There’s nothing more frustrating than enjoying your crisp and satisfying music while driving only to hear static engulfing your favorite tracks.
Don’t fret – We are here to help!
Electrically speaking, your car is a noisy environment. Every piece of electronic equipment in your car, such as starter, alternator, power windows, and windshield wipers, generates electrical interference which can be conducted through the metal that makes up your car’s body and chassis. These interferences are not really a problem until they get picked up by the vehicle’s sound system and sneak into the audio components of your stereo system and become noise.
In this guide, we will help you diagnose and treat static noise from car speakers. We’ll also distill a few tips to make your speakers sound their best.
So without any further ado, let’s get into it!
How to get rid of static noise in car speakers
First and foremost, it must be noted that noise in car audio systems commonly comes in these three forms:
- Radio static
- Amplifier whine
- Buzzing speakers
The trick in getting rid of car stereo static noise is to the determine the source of that noise. The latter can be picked up by your sound system from a number of sources. This is especially true if you’ve got a complicated setup consisting of multiple speakers, subs and amplifiers. The type of noise you’re hearing, however, can tell a lot about which component is the culprit.
You can solve almost all car stereo static noise problems, without the need for adding noise filters, simply by checking all the connections and making sure that every component is installed properly, that quality equipment (especially wiring and cables) is used, and that the car’s charging system is working properly.
You can use the diagnostic flowchart below as a guide to walk you through the troubleshooting process and pinpoint the source of car audio noise.
Diagnosing noise problems in your car audio system
1. Noise in speakers
Splurging on the most expensive in-dash receivers, amplifiers and audio signal processors… you name it, won’t make your sound system any better without good sounding speakers. Speakers are the only link between your equipment and your ears.
With said that, having solid speakers is a must. And swapping your old stock speakers with quality aftermarket ones is the single most cost-effective improvement you can make to your car audio system.
So, if your car speakers are crackling, pop noise when turned on, or produce unusual distortion or distinct buzzing at high volume levels, then you definitely need to check each speaker individually by using the balance and fader controls, or simply by removing speaker grill to visually inspect the speaker. If one of the speakers for example is completely torn apart, then you need to replace it.
Furthermore, a speaker that is not securely tightened to its housing will vibrate and sound horrible. The buzzing that is caused by the vibration of the speaker will greatly interfere with the sound. To prevent that, use foam baffles behind the speakers to get rid of vibrations and make sure the screws are well-tightened.
How to Diagnose Blown Car Speakers
Even the highest-quality audio systems wear out over time. This is especially true if you’ve been pushing your speakers really hard with plenty of bass-heavy tracks over the years.
If you suspect that one of your car speakers is blown, look for the following tell-tale signs when diagnosing the problem.
Start by playing a music track that you are most familiar with, and one that has a full range of notes and a clear bass line.
Next, turn the volume up and make sure to equalize the bass and treble at a neutral position. Now, listen carefully to how the speakers sound.
- Distortion at Moderate Volume: A partially blown speaker will produce an unmistakable “fuzz” or “hiss” that’s very easy to detect once you know what to listen for. Fuzzy sounding speakers are more often than not the result of damaged voice coils. These distortions increase as the volume is turned up.
- Incomplete range: Good sounding speakers should be more or less able to handle everything your throw at them – from the highest to the lowest frequencies. On the contrary, a blown speaker will have serious difficulties rendering ultra-high frequencies and bass. Unless the voice coil of a speaker is fully detached from the cone, the speaker will still able to deliver some audio though it will be incomplete. So, if you are listening to a song that you know well, you will easily identify chunks when certain mid, high and bass frequencies are lacking or are heavily altered. These lackings combined with heavy alteration of frequencies is a sure sign of a blown speaker.
- Audible Rattling and Popping: Besides classic fuzz and distortion, there are other red flags that point to major problems. For instance, hearing nothing but ratting noise from the speakers indicates that your speakers are almost certainly blown. However, if you’re hearing a popping sound, it could mean many things including but not limited to: a broken or bad wire connection, a small rip or tear in the speaker cone. If you hear speakers popping noise when turned on, it could be just a surge in your output settings from the amplifier.
By touching – Lack of vibration
Loudspeakers work by converting electrical energy into mechanical energy (motion). They’ll play loud when the cone vibrates a large amount, or soft when it moves a small amount.
That said, vibration is a common thing about speakers especially when you turn it up. So, by simply placing your hand on a speaker’s cone, you can tell whether or not it’s damaged.
A properly functioning speaker will generate some vibrations that you can feel on your hands. If you can’t feel any vibration, that’s a sign the cone isn’t receiving any power.
Bear in mind that testing for vibrations with your palm on smaller speakers may not work accurately, as the latter aren’t powerful enough to generate vibration you can feel.
By using a multimeter
One of the best and easiest ways of diagnosing a speaker is by checking its electrical response with the help of a multimeter. This way, you’ll be able to quickly determine whether your speaker’s voice coil or cone are busted.
Place one meter lead on the speaker’s positive terminal and the other lead on the negative terminal. For a speaker that is functioning normally, its impedance reading on the device should be what it was rated at. But if a speaker has an extremely high, or even infinite impedance, it’s blown.
By Visual inspection
To perform a visual inspection, remove the speaker grill, unmount the speaker. Check the latter for tears, cracks, or holes on the cone. A speaker cone is the most susceptible part to blow. This is especially true if you’ve been pushing the speakers really hard.
If you don’t see any damages, use your fingers to gently push the edges of the cones to make sure there are no splits.
If the cone is in good condition, open up the voice coil to check the state of the wires. This is quite important if the speaker was not producing any sound at all. A detached wire could be prevent current from going through the speaker.
2. Noise in speaker wiring
Noise can also sneak into your system from the speaker wires. It goes without saying that you should never run a power cable across or near speaker wires. Sure, modern speaker cables are well shielded, but if you’re getting hum and it’s not a ground loop, this could well be the cause.
To rule out speaker wiring noise, you need to test the wires. To do that, turn the system off and disconnect the speaker wires from the amps.
Now, start the car. If you’re still hearing car speaker buzzing with the radio off, then it’s being radiated into the speaker wires.
To get rid of it, you may need to reroute the wires to move them away from the source of the noise, or, as a last resort, wrap them with magnetic shielding foil.
3. Noise and your new receiver
If you’ve just installed a new aftermarket in-dash receiver, you need to make sure it is securely grounded. Receiver noise is often caused by two things: poor ground wire connection and a poorly grounded antenna. The former is one of the most common causes for introducing noise into your audio system.
Additionally, Since the antenna lead can act as a ground (thereby enabling a new receiver to operate without its ground wire properly connected), the antenna lead can also cause noise problems.
You need to check if noise is present on all sources — CD, auxiliary/USB, AM, and FM. If you hear car radio static on all stations and it only kicks in when you turn on the radio, then it’s most likely coming through your antenna lead.
To make sure the antenna is the culprit, unplug it. If the noise goes away, try an antenna noise suppressor. The latter sits in-line between your antenna and your in-dash receiver, and prevents noise from entering your car stereo system.
4. Radiated noise
If the antenna isn’t what’s causing the noise, try pulling the receiver from the dash while a CD is playing. If the noise goes away, it’s highly likely that it’s being radiated into your system due to the receiver’s proximity to a noise producer (like air conditioning, navigation systems …etc). If any of these is causing the noise, you may need to reroute the cables away from the back of the receiver to minimize the radiated noise.
You might also want to consider using magnetic shielding foil to shield the wire or component that’s radiating the noise into your system or go a step further and shield the back of the receiver.
5. Engine noise and alternator whine
Engine noise or alternator whine is characterized by whining noise from speakers that varies with engine speed (RPM).
If engine noise is your culprit, you can get rid of it by installing an alternator noise filter in-line between the battery and the alternator. However, it must be noted that alternator noise most often comes from a loose or intermittent ground connection.
6. Noise in the patch cables
Cables connecting your components can also pick up noise. To test this, you need to disconnect the cables from your amp. Insert one side (left or right) of a spare patch cable into the amp’s left and right input jacks.
Now, turn on your system and engine. Is the noise gone? If so, re-plug the cables to the amplifier and unplug them from the receiver. If the noise persists, your patch cables are definitely picking it up. Try re-routing them, and move them away from the power cable.
You might also want to consider changing your RCA cables, as low quality ones don’t have the insulation required to deflect noise in a metallic, highly conductive automobile.
If you’ve changed the cables with quality ones and re-routed them but the noise is still there, you can opt for a ground loop isolator which sits between the receiver’s preamp outputs and your amp to minimize this problem.
7. Noise and your new amplifier
Poor amp grounding and poor mounting can also lead to noise. Mounting small rubber feet beneath your amp will help isolate the later from the your car’s chassis. which represents a potential source of noise. Thereby, any contact between your amp’s metal casing and your vehicle’s body could lead to noise problems.
If the amp is mounted near something that could be radiating noise, try pulling it away and see if the noise is gone. If it’s gone then you definitely need to permanently move the subwoofer away from that radiating noise source.
If you’ve done everything above, but the noise still persists, Check the amp’s gain structure. Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure to quiet any system noise, which sounds like a constant, low hiss.
- Turn the engine off
- Insert a CD and put your CD player on pause.
- Carefully listen to the system with the volume way down, then way up.
- Play some music.
- If you hear hiss or static in either way, try reducing the gain on your amplifier a bit.
- Keep experimenting until that hiss is gone or at least reduced to as much as possible.
8. Noise from the electrical system
If you’ve tried all of the noise-fighting tips we listed above and you’re still getting static noise in car speakers, then it’s highly likely that your vehicle is the culprit.
That static, whine, or hiss noise you experience in your vehicle can actually be a red flag of a serious problem; It could be one of the first signs that your battery, alternator, or even spark plugs need to be replaced.
If you haven’t turned on your vehicle for a very long time, you may have ignition noise. It’s a ticking noise that gets worse with acceleration. To get rid of it, you may need a tune-up involving resistor-type spark plugs, shielded carbon-core spark plug wires, distributor cap, and coil.
If the noise doesn’t go away, then your ignition system may be poorly grounded and is broadcasting ticks to other items such as your air cleaner, hood, exhaust system, etc.
It’s possible that grounding one of the under-hood components will get rid of noise. With car running and sound system turned on, try grounding each of these different components of the car.
A good, cost-effective improvement for getting rid of electrical system noise is called “The Big Three” upgrade. The “Big 3 upgrade” is an upgrade to your vehicle’s factory wiring in three key locations (hence, the Big 3) to optimize the performance of the alternator, and to allow current to flow more freely and easily to all components. It also provides a low resistance path between the charging system and the audio system,
Big 3 upgrade replaces or augments three key cables in the electrical system with 1/0 or 4 gauge wires:
- The battery ground to chassis wire
- The chassis to engine block wire
- The alternator plus to battery plus wire
How to make your speakers sound their best
Adding new aftermarket speakers to your car sound system will make a night and day difference in terms of sound quality. But there are several easy and cost-effective ways to make them sound even better.
1. Install Bass Blockers
There’s no denying that those full-range speakers in your car are capable of handling some low frequency notes. However, why make them? Why put a lot of strain on them? That’s just like laying out the welcome mat for distortion.
You’re better off with a subwoofer. The latter can take care of the punchy grunt in the low end of the frequency spectrum, whilst the speakers and components handle the part of the audio spectrum for which they are designed and that is the mid-bass on up.
With that said, If you like to crank it up and enjoy clean and undistorted music, you need to consider Bass Blockers. The latter are installed in-line on your speaker wires and do just what their name suggests; Bass blockers improve the efficiency of smaller speakers by eliminating lower frequencies that the speakers can’t handle.
Bass blockers are available in variety of frequency response ranges for just about every aftermarket speaker size.
2. Use sound deadening materials
The idea behind “vibration damping” is to apply a layer of sound-deadening material to metal surfaces that are vibrating, or resonating sound. This extra layer absorbs vibrations, thus “deadening” a lot of road noise (like tire hum, engine noise, wind, etc.) that can interfere with your music, thereby improving speaker performance by providing a more stable mounting platform.
Creating an acoustically accurate space will make your music sound much better. Vibration damping is also one of the best ways to tame a trunk-rattling subwoofer for tighter bass and less distortion.
3. Install foam baffles behind speakers
Another great way to bring out the full potential of your car speakers is to install foam baffles behind your speakers.
Durable speaker baffles will extend speaker lifetime by protecting them from dust, moisture, and grime. Additionally, by forming a tight mounting seal around the speaker, the baffle can actually help cut down panel-to-frame resonance allowing for better and undistorted sound.
This extra material in the speaker cavity helps improve door acoustics and reduces door panel noise by dulling the external vibrations that can sneak into your sound system via the back of the speaker cone.
Speaker baffles come in a variety of sizes to match up perfectly with the size speakers you are installing.
There’s no denying that noise can be introduced into your sound system from a number of sources. Therefore, the best and most effective ways to get rid of static noise in car speakers is by figuring out what causes it in the first place.
Having said that, use a checklist, read all the hints and explanations we listed above, and start eliminating possibilities until you pinpoint the culprit.
You can also use our diagnostic flowchart (above) as a guide to walk you through the troubleshooting process and solve some of the most common problems found in car audio systems.