One of the most persistent issues with car radios is them stopping randomly as soon as you hit a snag (read: bump) in the road. You’re minding your own business, and even the slightest ditch or bump in the road somehow manages to put that joyride to a stop.
So, why did the precious $300 (let’s say, it is) car radio shut off after bumping? And how do you fix it?
Apparently, hitting the head unit as hard as you can with frustration doesn’t work (trust me, I tried). But before you start regretting the purchase, let me assure you that the issue is fixable — unless you’re really unlucky, at least.
And given that it’s mostly caused by minor imperfections in the wiring or installation, one could fix this by themselves with a bit of know-how. In this piece, we’ll go through the possible reasons behind this inconvenience and discuss the possible ways to fix this. Let’s d(r)ive in.
Checking Out the Issue
Well, the music just stops. How much more diagnoses do you want?
A bit more than that. While usually part of this problem relates to your radio stopping, the underlying issues may vary. For one, some users find that their radios still retain power when the sound cuts out.
On the other hand, the radio flat out loses the power whenever you hit the bump, which is a different sort of problem. Furthermore, whether you have an aftermarket head unit also makes a huge difference, as the problem areas tend to change slightly.
I’d suggest looking at these seemingly trivial details before you jump in to try and find a solution. These problems arise from different parts of your car, so going for the one size fits all approach would only waste your time. That being said, let’s move on.
Why Your Car Radio Stops After Hitting a Bump
There may be various reasons behind why the sound system decides to take a breather after hitting bumps. The most familiar one among them would be trouble with wiring. Now, wiring refers to a vast area, which we’ll get into.
Another common issue would be the connection with the amp or the antenna of the radio. This is comparatively unusual, so first, we’ll try troubleshooting with the assumption that fixing the wiring problem would suffice (and it usually does).
The last issue may be caused by the head unit itself, which would cost you. Let’s look at them one by one.
As mentioned, this is a surprisingly common problem with car radios. The reason this happens is that there are many connections between the radio, antenna, and the outputs — any of which may be botched.
You’ll either see one of two things. One, the radio and the output both stop working, and there’s a total blackout. If that’s the case, the chances are that there may be some issues with power or ground cables.
This can be a bit tricky to figure out, as getting to the ground wire or loosened power wire is challenging. I’d suggest starting from the radio’s head unit and then moving downward.
This is especially necessary if you (or someone else for that matter) installed an aftermarket head unit. Many of the cheap ones come with wirings that are badly made, so checking out those connections may just fix your problem.
If that doesn’t work, we need to get to check the wirings and wires in other areas. Firstly, check the harness adapter. This is a place where all of the necessary wires join up, and little imperfections can turn south.
Every time you hit a bump; the potentially loose wires receive blows that worsen their already bad situation. And if you have wires with bad soldering or corrosion, that just gets worse.
Many of the soldering jobs are done poorly, and the radio keeps dying. Sometimes, the wires are only twisted together, which is the last thing we want.
The wires may be frayed too. Remove them altogether if that’s the case. Then, cut and strip them and solder them into their designated positions. You could also use heat shrinks to ensure that they don’t loosen up in the future.
The same goes for the ground wire. It’s a crucial element when it comes to the radio, so clean it up and resolder it if you think that’s necessary.
And if the stock wiring harness is of bad quality, replacing it might save you from all the trouble. Some people directly connect the wires and get rid of the harness’ issues, but I really wouldn’t suggest doing that. It makes things much tougher to contain and might increase the chances of future issues.
Take the car for a test drive once you have ticked all these boxes. If things seem fine even after hitting bumps, hallelujah. If not, let’s keep moving.
The Outputs and Antenna
Now, you may only see the speakers giving up as you hit a ditch or bump. That means the radio still has its power; only the output doesn’t. If that’s the case, you probably don’t need to worry about the head unit’s power.
For example, the speakers and amplifier may be two areas that can cause trouble with the sound missing. That means you need to check the connections from your head unit to the outputs.
Again, it’s even more of a possibility if you’ve installed aftermarket components. They may come with sub-par wirings, or the person in charge may not have done a great job. Now, the last catalyst may be the antenna itself, which the radio relies on for a healthy signal.
The antenna is also connected to the head unit, so we’re at risk of yet another potential bad element. While this typically doesn’t turn out to be the root of the issue, it might be the case if all else fails.
These troubleshooting steps are essential. That’s because once we rule out the possibilities of bad wiring and faulty components, the last component left is the head unit itself.
A Faulty Head Unit
After all, the head unit is the source of the sound itself. If there are any issues with this, then you’d have to go in for the kill and replace it altogether. The easiest way to figure that out would be to try out another unit. While this may be a DIY possibility for some, not everyone can do it.
Now, replacing the head unit can be a little tricky, depending on the type of unit and car you own. It usually sits flush on the car’s dashboard, so taking off the housing may seem challenging. You’ll typically find prying tools that can help with that. I suggest getting a pack of those.
Once you have that, pry the head unit open out from the dashboard. You’ll find a bunch of connections in the back depending on your car’s setup — the antenna, several outputs (more if you have things like extra subwoofers), the harness adapter. Carefully take them all out, and make sure that you pull the harness by the plastic connector.
After that, all you have to do is connect the new head unit with those wires. You should remember that things like mics also need to be connected if your new unit has those functionalities. Make sure that the harness has everything properly set up during installation, as that can end up causing more problems in the future.
Once done, you should try connecting the radio and see if all the functions work properly without attaching everything back. That’d save you a lot of time if you missed something and need to go back and fix it. If it plays fine, just put it where it belongs and enjoy.
Having your radio turn off without your permission is one of the most annoying things while driving. And figuring out why car radio stopped working after hitting a bump is probably even more annoying.
The troubleshooting steps above should help you figure out the cause of the problem and hopefully fix it. And if you don’t have the technical know-how to fix the issue yourself, I’d recommend taking the car to someone who does instead of going ham on it.
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