Car Radio Only Works with Ignition On – Here’s The Quick Fix

Car Radio Only Works with Ignition On

Cars are mysterious machines (or, vehicles. I mean, seriously! Sometimes they act like they have a mind of their own, with their own emotions, temper, and mood swings. Oftentimes, they show up problems that you can’t find any possible explanations behind. Let alone solve them.

One such problem is, the car radio working only when the ignition is turned on.

You don’t know why it happens, and you don’t want to take it to a mechanic and get charged a huge amount for such a minor issue either. So, you just sit in the reverse seat and stare into the void, waiting, almost praying for the radio to work properly one time.

Well, the reason behind this problem is pretty simple. It’s either the battery which is faulty, or there’s some problem with the wiring. Both issues need to be treated differently. Here are a few quick and effective fixes to this problem, along with ways to prevent it from happening in the future as well.


What Is ACC In A Car? What Does It Do?

ACC In A Car

ACC is the short form for ‘accessories’, and it’s basically a word for all your car’s electric-powered components such as the radio, automated windows, powered seats, cigarette lighter, headlights, backlights, and even the ventilator for air.

You need to fully understand the positioning of your ACC to know why your car’s radio is acting weird.

ACC makes your accessories power up and start functioning by allowing the current from your car’s electrical system to pass through them.

This thing makes sure you can access the basic functions of your car such as rolling the windows up and down, switching the lights on and off, and of course… turning the radio on and off. Yes, even when the ignition is off.


So, What Causes the ACC To Stop Working?

What Causes Car ACC To Stop Working

The ACC acts as the primary connection between your car’s electrical system and all the components in the car that run on electricity. Thus, it’s hugely, if not entirely dependent on wires. We all know what wires are.

But what does a fuse actually do?

Well, to put it simply, the job of a fuse is to blow up and block the electrical current in a connection when the current exceeds the amount of power that the electrical system is capable of handling.

This is to prevent short circuits from happening and to protect the electrically powered bits in your car from possible damage.

Any problem in the ACC is quite surely has something to do with the wiring or the fuse.

If your ACC doesn’t work, here are some possible reasons behind it:

  • Incorrect wire placement.
  • Damaged Wires.
  • Blown Fuses.
  • Delayed Turn Off.

Why is My Car Radio Display Not Working?


What’s with The Ignition, Then?

Car ignition

Like all electrical devices, the radio of your car requires electric power to run. Naturally, it draws that electrical power from your car’s battery. If the battery itself isn’t capable of providing it with sufficient power.

Or, the program that instructs your car’s wiring to deliver the power from the electrical system to the radio gets messed up, you’ll start facing problems.

Also, if there’s a fault in the ignition switch then the radio can refuse to work when you’re in charge of the ACC. Or it could be due to a glitch in the turn-off feature.


How Do I Fix These Problems?

Here are some ways you can address these problems. However, it’s always recommended to consult a qualified technician if the problem still prevails.

Check the Head Unit for Delayed Turn Off Feature

Many cars come with this feature that turns the head unit off once you’ve turned off the ignition, but there’s a slight delay. To find out if that is the case, all you have to do is turn the ignition off, and then exit the car and lock it. This would power off all the electronics in the car and save the battery.


Change the Battery of Your Car

checking and change car battery to fix car ignition problem

One of the primary reasons why a car’s radio stops working or acts funnily is when there’s something up with the battery, or the battery itself is down. If you have an incompetent battery in your car, then you’ll frequently face problems such as the radio acting up or refusing to work.

If that’s the case, you’ll probably see a notification on the car’s dashboard indicating a weak battery. If there isn’t a notification display in your car, there are other signs of telling if the battery is weak, like the headlights turning dim or slowly cranking up as you start the engine.

But if you’re looking for more accurate ways to find out if your battery actually is weak, you can try these steps:

  1. Switch your headlights on for two minutes.
  2. Prepare your multimeter by setting it to a measurement above 15 volts.
  3. Connect the positive lead and negative lead to their respective slots.
  4. You can do that by plugging red to red and black to black.
  5. You should see a result of at least 12.6 volts.
  6. Keep the multimeter attached to your car’s battery.
  7. Turn on the Ignition.
  8. The result should not drop below 10 volts.

If the result drops below 10 volts, then you definitely need to clean your battery or replace it. To do that, I’m afraid you’d require professional help. But you can run this test yourself using a multimeter.


Check the Ignition Switch

Problems in the ignition switch can often disrupt the availability of accessory power when the key is removed. You have to check if the accessory power is available when the key is set in the off position. If you find that the power is available, then you’ll need to realign the cylinder or replace the ignition switch, depending on the problem.


Check for Problems in The Ignition Cylinder And Key

Check Ignition Cylinder And Key ro Fix Car Stereo

This problem is correlated to the ignition switch. The only difference is, this has more to do with the mechanical ignition cylinder instead of the electronic switch. If the key or the ignition switch is worn out, you can try removing the key while the switch is still in position.

To repair this, you have to make sure that the ignition switch is in the off position when you’re removing the key. This usually allows the radio to turn off. As for a more sustainable solution, try replacing the worn-out cylinder.

How to Keep Radio On in Keyless Car?


See If the Radio Is Set to Sleep Mode

Many car radios have a timer feature in them that makes them shut off after being in use for a certain amount of time. To check if this is the case, you simply need to turn off the engine, remove the key, leave the car, and lock the door. Then come back after a few minutes to see if the radio is still on.

If it turns off, that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s normal. But if it still hasn’t turned off, see if the lights in the dome turn off once the doors are closed. If they don’t, it could just be a faulty door switch. If that’s not the problem, then you might require professional help.


Check If It’s an Issue with The Wiring

Check Wiring to Fix Car Radio Only Works with Ignition On

There are two to three connections that connect the car’s radio to the battery. One of them is the ‘always on’ connection, and the other is used for power to run the head unit.

If the wiring is wrong, the radio won’t turn on or shut off. But it will always have power. Which will make it keep drawing down power from the battery even after the engine is shut off and the key is removed.


Let’s Cut the Discussion Short

The things mentioned above are typically what come up in the way of your car radio’s performance. Especially the issue that you face where the radio only tends to work when the ignition is on.

Once you diagnose the problem, you can get started with attempting to solve it. Although you should always consult a qualified mechanic or technician just for their final thoughts on your work.