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In-Car Audio – Fault finding

30 June 2010 5 Comments

Ok, so you installed your new system and you couldn’t wait to hear your latest project because you followed all the right procedures that was explained to you in the previous post (In-Car Audio – Setting up your stereo).  Suddenly you came to realize that your system was better off before you re-installed it or paying professionals to do the job for you.  Well, give us a chance to come to the rescue.

There are a few things you have to check when you’ve come to the realisation that the system is not playing like every guru and salesman explained to you it would. Here are a few steps you can follow to check for faults on your system.

Terminal with power cable connected correctly

Terminal with power cable connected correctly

  1. Firstly make sure that your power cable is fastened tightly to the battery and

    the amplifier.  The amplifier will only play as good as the power it is supplied.

  2. Make sure any fuses haven’t blown.  There should be a fuse on your power cable (as close as possible to the battery) as well as on the amplifier itself.  Some amplifiers have 2 fuses depending on it’s power output or channels.  In the case that any of the fuses have blown the system will not play any sounds which is supposed to come from the speakers that’s connected to the amplifier.
  3. Make sure all the speakers connected to the amplifier is fitted correctly (positive to positive and negative to negative).  The speaker wires should be fastened tightly and correctly to the amplifier.
  4. Check to see if your RCA’s are connected correctly and that both RCA outputs from your frontloader is in working order.  If one of the RCA channels are faulty, 1 or in some cases 2 channels on the amplifier will not play.  You can connect an in-line converter to speaker wires from the frontloader but this is not recommended as you will lose sound from the speakers already connected to the frontloader.

    Example of subwoofer wire terminals

    Subwoofer terminals

  5. The ground wire which runs from the amplifier to the vehicles body should be clean and clear of paint at the connection of the ground source.
  6. The remote wire which runs from the frontloader to the amplifier should be connected tightly.  There is not much that can go wrong here but always double check every wire that you are connecting.
  7. All wires should be in good condition and free of perishes.  The amount of power provided is only as good as the least amount of resistence it has to fight.
  8. If the above is all in order make sure that the battery is providing enough power to the amplifier and frontloader.  Depending on the demand from your amplifier there should be a general power current of between 11v and 12v depending on the power usage of the vehicle such as the idling of the vehicle. Anything less than 10,5 can negatively have an influence on your sound quality and can damage the battery. In the case of a weak battery you can check the battery water, dirty terminals and weak connections to your battery. Even consider having the alternator (which constantly charges the battery) tested for any faults.

    Wire roll

    Wire roll

These are the most common faults that occur when installing a new soundsystem.  For more optimum usage of your system there are a few changes or upgrades you can make to the system which I explain below:

  1. Changing your 8 or 10 guage wires to 6, 4, 1 or even 0 gauge wires.  “Guage” is the term used (originated in America) to describe the thickness of the wire. The thicker the wire, the more power can flow through the wire which, in turn, means less resistence and better performance of your soundsystem.
  2. Upgrading to a larger size battery, not in physical size but in power output.  For the best battery option for your vehicle, visit your nearest reputable battery centre.  They will provide you with professional specialist support on choosing your next battery.
  3. Upgrading your frontloader is also a good option. Most stereos provide a power output of 45watts X 4 but there is systems out there that has a better power output of 50/52watts X 4.  Please refer to the previous post for more info in this regard.  There are frontloaders out there that has an even better power output but will put you back an arm and a leg.  That said, it is important to know that the power output of your frontloader primary has an effect on the speakers connected directly to the stereo.
  4. Lastly, the type or brand of soundsystem you are installing will also determine the quality of the sound.  This is ultimately determined on your choice and of course youre budget.  There are good quality systems out there that won’t leave you indebted but most do come with a very short lifetime.  The “you get what you pay for” rule applies here.  Subwoofers play best on amplifiers of the same brand, however, there is some subwoofers that play well with other brands of amplifiers and it’s only a question of experience that will provide you with the best combinations.

Now that we have covered the basics in installing your in-car entertainment we will cover some more complex installs in future and for your benefit we will provide you with more visual illustrations.  We trust and hope that this tutorial will provide you with a better insight on installing your new soundsystem and that you have learnt something the salesmen don’t want you to know.


  • Henry C said:

    thanks for this information, i will have a look at my setup over the weekend


  • Grant said:

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!


  • jomacher said:

    Thanks Grant. Please be sure to visit regularly for future updates.


  • Clint said:

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it


  • Richard Woodhouse said:

    The radio in our Toyota Celica is 22 years old, same as the car. It has recently started to make a single cracking sound every 2 minutes or so (loud like a gunshot almost)

    Can you help where I should be looking ?


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