temperatures and direct sun. Over time it can destroy the paper cones.
Factory Installed Stereo Problems
Sometimes a driver of an older vehicle might complain that they are getting poor reception on FM stations.
This could be a sign of an antenna problem or an internal problem in the head unit. The antenna is the easiest thing to check first.
It’s designed to receive the radio sound waves for both a.m. and FM stations. The design of the antenna must satisfy two basic requirements for good reception.
First, the antenna should be as high as possible for FM stations and it should be at least 30 inches high overall.
More than once I had a driver complain about poor radio reception and found their antenna was pushed down when the vehicle went through car wash. Simply re-extending the antenna solved the issue.
Many late model vehicles don’t even have this type of antenna. Some are equipped with shorter antennas designed to enhance reception and therefore have no need for the 30 inch height requirement.
On some of the latest Cadillac models the car audio antenna is integrated with a satellite antenna that is mounted on the rear roof of the vehicle that is also used for On star communication.
On other vehicles the antenna can be molded into the windshield or even the back glass of the automobile. Overall these antennas are not as good at picking up radio signals.
When these types of antennas are used sometimes amplifiers are added to increase, enhance and sharpen the signal. This means if you are having poor audio reception that any of these components could be the problem.
Power Antenna Problems
Some vehicles are equipped with electrically operated antennas that extend when the radio is turned on and lower when the unit is turned off.
A lot of these automatic and electrical antennas are powered by a small reversible electric motor that is very similar to a power window motor. These motors are turned off by limit switches that open when the mast has extended or lowered to its full seated or raised positions.
As the power antenna ages they can become corroded and this is one of the most common causes of power antenna problems. When the antenna begins to bind it puts stress on the motor and can cause internal problems.
It is for this reason that it is recommended to occasionally clean the antenna mast. When you clean the power antenna mast I like to use WD-40 or a similar type product.
And you don’t want to overdo it. I like to spray the lubricant on a rag and then clean and lightly lubricate the power antenna mast. After this is completed I will turn the radio on and off to run the power antenna up and down.
When you have car audio problems in some cases they can be resolved on your own. In other cases internal malfunctions with the stereo system itself may need to be addressed by professional.
But in either situation basic diagnosis can be performed by the vehicle’s owner. On this next page I have some information about a car audio book I purchased a couple years ago. It can help with the diagnosis of car audio problems.
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