So you have spent a lot of time installing the perfect audio set up for your car. After enjoying your favorite music, audiobook, podcast, or news, suddenly your car speakers stop working.
Oh no! What do you do? How do you fix the problem? We will run you through a few checklists to help determine the source of your speaker troubles.
Why Would Car Speakers Stop Working?
First, you need to recognize that your car is hurtling through roads and byways on a daily basis, and there are many movable parts, and also fixtures, that can be damaged along the way. While a car sound system is doubtless simpler (and perhaps much less delicate) than a custom-built home stereo system, there are multiple things that can still get damaged due to motion, or the sound being turned up loud, etc.
When dealing with the root cause and devising a solution to your car speaker problems, it may be beneficial to think of a few basic truths:
- Remember and appreciate there are many moving parts – literally as well as figuratively
- Be aware of some standard problems that tend to arise frequently, such as faulty wiring
- Before embarking on a widespread search, followed by a repair and/or replace mission, understand that a car may have some systems that could cause speakers to stop working for reasons that go beyond the car sound system.
Some Valid Realizations Must be Part of Your Thinking
Before getting into the details, consider some facts of life:
- Due to the bumpy movement of the car itself and given that the components are subjected to continuous stress, car speakers and sound systems are subject to wear and tear and/or come loose at times – there is no use fretting over this. The chances of damage or defect climb higher with cheaper components and shoddy installation.
- As a general rule, car speakers and sound systems that are factory installed are more likely to develop problems. As we have discussed elsewhere, car sound systems are afterthoughts to the OEMs who put the cars out – they design the rest of the car and then decide where it may be most convenient to place the speakers.
- As an example of the above, one of the commonest spots for factory-installed car speakers is in the doors. As we discuss below, faulty wiring can be a major reason why the speakers stop working. Now consider the stress put on speakers on the car doors. the wiring has to run through the door jamb onto the speaker assembly in the lower part of the door. Every time you slam the door shut, you are jarring the system.
- Car speakers usually tend to fail one at a time. If instead, the entire system stops working, the problem may often arise from the “head unit” – that is, the stereo, amps, and other parts where the sound is generated. The speakers themselves may be perfectly sound, it’s just that the sound is not reaching them.
Once you acknowledge the above fact of life, let’s look at how to troubleshoot if you find car speakers not working, starting with the most probable causes behind it.
Potential Cause #1: Check the Head Unit
If a speaker fails, the first step should be to check the stereo, amplifier, and other systems that deliver sound to the speaker. It is also important to note that just because the “head unit” turns on fine, it does not signify that the speakers are being fed.
For example, consider the following cases:
- If the car enters an anti-theft mode at any point, you will require a car radio code to get the entire sound system to function properly
- Check different audio input modes (e.g. CD, radio, auxiliary etc.) to see if all of them fail
- Check the volume, fade, and pan settings – this simple test may save a lot of time
- Test onboard fuses and for loose and/or unplugged wires
Potential Cause #2: Check the External Amplifier
Audio systems with external amplifiers can be a source of the problem – the sound from the stereo unit has to pass through the amps in order to activate the speakers. The standard checks include the following:
- Make sure the amp is turning on
- Also, ensure that the amp has not entered protect mode
- Test inline and onboard fuses
- As always, check for loose/disconnected input/output speaker wiring
Since the amp sits between the head unit and the speaker, an amp test may need to bypass the amp and directly connect the stereo unit to the speaker. If they both work, then the external amp has a problem regardless of what your other tests show. Then, either you ignore it and use the internal amp on the head unit or buy and install a new aftermarket external amp.
Potential Cause #3: Check for Faulty Wiring
As even with the two checks mentioned prior, loose or faulty wiring can often be the villain if your speakers fail. As we described earlier, factory-installed door speakers offer a prime example of a broken or shorted wire due to the jarring they experience.
One problem with inspecting wiring is that they tend to hide behind panels and under carpets, among other places. Before you start disassembling things, you may want to run some simpler tests. Here are two examples:
- If possible, check for continuity between a source (e.g., stereo unit or amp) and destination (i.e., speaker). If there is none, then the wire is likely broken somewhere.
- On the other hand, if there is continuity to the ground, that would signify a shorted wire.
The above continuity test will also tell you if your car speakers are completely blown out.
Another way to check where the problem lies may be to connect the existing speakers to new wiring. It’s a bit of a shortcut, but you will undoubtedly find out if the problem lies in the wiring – if the head unit, amp, and speakers work, you know you need to replace the wiring.
The Final Verdict
Hopefully, the above discussion will help you figure out not only if your speakers are at fault, but also how to fix the problem. As with anything in a moving car and rattling parts, have some realistic expectations and try to go step by step – and rule out some obvious systemic issues – before you engage in a large-scale repair or replacement process.