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Troubleshooting Your Subwoofer

red and black subwoofer in the trunk of a sedan

When it’s an easy fix and when it’s time for a replacement

Whether it’s a strange sound or your subwoofer isn’t functioning at all, it’s important to troubleshoot and diagnose issues early on to maintain the sound quality in your vehicle. This article will list the most common subwoofer issues, what they mean, and how to resolve them.


What Is a Subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a loudspeaker designed specifically for delivering low frequencies in audio (like bass) that a traditional audio system can’t reproduce. They act as a popular add-on feature to many car audio systems and can come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Common Subwoofer Issues

Subwoofers sometimes come with issues. Here is how to identify the issues before taking the necessary steps to replace your subwoofer or individually correct the issues in the system.



A popping noise may or may not be related to the sources of sound. For example, the subwoofer can come from one connected device like your iPhone and not the radio. Or it can come from your streaming service and not your cable box. If popping persists, it could be due to an issue with the amplifier that may need repair or replacement depending on the model and age of the subwoofer.

Buzzing/Humming Sound

Like popping, buzzing can be a factor of a few things. If your audio is buzzing only when music or any audio file is playing, then it’s likely that that the voice coil of your driver has burnt. Lightly push on the woofer cone straight back (not from one side) and feel for it scraping. If it scrapes, you will have to call the provider and assess whether or not the issue can be fixed.

Not Powering On

A subwoofer failing to power on could mean that your power setting isn’t set correctly. Most subwoofers give users a choice between “Auto” – turns on after sending a signal, “On” – always on, or “Trigger” – must be connected to a receiver/preamp with a trigger cable.). If your subwoofer continues to not power on, the issue might be from the amplifier itself and will need repair or replacement.


Rattling noises means the surround (the ring that connects your woofer cone to the basket) has deteriorated, or the glue has come loose.  Check on this by removing the grill and inspecting the surround. This is a good way to determine if there is an issue with the subwoofer’s sound production.

Lights Won’t Switch Off

This might be caused by the shield of the cable not being well-grounded, which could pass a tiny bit of voltage down the line to your subwoofer. To solve this problem, ground the CATV by running it through a grounded AC power strip with CATV in/out. If this doesn’t work, consult with your subwoofer manufacturer or seek a replacement subwoofer.

Distorted Sound

Audio distortion is an extremely unpleasant sound and can involve a number of the above: ratting, buzzing, or worse. It usually means that there is an issue with the subwoofer’s cone. Distortion can either be fixed by simply resealing the cone (which you can read about more below), and if it fails, you should replace your subwoofer.

What these issues can mean

Cone Seal Failure

The subwoofer’s cone is essential in order to produce sound. The cone is sealed to the enclosure by any one of various materials, and if the seal is broken, the speaker cone moves. This allows the speaker to move too much and too fast, sometimes resulting in collisions with other parts of the system.

Driver Magnet Failure

Driver magnet failure in all audio systems, including subwoofers, happens when a cone is attached to a permanent magnet, not an electromagnet. When the permanent magnet to break for some reason, the number of magnet poles interacting with the electromagnet would change as well, making it unable to reproduce sound correctly or sometimes even at all.

Short Circuit

Short-circuiting is one of the most common causes of speaker failure. A short circuit in the wires prevents the signal from ever reaching the subwoofer. It can drastically reduce the amount of power that can be produced by the electromagnet and may not even leave enough power to drive the cone.

Lack of Power

Lack of power can occur if the subwoofer doesn’t have enough amperage reaching the electromagnetic coil. This means there will not be enough strength in the electromagnetic field to interact successfully with the permanent magnet.

Simply put, this can interfere with generating power in the subwoofer. This is an indication that you will have to replace your subwoofer.

Signs It’s Time to Replace

Many of the issues above can be complicated to fix if not done so by an expert, so whenever you run into any trouble with your subwoofer, call your manufacturer or the company that installed it for some customer service.


But if it isn’t an easy fix, replacement is the best option. Especially if the power doesn’t power on at all, or it powers on but won’t play a thing, then there’s a good chance the subwoofer is defective and needs to be replaced.