How To Troubleshoot Car Stereo Speakers

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For some of us, the car stereo is the most important electronic device we use all day. Maybe it is starting out the day with last night's scores or traffic updates, news or just some of your favorite music. Maybe it is listening to a book on tape on the long drive to Aunt Tilly's cabin in the woods. I wouldn't know really, I get up late and haven't been invited to the cabin since that unfortunate fire incident...digressing. Any way you look at it, if suddenly it made no noise at all or started to sound like a hissing, fuzzy pile of... fuzzy, hissy stuff, you'd lose it.

If such a horrible fate should befall you and your stereo, it could be your speakers that are giving you trouble. Here are a few ways to test out your speakers and other parts of your system to determine your problem.  

  1. Find the source of the problem. The first thing you need to do is find out if it's even the speaker that is giving you the problem. Find the cable that attaches your speakers to your stereo and amplifier. Unplug the cable connecting the stereo to the amp, leaving the speakers connected to the amp. If there is still some kind of noise, then the amp might be the culprit. If there is none, reconnect everything and then unplug the cable from the radio. Now if there is noise, then it's probably the cable that is the source. If this is the case, just get a new cable.
  2. Check if your speaker is "blown." For this I must refer to an article I have previously written on the topic. Considered by many, including my mom, to be one of the best documents on the subject to date, it contains some hints and tests to see if you have a "blown" speaker. If this ends up being the case, then you are out of luck and need to replace the speaker.
  3. Check if your speaker is touching ground. Before I go any further, make sure all components of your car stereo are properly grounded, secured to the chassis. A speaker that is touching ground makes a repetitive thumping noise. To see if this is the case, disconnect all the speakers from the amp. Get a speaker that you know is in fine working condition and connect it to each of the outputs, one at a time. If the noise continues, it's the amp. If the noise stops, then reconnect each speaker, one at a time till you hear the noise -- that's the bad speaker.
  4. Check the speaker cables. Using an electronic voltmeter check the continuity of your speaker cables by putting one lead on each end of the cable. If there is an interruption in the continuity, then you've got a bad cable.
  5. Make sure your speakers are compatible with the rest of your stereo components. A lot of times, speaker manufacturers like to pump up their capabilities. The problem is, they are being misleading and their product is too weak to handle the power some stereos can output. Even too little power can damage a speaker or at least make it sound poor.
  6. Check that your speakers are securely attached. An improperly mounted speaker can sound horrible. The vibration and buzzing some speakers make could be stopped simply by screwing them in a little tighter. A good trick is to use some fabric or rubber to place in between the speaker frame and the car's interior. This creates a dampener to help with vibrations.


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