Common Car Stereo Installation Problems

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The car stereo has been installed, everything seems to have been done correctly, but there is still a problem. What can be done about it? If a trip to the dealer, or installer is not part of the available solution, or if the job was done by a friend, how should the troubleshooting be done effectively? The answers may lie within this article. Read through the following steps until all sample problems have been corrected or at least removed from possible causes of the issue at hand.

Maintenance and preventive car will help alleviate potential problems with any car stereo. All car stereos need a little maintenance to keep them performing the way they were meant to perform when they were initially installed.

1. All tape heads must be periodically cleaned, and there are kits available for this purpose. The kits may be purchased from auto departments at most chain stores; auto parts stores, or even the dealer if necessary. The kit usually contains an alcohol-based fluid, and cotton-covered swabs that resemble Q-Tips. Use one drop of the liquid on the cotton swab and gently wipe the tape heads for 2-3 seconds. This should be done after every 20 hours of tape play. This will keep road dirt, static electricity, and cigarette tar from gumming up the inner workings of the player.



2. CD players need maintenance as well. Some things to remember about CD players: skipping may be caused by fingerprints, dust, or scratches on the CD inserted into the player, so always be certain the playing surface is smooth and clean. To keep CDs clean, try using CD Saver by CRS. This kit provides a special cloth and a silica-based liquid to clean the surface of the CD. To clean the inside of a CD player, there are CDs that are made expressly for that purpose. Usually, these can be purchased at a dealership or auto parts store.

3. Speakers should be tightened from time to time, as they can attle loose from bumpy roads and general car vibration. Also check for debris on speakers that are mounted on the rear dash, facing upward. Road grit can accumulate, causing rattling and distorted sound. Also this grit and dust can get trapped between the speaker grill and the cone inside; if this is the issue, remove the speaker grill and use a hand-held vacuum cleaner to remove the offending particles. Replace the speaker grill and try the sound again. Also clean the speakers with a damp cloth or an Armor-All cloth and sound should return to normal.

4. If the stereo doesn't seem to be getting power, check the fuse box. Sometimes the fuse will burst from a power surge, or simply burn out. Changing a fuse is an easy task because the fuse box is usually located under the dash or in the glove box. Fuses are very inexpensive and are sold singly or in sets. Simply remove the fuse that is blackened, and match it to one of the new fuses purchased, place the new fuse into the fuse box and the radio should now have power.

5. Sometimes the sound may seem "thin" when the stereo is playing. This could mean that the left/right channel controls are out of phase. Reverse the leads on one speaker. If nothing else, the base response will dramatically increase.

6. Signal loss may occur if the antenna wire becomes loose or unplugged. Check under the cowl or front fender, and in some cars, the glove box. If the wire is connected, try disconnecting it and reconnecting it to be sure there is a clean, tight connection. Also, if this was a home installation, it is prudent to re-check any soldered or taped connections to be certain all wire still have a tight connection. One last thing to check on door speakers, see if the wire has been crimped or cut by the door. Often speaker wires can come loose and be tangled in the door threshold, causing distortion or loss of sound altogether.

7. If options 1-6 have been tried and there is still a problem with sound in a speaker, check to see if there is a short in the wire. If there is an uninsulated stretch of wire, or if the electrical tape has come loose, there could be dirt and loose wiring to blame. Something else to consider is that the uncovered wire may have touched other metal on the car, which is called grounding. In either case, clean the connection, re-twist wires together, and apply fresh electrical tape.

Diagnosing an ailing car stereo is fairly easy, but can be time-consuming. Remember, that 50% of car repair is patience. Go through the steps above in an attempt to identify and rectify the issue the stereo is having. Nothing is more frustrating that to pay a "professional" to do something that could have been done in the driveway at no cost. If all else fails, it might be time to go to a repair facility, or worse-the dealership.

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