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How to Tell If Your Sound System Is Blown

Car stereo speaker with a yellow cone.

Car Stereo Troubleshooting Tips for Common Performance Issues

Do your car speakers sound off? Is the sound not as clear as it once was? You might have a blown speaker or another issue with your car stereo.

Unfortunately, blown out speakers are more common than we’d like, especially with stereos that have gotten a lot of use with plenty of bass-heavy music over the years. Incorrectly installed speakers, most often with incompatible components, are another common cause for damage and deterioration.

Thankfully, there are easy ways to tell if you have a blown speaker, not to mention diagnose other issues with your car stereo system.

We’ve put together a few car stereo troubleshooting to help you get your sound back to the crystal-clear quality you want from your sound system.

Diagnosing the Problem: What to Check and Listen For

If your car stereo doesn’t sound as good as it used to, your first step should be to listen to what’s coming out of the speakers.

Sit in your parked car and turn on your stereo without starting the engine. You want to avoid any excessive noise, so keeping the engine off is a must.

Play a song you’re familiar with over your stereo. Ideally, you’ll want something with a fairly broad range of sound to help determine how your speakers are responding.

Give it a listen—how’s it sound? Give it another listen with a neutral bass and treble setting, and turn up the volume.

Keep your ears (and eyes) open for some of these issues:

Distortion at Medium Volumes

The hissing or fuzzy sound of distortion is a common sign of partially blown speakers. Listen for this fuzzy sound when turning up the volume on your speakers and take note if it gets increasingly worse as you turn up the volume.

Fuzzy, muffled, and crackling sounds are typically caused by a damaged voice coil.

No Vibration

Speakers create sound through vibration. Thus, if you can’t feel any vibrations when you touch your speakers, the cone of the speaker might not be receiving power. Power issues could be a result of a wiring issue or a component that is malfunctioning in the car stereo system.

Lack of Range

If you notice a lack of high, medium, and/or bass frequencies in your car stereo sound, your speakers are likely partially blown. Listening for lack of range is only completely possible if you know the song by heart, so be sure to listen to your favourite tunes to check for this issue.

Rattling and Popping Sounds

If the only sound coming from your woofers is a rattling sound, then your speakers are likely blown. Another sound to keep an ear out for is popping. If you hear popping sounds coming from your speakers, then your tweeters are likely damaged.

Car Radio Isn’t Working

If you have trouble turning your car stereo on altogether, or there are issues with the display and sound turning on and off, then there is likely an issue with the power, wiring, fuse, ground connection, or a loose connector at the back of the head unit.

Testing Connections

To test the connection to the speakers, remove the speaker wires from the amp, and attach the wires to a 9-volt battery. Remove the speaker cover so you can look at the speaker while you’re testing it and see if the cone is working properly. If the cone is working, then there is a problem with the connection and not the speaker.

Infinite Impedance

An easy way to test a speaker’s performance is by testing its electrical response. A multimeter tester helps you figure out if the cone or voice coil is damaged.

Set the meter to ohms, make sure the speaker is turned off, and touch the lead of the multimeter to the speaker terminals. A multi-meter reading of 1.0 ohms means the speaker is not blown, but a reading of infinite ohms means it is blown. A completely blown speaker will have infinite impedance.

Testing Car Stereo Components

Since the amplifier is the power source for your speakers, you should also test this component when troubleshooting a damaged car stereo system. A damaged amp with a problem fuse or capacitor will distort the sound of your speakers.

To test the amp, grab your multimeter reader and open the amp’s fuse box. Touch the red wire on the multimeter to a pole on the fuse. Touch the black wire to another pole. If you hear a beeping sound after doing this, then the fuse is likely in good condition, and there is probably a problem with the capacitor. If you don’t hear a beep, then the fuse is blown and needs to be replaced.

Repairing Damage

Inspect your speaker for visual signs of damage by removing the cover and looking for tears, cracks, splits, and holes. Most of the damage is usually noticeable on the cone of the speaker. You can also gently run your hands over the speaker to feel for scrapes and clean out dust and dirt.

Repairing Minor Damage

You can repair small holes and tears in your speakers with a speaker sealer. But keep in mind that while this will improve the speaker’s sound quality, it will not restore the sound back to its original quality.

To make your partially or severely blown speakers sound like new again, you will either need to replace them or have them professionally repaired.

When Should You Take Your Car Stereo Into the Shop?

This is easy. If your speakers are damaged, bring your stereo into a car audio specialist to restore them to their former glory. Car audio experts can repair damaged speakers and even reinforce them so they can have an extended lifespan.

Unfortunately, speakers and car stereo systems experience wear and tear over time. But if you know what to look (and listen) for, you can figure out the best route to repairing your stereo and having it sound like new again.

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