Troubleshooting Car Audio Systems

Overview
There are a variety of problems that can occur with a car audio system. Crackling, popping and intermittent sound cutout are a few you may be experiencing with your system. While some of the problems can be traced to the speakers, it could also be the result of a faulty amplifier or ground wire.
Step 1
Check for a buzz or humming sound coming through the audio system while the car is running that stops when the engine is turned off and the audio is still on. This may indicate an alternator or ignition noise being picked up through the power running to your audio system. To fix this, you'll need to have a 12v noise filter installed between the power source (the battery) and the power input (at the amplifier) of your audio system.
Step 2
Check for sound distortion at high volume. This may indicate the wattage is too low on your amplifier to drive the speakers. To solve this problem, you can simply turn down the volume, or you can replace the amplifier (which means, in most cases, replacing the in-dash radio or stereo unit) or add an amplifier to your audio system. You can also replace the speakers with speakers that match your audio system's output potential.
Step 3
Listen for rattling or vibration while the base is turned up on your car audio. This may indicate your car does not have enough sound-deadening material. Since the low frequency of the bass will resonate throughout the car, it can cause the body to vibrate. If you have any loose components in the car, including a loose license plate or a loose trunk lid latch or worn weatherstripping around door seals, it can cause the body to rattle. This can be solved by adding sound-deadening material to areas where you have loose components or worn weatherstripping. Sound-deadening material can be any material that deadens noise---carpet, foam spray (such as Dynamat brand sound-deadening material) or a bed sheet.
Step 4
Listen for intermittent sound cutout. This can happen as a result of a faulty ground wire in your audio system. If you have chosen poor grounding locations for your ground wires, or if the factory grounding points have rusted, you will have to locate those grounding points, remove the ground wire, inspect and clean the grounding location to remove the rust and re-secure the ground wire. Grounding locations should be bare metal, specifically a section of the car's frame that is not painted and protected from moisture.
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Resources
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More Information About Car Audio Problems
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Car Audio Noise Troubleshooting