Why Does My Car Radio Turn On By Itself?


Driving down the road in silence can help you focus and take a minute to relax. If you’re suddenly jolted to attention by your car radio turning itself on, bad things can happen.

You could swerve into traffic, slam on the brakes, or panic and punch the gas pedal. That’s not to mention the adrenaline rush stressing you out.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why does my car radio turn on by itself?” you’re not alone. Car radios, like any other electrical component, can experience issues as they age.

They may turn on by themselves, turn the volume up or down without your input, or even just quit working.

Tracking down the cause of your car radio turning itself on doesn’t have to be a chore.

We’ve put together a guide on how to address the issue of your car radio turning on by itself so you at least have a place to start. If you find yourself working through this entire list and not finding the cause of your car radio issue, it’s probably time to have a mechanic take a look.

10 things that could cause the car radio to turn on by itself

As you work through the 10 things that could be causing your car radio to turn on by itself, makes note of what you find.

These can be helpful if you don’t figure out what the issue is and need a mechanic to track the problem back to the source.

It’s much cheaper paying for an hour of mechanic’s labor and putting in the leg work than paying for three or more hours of labor for an inspection.

Faulty Wiring

Faulty wiring can cause all kinds of electrical issues, not just with your car’s radio. If you find your car’s radio only turns itself on after you go over a bump or turn a certain direction, it could be faulty wiring to blame.

The best way to find out which part of your car’s wiring is having issues is to start with all those wires that connect to the radio. One of them is likely not connected completely or could be slowly disconnecting. Wires, just like any other component on your vehicle, will decay with time and overuse.

If you leave your vehicle outside, particularly in open country, you may also have small critters that eat your car’s wiring and cause issues. Rabbits and mice are known to chew through wires simply because they’re looking for a warm place to sleep and some food to get them through the night.

Short Circuit

You may experience a short circuit due to faulty wiring. In this case, the wires responsible for carrying power to the radio may come into contact with one another and cause a short.

This is likely to cause other issues with your car radio or surrounding electronics, depending on how the radio is wired.

If you smell burning electrical components, it’s likely you had a short circuit. It’s best to find the source of the short circuit as soon as you can so that it doesn’t start a fire. You might unplug the battery before you search for the short-circuited wire so you don’t have to worry about more of a light show.

Battery Issues

Speaking of the battery, sometimes a car radio turns itself on because of the battery. If the battery itself is not providing steady current to all the powered components in the vehicle, then those components may cycle through as a result. For example, your radio might turn itself on and off depending on the flow of electricity from the battery.

If you think the issue might be your car’s battery, visit your local auto parts store to have it tested.

Most places will test the battery for free, telling you whether or not the battery is the end of your diagnosing efforts. If it’s not the battery, you at least save the cost of replacing it unnecessarily.

Remote Control

The reason your car radio could be turning on by itself could be due to signals from a remote control. If your friends are playing a prank on you, they might use the remote control to turn the radio on and off and spook you for laughs. If that’s the case, the fix is probably the easiest on the list so far.

However, if you lost your remote control and it somehow wedges between the seat rails, for example, any pressure on that remote could cause it to turn the radio on. Solving this issue is simply a means of figuring out if you’re the butt of a joke or finding that remote to stop it from turning your car radio on.

Malfunctioning Buttons

As car radios wear, the buttons on the face of the radio can wear down as well. If your car radio is turning itself on without any input from you, it could be a stuck button.

Sometimes you can take the radio out of the car or remove the buttons to clean them. However, it’s often best if you replace the radio completely to stop it from turning itself on with malfunctioning buttons.

Depending on how the buttons are manufactured, you may wear spots into them as you play your radio.

Those spots could cause your radio to want to return to a specific setting. This could be playing the radio at full blast or turning the radio on without being prompted.

Software Issues

Car radios run off software programming that directs the unit to perform certain functions. If this programming is off in some way, the radio will not respond or act correctly.

While software issues can be fixed in most modern vehicles, older vehicles may have a harder time with this type of fix. If the software has outdated the vehicle, the best option is to replace the radio with an aftermarket stereo.

Though you may be able to narrow down your car radio turning itself on to software issues, you’re likely going to need the dealership to fix the issue. They can download the proper updates or troubleshoot any issues directly.

Temperature Changes

Rapid heat cycling can definitely impact how a car radio works. Any electrical components respond to extreme heat and cold, depending on what sort of exposure they have.

If you live in a very cold part of the country, your car radio could wear out sooner and turn itself on without being prompted.

The best way to avoid any issues with your car radio as a result of temperature changes is to keep the vehicle inside in some sort of climate-controlled environment. This can also lengthen the life of many other components on your vehicle, from tires and window seals to paint.

Loose Connections

As you trace out any issues with your car’s wiring, you may come across loose connections. This loss of connectivity could be the culprit for a car radio that turns itself on and off, or it could be preventative maintenance for a component that would have had issues in the future.

Finding the loose connection can be difficult, especially if you’re not sure where to look. The best way to tackle a loose connection, like any other electrical issue, is to trace out the wires and make notes as you go. Tracing out wires is a lengthy, tedious process, but it can be well worth it if you don’t want to replace your car’s radio.

Faulty Sensors

In addition to faulty wiring, faulty sensors can give the wrong signal to the car’s computer, telling it to turn the radio on when there’s no input from the driver. If your car is experiencing faulty sensors, it’s likely something that could show up on a diagnostic run with the right equipment.

At the same time, it can be difficult to know if you’ve got a faulty sensor if you don’t run diagnostics and have no other indication than a car radio that turns itself on. That’s why tackling the wiring with a strategic approach can help you make the most of your time spent tracing out any wiring issues.

While faulty sensors may be more expensive to replace than certain wires, they typically last for the majority of your car’s lifetime. Because these sensors may not be in the most logical of places, it can be worth it to have a dealership or mechanic figure out which sensor you need.


Any electrical component, whether it’s in your vehicle, a plane, a train, or any other electronic device, experiences interference.

It’s the signal that crosses over and disrupts the main signal your electronic device is putting out. Most of the time, interference will come from something within your vehicle, but this isn’t always the case.

Remember the days of tuning the radio to a certain station? As you got closer to the station, you’d hear more interference as the signal came through. That’s similar to what you’d experience if your car radio was turning itself on because of interference.