A Mechanic’s Guide to How to Fix a Car Radio

Information provided in this guide on how to fix a car radio is gotten from an interview with a mechanic. Here you will learn how you can figure out what’s wrong with your car radio and how you can fix it yourself.

Importance of This Article

After going through this article, you’ll be able to fix your car radio issue yourself and consequently, you’ll be able to save a lot of money (money that would have been spent if you took the car to a repair shop).Also, this article will help you decide whether to hand in your entire car to a repairman or fix car radio problems yourself. You’ll learn when the problem with your car radio is a big one that may require you to take the car to a repairman or something you can do yourself.

How a Car Radio Works

fix a car radio

A car radio receiver makes use of an antenna to collect audio signals which it then amplifies and sends to speakers for your enjoyment. The radio signals are frequency modulated (FM) or amplitude modulated (AM).A car radio requires power and like with any appliance that requires power, it has a power source.

On your vehicle, your power source is a 12-volt battery. The 12-volt battery in your vehicle can be located in one of three places: your trunk, your engine bay, or under your passenger seat or rear seat. The 12-volt battery is most likely going to be in your engine bay unless you have a fancier car.

A quick Google search will almost always tell you where your battery is if you don't know. For example, if you're driving a Ford F-150, you can just search on Google “where is the car battery located in my F-150”.

Pro Tip: If your vehicle is a hybrid car, make sure you find out where your 12-volts battery is. This is important because if you go tinkering with the hybrid battery by accident, it can kill you.

The hybrid battery has enough voltage to deliver a lethal shock, similar to that of an electric chair. Since a hybrid battery shock can be fatal, you must avoid tinkering with it. Make sure you find your 12-volt battery source, not the high-output battery source that powers the hybrid or the fully electric portion of your car.

Stages of Diagnosis of a Car’s Radio

Stages of Diagnosis of a Car’s Radio

In terms of identifying the problem with your radio, there's not a whole lot you can do besides ripping out the radio and this may be a bit too advanced for you. The basic diagnosis for your car's radio is to:

  • Check your battery
  • Examine the fuses
  • Check your antenna
  • Have a look at the amplifiers

Checking your battery

The first thing to do once you’ve located your battery is to test if the battery has enough juice to power your radio. The best way to do this is to just get in the car and try to start it. If the car won't start, chances are that the battery cannot power your radio. If your car starts but your radio does not work, you can move to the next diagnostic step: checking your fuses.

Checking your fuses

One of the most common reasons why a car radio stops working is a blown fuse. There are a couple of different places that you can locate the fuse panel to gain access to the radio fuse. To know what fuse actually controls your radio, you’ll need to consult your car’s manual.

Checking your fuses

On this website fuse-box.info, you can also get help with locating your vehicle’s fuse box, through the fuse box diagrams on this site. Fuse-box.info will not only help you locate the fuse panels in your car, but it will also help you to understand the assignment of each fuse in the car (what circuit they’re controlling).

Locate the fuse box

There is a bunch of different locations where you can find the fuse box, but you will typically have one fuse box in your engine compartment.

The engine compartment fuse box has a lot of larger fuses – fuses that control major aspects of your car. Sometimes, the fuses in your engine compartment control little things too. For example, on a 2014 Hyundai Elantra, there's a fuse box in your engine bay.

The fuse box contains two fuses, and these two fuses control a separate cigarette lighter port inside your vehicle. You can find a fuse box in your engine bay, on the driver side of your vehicle (underneath the plastic panel down by where your feet are when you're driving), or on the side of the dash panel when you open your door (it is normally covered by your door).

Moreover, you can also spot fuse boxes to the left on the bottom of the passenger side, as well as to the right on the bottom of the passenger side. A less common location for fuse boxes is access ports located in your truck.

You'll typically find a fuse box in your driver side area, passenger side area, or in your engine. These are the standard locations where a fuse box can be found. The aforementioned website will help you in locating your vehicle's fuse boxes and will also help you understand the assignment of each fuse.

Which things are controlled by the fuses?

Note that some fuses control multiple things. If it’s only your radio that is not working, you can check the fuse that controls your radio. We already mentioned that you can know the role of each fuse by consulting your car’s manual or visiting fuse-box.info.

Assuming the fuse that controls your radio also controls your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) motors, try turning these motors on. If these motors do not turn on and your radio doesn't work too, chances are that the fuse is blown. By the way, you can learn more about car radiators here.

In case the same fuse that controls your radio controls your blinkers, try turning on your blinkers. If your blinkers do not work and your radio also doesn’t work, it is most likely that the fuse is blown. This is not to say that something else cannot be responsible for the problem; it could be a wiring issue. However, in most cases where we have this kind of issue, a fuse is always responsible.

The summary of what we are trying to say here is that if you have multiple systems on the same fuse and those systems are not functioning, it is very likely that the fuse is blown. You can get replacement fuses from any auto parts store or even on Amazon.If you’ve discovered that the problem with your car radio is a blown fuse, how do you change the fuse? This is what we will be considering next.

How to check and replace your car’s fuse

How to check and replace your car’s fuse

Before you replace your car’s fuse, first verify that the fuse is the problem. Before you can verify, you have to first locate the fuse you suspect is bad (the one that controls the radio or whatever system is not functioning properly). You can check your car owner’s manual to find out what fuse controls what. After you are done with that then you should just go ahead and follow these steps:

Step 1: Test the fuse

Once you’ve located the fuse you suspect is bad, you can pull it out to check it. Standard car fuses are colored. The colors represent different amp ratings which you find at the top of the fuse. You can pull out your fuse to look if they are blown. Fuses are transparent; you can see through them.

You can see the metal in between the fuse from the first spike on the fuse to the second spike on the fuse and you will see if that metal has melted apart and is no longer touching. If the metal has melted apart or if the fuse looks like it’s burned, the fuse has blown.

Test the fuse


A lot of cars come with a little tool located in the fuse box that looks like a pair of dull flat wide tweezers; this tool is a fuse puller. A fuse puller makes your life a lot easier when trying to remove a fuse.

This is the one that we usually use: Besides fuse pullers, you can also use a pair of pliers to remove a fuse. You can also use a thin knife, but it is not recommended. You could bridge contacts and short-circuit something if you use a thin knife.

So, unless you know what you're doing, it is not recommended for you to stick a knife in your electrical panels. If you do use a knife, do not let your knife go down to the fuse panel where it connects because if you accidentally bridge those contacts, you could end up destroying your car’s computer.

Other options for testing your fuse

Besides pulling your fuse to inspect if it’s blown, you can test it with a fuse testing tool, automotive test light, or with a computer-safe logic probe. These options are better because they will allow you to test fuses without removing them.

As cars get more advanced, fuse boxes get more and more cramped and so, it’s harder to pull fuses out. With a logic probe, you can go through and test your entire fuse box in less than a minute without pulling the fuses out.

Testing your fuse with a logic probe is not difficult. On the back of every fuse are two little metal clips that you can connect your logic probe to for testing. Logic probes usually come with indicator lights that will help you to know the state of the metal ribbon inside your fuse. If you are interested in getting a logic probe, this one on Amazon is our personal favorite:

Step 2: Replace the fuse

Once you’ve tested and found the bad fuse, you can go ahead to remove and replace it; only replace a blown fuse with a fuse of the same amp rating. To remove your fuse, it's best to use a fuse puller or a pair of needle-nose pliers. There are different styles of fuses and so, you need to have the blown fuse with you when looking for a replacement.

When the car radio problem is not caused by a blown fuse

Test the fuse

If you test and find out that the car radio problem is not because of a blown fuse, you need to check if other systems in your car are working or if the radio is giving you a radio code.

For example, if your car battery dies or drops below operating level or if it has been disconnected for a long time, your radio will not work. The radio will have a screen on it that says “code” or “enter code”. Radios that require a code are usually factory radios.

However, some high-end aftermarket radios also require you to input a code before the radio can work once the car battery dies. Except you have the code written down somewhere, you will have to call up a dealership to get it.

When you call up a dealership, they might ask you to provide the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of your vehicle before you’ll be giving the radio code.

You can find your VIN on your vehicle’s registration, or at the base of your vehicle's windshield on the driver's side, or on your insurance statement or proof-of-insurance card. The dealership will give you the radio code when you provide your VIN because the code is specific to your exact VIN only. Once you get your radio code, make sure you write it somewhere a thief won’t be able to access it.

Code requirement before your radio can work when it has lost power for a long time is an anti-theft technique in most modern cars. It will keep your radio useless to anyone who steals it as the thief must first input the radio code before he or she can use the radio. So, make sure you write your radio code somewhere a thief will not be able to access.

Checking your antenna

Checking your car antenna

Another possible reason why your car radio might not be working especially in older model cars that have electronically extending antennas is that the antenna might be damaged or the antenna fuse might have blown.

When your car radio antenna is damaged or when the antenna fuse is blown, the antenna will not be able to get reception and so, the radio cannot receive the signal from stations. If the external car radio antenna is damaged, you may need to loosen and replace it.

Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your car when installing the replacement antenna. If it’s your antenna fuse that is blown, you need to figure out the blown fuse and replace it. This can definitely help out to fix a car radio in no time. Speaking of antennas, have a look at the top 10 best FM antennas according to our expert team.

Checking your amplifier

Checking your car amplifier

If your car radio turns on but you don’t hear any sound, the problem may be that your amplifier fuse is blown or a speaker wire is damaged. To fix this problem, you have to first check the fuse if it’s a factory amplifier or the inline fuse if you've had an aftermarket system installed.

A car amplifier is typically located under your passenger seat, your driver's seat, or in your trunk. There should be a fuse on the amplifier or very close to the amplifier in the wire. If that fuse is blown, you won't have any power to your speakers and so, even though your radio turns on and is functioning, you will have no audio.

Final Thoughts

Just because your radio stops working doesn't mean you should panic. Most times, the problem is something minor and one that you can fix on your own. The battery of your car, fuses, antenna, and amplifier are basic things you can check and fix yourself if your radio is not working.

If you’ve discovered that the problem is not with your battery, antenna, radio codes, amplifier, or speaker (the two go hand-in-hand), and that the problem is not with the power to the radio (the fuse),

If you’ve tried to fix these issues and you still can't turn on your radio, then it would be time for you to call into a shop and have it looked at. The problem might be something bigger like broken wires, a bad radio module, etc. These issues are not things you should mess with yourself unless you have a proper understanding of how to fix them.


Don’t go pulling your radio out believing that you can fix it simply because you’ve watched some YouTube videos. It is easier to take things apart than trying to put them together.

Except you are truly confident in your abilities, don’t go on pulling on dash pieces. You can break or crack your dash pieces when you try to pull them out; they’re only plastic.

So, unless you can comfortably and gently take apart the dash of your car to remove your radio so you can have it taken into the shop and looked at, or so you can just replace it with a brand new one, don't go tearing it apart.

What is the most common mistake people make when trying to fix a car radio?

Most car radio problems are basic issues that can be fixed by anyone driving a car (like checking and replacing a blown fuse). However, most people panic and run to a dealership, spending a couple of hundred dollars for something they easily could have done on their own.

By simply checking your fuses for anything that's not working in your car, be it the radio, cigarette lighter, or even the car not starting, you can save yourself a lot of money by just replacing any blown fuse. Hopefully, this blog post helped you out to learn everything you need to know to fix a car radio. Good luck!

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