Why Does My Car Radio Keep Changing Stations


Driving along in your car, you might be wondering, “Why does my car radio keep changing stations?” You set the dial and it seems like you’re not 100 feet down the road before it starts jumping around. If this is happening to you, you’re not alone. You’re also not crazy for wondering what ghost started haunting your vehicle.

Chances are, your car radio is changing stations for several reasons. In fact, we’ve put a whole list together of things that could be causing this interference in your radio. Once you diagnose these issues, you can fix them so that all you hear is the station you’re tuned to and nothing else.

A word of caution: because most of the issues surrounding the question, “Why does my car radio keep changing stations?” stems from electrical components, be sure to be cautious when working around exposed wires.

It’s a good idea to disconnect your battery before you go too far, though you might need to connect it once in a while to ensure you’re troubleshooting your radio-changing issue properly.

9 things that could cause the car radio to keep changing stations

The list of the reasons why your car radio keeps changing stations could go on for pages and pages. However, we’ve put together this list of common problems that might cause this issue to give you somewhere to start.

It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a great place to begin and start marking off possible culprits.

If at any point you feel that you can’t continue with the diagnosis of your vehicle, take it to a local mechanic you trust.

They are probably more experienced with how automotive electronic systems work and can troubleshoot the issue more quickly than you might be able to. They may also have the tools necessary to test power throughout the car.

Damaged touchscreen

Many newer cars have touchscreens in them that allow us to manually select which radio stations we want to listen to. This beats having to move the dial from one end of the spectrum to the other. At the same time, damaged touchscreens can wreak havoc, especially when it comes to choosing a radio station.

Obvious signs of damage on a touchscreen include cracks and areas in the screen that aren’t performing as they should. For example, you might see pixels that don’t react properly when you turn the vehicle on and off. These areas are broken and likely need repair before they are usable once more.

Unless you’ve installed an aftermarket touchscreen yourself, it’s best to take your vehicle to the dealership if you’re experiencing issues with your touchscreen.

The mechanics there can hook up devices to the car to tell them what’s going on and why. With the help of these troubleshooting procedures, your radio station blitz should end rather quickly.

Faulty radio buttons

Push a button in and out a few thousand times and you’re sure to wear it out. The same can be said for your radio buttons.

This is especially true if you have an older car and can’t figure out why the radio keeps changing stations. Chances are you’ve got faulty radio buttons that think they’ve got input when they don’t.

Cleaning the radio buttons can be a good first step in determining if this is a quick fix or not.

If your car radio continues to change stations without being prompted, you might need to visit the dealership. They can help you with removing the necessary components safely to repair or even replace faulty radio buttons.

Sticky steering buttons

Taking the radio controls and migrating them to the steering wheel has been a common theme across the past few years. This safety tactic puts all the controls in front of you so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. However, these buttons can easily become sticky and dirty if you’re not a careful driver.

For example, if you were drinking a soda in the car and had to stop suddenly, you might spill that sugary soda all over your steering wheel.

You’re fine, but the damage has been done to your steering wheel, especially when it comes to the radio controls.

Sticky buttons and components can cause the radio to malfunction in a way, though it’s more about what the system perceives to be input rather than a true fault with the system as a whole.

Electromagnetic interference

The electronics responsible for playing your favorite radio hits work under specific conditions that exclude electromagnetic interference.

After all, should something interfere with the signal going from one component to one or more additional components, the program isn’t going to know what to do. It’s a bit like receiving a garbled message that you can barely make out.

Finding the source of electromagnetic interference in your vehicle can be a time-consuming process.

You’ve got to trace out the entire car to see where the interference is coming from. Unfortunately, the source isn’t often right under your nose. It takes some tracking down, which could be best served by mechanics who know what to look for.

Software bug

Computers get viruses too, though the aftereffects of their bugs often don’t resemble ours. Software bugs can certainly cause your radio to malfunction, especially if something has happened to cause a software bug to appear.

For example, if you haven’t yet upgraded the operating system within your vehicle for the radio specifically, a bug that was taken care of in the update could still be roaming free.

While updates are certainly becoming easier to do, it’s best to seek the help of a licensed mechanic in this instance. These mechanics can hook up special software tools to not only update your vehicle’s electrical components but troubleshoot any issues that arise from that update.

Automatic tuning

Scrolling through the stations and trying to find one that comes in clearly can be a great way to pass the time, especially if you’re traveling through an area that doesn’t get great reception.

However, modern cars come with a feature that allows you to automatically tune between stations so that you don’t have to keep your finger on the button or an ear out for a clear signal.

If your car constantly changes radio stations, chances are you might have pressed the automatic tuning button.

This button is meant to skip between stations to find those with good reception. This way, you don’t have to worry about listening to the static. Instead, you can enjoy the road and simply stop the radio once it reaches a station you prefer.

Faulty motherboard

As we’ve mentioned, many things go into a car’s stereo system, let alone the radio components. In some cases, the entire motherboard of the radio can go out and leave you high and dry.

If this is the case, it’s likely time to visit the dealership to see what advice they can offer you concerning your problem.

Most faulty motherboards require replacement. These boards are the brain of the operation, responsible for the overall function of the radio in terms of changing the stations, receiving the signal and converting it, and piping it through the interior of your vehicle. Motherboards are not easy or cheap to replace, so keep this in mind when you look at your total bill for repairs.

Weak or damaged antenna

We don’t often see vehicles on the road with antennas sticking up out of the roof these days. It was a common appearance back in the day, but now those antennas are hidden under specific body components to keep them protected.

As you might find out when you have issues with your radio, a damaged or weak antenna can make a whole lot of difference when you’re trying to jam out.

A weak or damaged antenna cannot receive a radio station properly as it would in working condition.

The antenna does not provide the strength needed to maintain a steady connection. Most antennas wear down as cars age, just like any other component on the vehicle. However, if you’ve recently damaged the antenna, it could easily explain why you’re having issues tuning into your favorite radio station.

Interference from other devices

Believe it or not, other electronic devices can impair your radio from receiving a strong signal. The other electronic devices may be putting out specific wavelengths to complete a task, such as your smartphone interacting with the cellular towers to try and get service for directions.

Even though these signals are meant to accomplish different tasks, they can interfere with one another and cause radio malfunctions.

If you suspect another device is causing your issues, try turning it off. Removing the signal can allow the radio signal the room it needs to gain strength.

However, if that's not the case, you might need to take your vehicle to the repair shop. Sometimes it takes an expert to know what went wrong with your vehicle to figure out how to fix it. That, or you can give up listening to the radio until you get it fixed.