Why Does My Car Stereo Cut Out At High Volume?
There’s nothing like turning up your favorite song and singing along at the top of your lungs. But if you’re asking yourself, “Why does my car stereo cut out at high volume?” chances are you’re not alone. Car stereos cutting out at high volume are more common than you might think.
The steps involved in diagnosing a stereo that cuts out at a high volume can be simple or they can be incredibly complex. The true determining factor is how far you have to go to figure out what’s going on because car electrical systems are more intricate than practically any other component on or in the vehicle.
To help you figure out why your car stereo cuts out at a high volume, we’ve put together a short list of possible culprits. This list is far from exhaustive but it’s a great place to start if you’re at a loss.
Are you ready to figure out, “Why does my car stereo cut out at high volume?” Let’s take a closer look at the possible causes that could be giving you grief.
12 things that could cause the car stereo to cut out at high volume
As you go through this list of possible causes of your car stereo cutting out at high volume, be observant and take notes. The more you can narrow down and potentially even explain later to your mechanic, the better.
You might also want to remove the power from the battery. Yes, power is necessary for figuring out which parts of your stereo system are working properly but it can also be dangerous if you come into contact with that power source.
Loose or damaged wiring
Electrical wiring makes your entire stereo system function properly. If there’s nothing there to move the current from one end of the system to the other, then the stereo can cut out when the output increases.
If you suspect your car has loose or damaged wiring, it’s best to unplug the battery and investigate further only if you feel comfortable. You may also need to use a multimeter to trace out which wires are getting power and which aren’t.
Damaged wiring can also pose a danger to you whether or not it’s causing your stereo to cut out at high volume. Sparks can easily cause a fire in your vehicle, which you may not be able to put out. This is especially true if you’re driving on the highway.
Poor grounding of the stereo system
Grounding your stereo system ensures your vehicle’s electrical components work properly. The flow of electricity moves safely from the power source to the specific component when it’s grounded. When the ground isn’t present, bad things can happen.
Checking the grounding of your stereo system takes only a few minutes. All you have to do is look for areas where power goes in or out of the system to see if any wires are exposed. Wires that aren’t even attached to the unit can also cause grounding issues.
Overloaded or failing power amplifier
Amplifiers are what increase the volume and reach of your stereo system. When one or more fails, your stereo is weaker than it would normally be. This could be the cause of your stereo issues.
Sometimes you can diagnose an overloaded or failing amplifier by listening to where the lack of sound is coming from. Just be sure to protect your hearing as you do so to keep it intact for the future.
A failing alternator or battery
A stereo system that fails at high volume has two main sources: the electrical system upon which it relies and the power source that gives it life.
If your car battery isn’t giving the stereo system enough power, it’s likely your system is fine and just working off less power than it’s used to.
You can easily visit nearly any automotive parts store and have them check your car’s battery. If your battery or alternator is failing, it’s best to get them replaced as soon as possible.
If you fail to replace them quickly, you could be left with a dead car that won’t start and potentially an alternator that won’t charge the battery as you drive.
A blown speaker or blown fuse
Turn the bass too loud once and you could be working with a blown speaker. Depending on how high you went, you could be looking at a blown fuse as well.
Check your fuses before you investigate further, as a simple fuse replacement doesn’t take much time, energy, or money.
A blown speaker, on the other hand, may take more effort to address. Replacing the speaker could take some wiring work as well as removing parts of your vehicle to remove the old unit and replace it with a new one.
At the same time, blown speakers are not something that’s going to stop you from driving your car. You just won’t hear a peep out of that speaker when the volume is turned up.
Interference from other electrical devices
Electrical currents move energy from one end of the stereo system to the other. If something is interfering with that stream, you could experience issues with your radio at high volume.
Diagnosing interference from other electrical devices is something you can potentially diagnose on your own. All you have to do is identify which electrical devices could be interfering with the electrical signal and remove them until the problem goes away.
Malfunctioning head unit or amplifier
Though the stereo system draws power from the battery and sends electrical signals to the other stereo components, the head unit is the command center. Here, any issues with signal output can cause problems down the line that could potentially be misdiagnosed.
Essentially, the head unit tells the rest of the system what to do. Should it fail (or the amplifier fails), the rest of the stereo system suffers. Be sure to check your head unit to ensure it’s working properly before you continue your search. It could save you a lot of time in the long run.
Poorly installed aftermarket stereo components
There are countless opportunities to improve your vehicle, from suspension and powertrain components to interior accouterments. Even stereo systems can be upgraded as there’s a whole aftermarket inventory to choose from.
Getting an aftermarket stereo system installed is one thing, but doing it yourself can open up a whole can of worms if you don’t have the necessary experience. There’s nothing wrong with doing something like that yourself, as long as you’re safe and smart about it.
However, sometimes things can go wrong with aftermarket stereo systems. Besides shorting and causing other electrical issues, these aftermarket components can also cause issues when your radio is at high volume. It can be a good idea to thoroughly investigate your installation to make sure everything is in proper working order.
Corroded or damaged connectors
Electrical components, like their mechanical counterparts, degrade over time. Connectors that were brand new back in the 1980s may now be no more than corroded fragments barely holding things together. At the same time, excessive use can cause connectors to prematurely decay as well.
Diagnosing your stereo system issues with the connectors can take a lot of time, but it’s at least an identifiable component you can potentially replace. Rather than having to solder wires together, all you have to do is unplug the connector and plug the new one in.
Overheating of components in the stereo system
Heat accompanies electrical charges in addition to the shock we associate with conduction. When the wires, connectors, and other electrical components of a stereo system retain too much heat, they can melt, spark, or even create a small explosion to release that energy.
In most cases, if you have overheating issues in your stereo system, you’ll probably notice several failures. You might not be able to turn the radio on at all if your stereo system has overheated.
Like every other electrical issue on our list, components that have overheated require visual inspection to properly diagnose. The problem doesn’t stop with replacing those components either, as the source of the heat could still remain.
If you notice any overheating of your stereo system components, it could be worth an extra look over the entire electrical system. The mouse nibbles here and there can wreak havoc on any electrical system, no matter how old or new.
Activated built-in protection circuits
Faults are a common issue in the automotive world. Built-in protection circuits are a type of fail-safe often put in to draw electrical failure so that larger, more expensive components aren’t sacrificed. It’s a bit like putting a weak link in the line so that the line breaks instead of breaking components on either side.
If you’re having trouble with your car stereo system, it could be that one of the fail-safes, the protection circuits, has been tripped. Like a fuse or a breaker, you’ll need to replace that weak link to give power to the unit again.
Built-in protection circuits should be diagrammed into the electrical system but can take a keen eye to pinpoint. If you’re not sure where your built-in protection circuits are on your vehicle, it’s probably a good idea to take your vehicle to the mechanic for a proper diagnosis.
Poor audio quality
The reality of a car stereo cutting out at high volume is that the culprit might not be your stereo system at all. You could be dealing with poor audio quality that simply isn’t translating well across your speakers.
There is one way you can test this theory. If you notice your stereo cutting out at high volume when the radio is on, change the channel to see if the problem repeats itself. If it does, then you’ve got an issue with the stereo system.
You can also try connecting a device to the stereo if your vehicle is capable of the connection. Should the audio issues continue then, it’s something within the stereo system that is causing the malfunction.
If you narrow the problem down to a specific sound or side of the car, it could just be that the stereo system isn’t sophisticated enough to properly output the sound you should be hearing. You can try a different song to test out this theory as well.