10 Reasons Why Car Stereo Isn’t Working Even If Ignition Is On?

You wake up, get out of bed, brush your teeth, drink your coffee and eat your breakfast and then walk out of your house to your car. You sit in, turn on the engine and crank up the radio, but wait. There is no sound coming no matter how loud you turn it on. And, this is how your frustration and confusion begin to rise.

While it is sensible to assume that your car stereo won’t turn on with ignition, there could be a bunch of external and internal issues that you can fix before deciding to replace the stereo. Some of the main reasons your stereo will not turn on are a blown fuse, anti-theft mode triggered when the battery dies, and damaged wiring.

Let’s take a look at each of the issues carefully one by one, to figure out what might be causing the problem.

Why My Car Stereo Won’t Turn on With Ignition

If a car stereo won’t turn on with the ignition, it could be due to a problem with the wiring, a faulty ignition switch, or a malfunctioning stereo.

4 Main Reasons Your Car Stereo Won’t Turn On With Ignition

Car Stereo Won’t Turn On With Ignition

Reason #1 – Anti-theft mode turned on 

You wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some head units are designed to have a security feature that prevents the head unit from functioning after power has been disrupted or discontinued abruptly. The basic idea for this feature is that the head unit will become useless if it is stolen, which is meant to prevent the theft of the units.

Anti-theft mode turned on

In some instances, a head unit might ‘turn on’ this feature, but it might only show a vague message such as ‘code’ and fail to operate. In other instances, the unit might appear to be completely dead and to make it start, you will have to enter a code or perform some manufacturer-specific procedure.

Solution: Firstly, you need to ensure that your unit doesn’t have an anti-theft mode. If the display appears completely blank when the unit fails to power on, that is an indication that you are dealing with another issue. 

However, it is best to consult your owner’s manual to verify that there isn’t a manufacturer-specific method that you have to perform. You should acquire the help of a mechanic for this procedure.

Reason #2 – Blown fuses

Blown fuses

After ensuring that the head unit has actually failed and not entered anti-theft mode, you should move on to checking fuses. For this step, you might need to acquire some basic diagnostic tools such as a multimeter and a test light.

Most car radios are equipped with one or two fuses that you would need to check, and you may notice car amplifier fuses and other related components. One will be situated in your car’s main or accessory fuse block and will be labeled so.

Solution: You can begin by visually inspecting the fuse, and then use a multimeter or test light to check if there is a power supply on both ends of the fuse. A few head units are designed with built-in fuses, which are usually located on the back side, and few installations also have additional in-line fuses located around the power wires.

If any of these fuses appear to be blown, it could be a huge reason your car radio isn’t turning on and you would need to acquire the assistance of a mechanic to fix the fuses.

Note: A blown fuse is usually indicative of another underlying and overlooked issue, so keep in mind to not replace a blown fuse with one of a higher amperage.

Reason #3 – Issues with the pigtail wiring

If you have recently installed a bright new car stereo and it won’t turn on, the issue might lie within the pigtail wiring.

Pigtail Wires

Solution: Firstly, you need to remove the newly installed stereo to figure out why it won’t power on. The pigtail connector wire should be securely connected to the audio unit. You could also try to remove and replace it to ensure that there is a supply of power.

Secondly, you would need to use a voltage meter to check the black ground wire, the red accessory 12v wire, and the yellow constant 12v wire. Ensure that the wires have proper voltage in them. The red wire should only show have 12 volts if the car is powered on, the yellow wire should show 12 volts even if the car is turned off. 

You can test the ground wire with another metal ground to figure if it’s working properly.

In some instances, an aftermarket stereo would have a different sort of wiring than that of the OEM stereo. Some audio units might have six pieces of wiring.

You should consult the manual to ensure that wires are connected correctly. If the car stereo is powered on but doesn’t switch on, it is safe to assume that the wires are secure and the issues lie in the connection.

New car stereo
Source: reddit@Wellthatsucks

Reason #4 – Ground issues at the head unit

Poor or low-quality head units are likely to cause problems like ground loops rather than a total failure of the system, and if everything else checks out, you would like to ensure that your head unit has proper and good ground before you decide to replace the unit.

Solution: There are quite a few to check this, you could either visually inspect the ground to ensure that there is no rust or corrosion present and that it is secured tightly. Though this method does not guarantee 100% reliable results. 

You can use a multimeter to check the ground between the head unit pigtail and a nearby good ground on the body of the vehicle.

Note: In most situations, a bad ground will not lead to the head unit failing altogether, but a ground that has become disconnected will.

Reason #5 -Damaged Cables

If no sound is coming this may be another probable reason. Wrong connections may damage the joints connecting your car stereo to the speakers. Rust can prevent any electrical current flowing through those connections, resulting in no music or sound originating from your speaker system.

Check all the wires and cables if they are in a good state or check for a short circuit in the wiring inside your radio and speakers, which can also cause this problem. One must replace the corroded cables with new ones to address the problem.

Reason #6 – Fused Circuit

If your car radio still doesn’t switch on after checking the wires and fuses, certain sections of your speaker system may be fused.

Short circuits are easy to detect because they produce a hissing or sparking sound. Stop listening to the radio as soon as you become aware of the problem, as any additional voltage passing through these speakers may cause the system to malfunction.

One can resolve this issue by replacing all sound system components creating the short circuit. Because you’ll need to use some special tools to establish new connections between cables and speakers, you might want to ask for help from someone who knows what they’re doing.

Reason #7- Jack Gone Bad – Input or Output

There is a good possibility that your aftermarket car radio is defective and not functioning as expected.

Shut down the engine and move over to a safe area where you may park your car for some time to see if this is the cause of your stereo system not playing music.

Then try playing FM radio that doesn’t require any manual input. If that works, but the phone or CD attached via AUX cable does not, the input is likely defective. If your AUX jack or CD player is out of warranty, you may need to file a claim or replace it entirely.

Reason #8- Issue with The Head Unit for Power

If the fuses and connections are in good working order, the next step is to test the radio for power. Most automobile radios have two power wires: one that is always hot and powers the memory, and another that is hotishot only when the ignition key is turned on. The radio will not function correctly if these power lines are reversed.

Although you can use a test light to check for power at the radio’s rear, a multimeter will provide a more detailed picture. It may be difficult to discern if the radio voltage is less than the battery voltage, suggesting a voltage drop with a test light.

If there is power at the fuse block but not at the head unit, you are most likely dealing with a broken wire and will need to trace the power wire back to the source. It’s also possible that you didn’t detect an in-line fuse anywhere along the wire path.

Reason #9- Alternator Whine

You’re dealing with Alternator Whine if you notice a whining noise that varies with your vehicle’s RPMs and diminishes when the motor is switched off. Alternator Wine is caused by faulty ground to your head unit or speaker amplifier. Examine your ground wires and locate a better location for them to be grounded, such as the car’s chassis or body.

By detaching the RCA connections from the amplifier and inserting a muting plug. Noise from components such as crossovers and equalizers upstream of the amplifier is also removed. If the noise has vanished, look at the other components in the amp’s chain.

Connect the RCA cords from the head unit to the amplifier directly first. If the noise has vanished, the intermediate components are the source of the issue. It’s a head unit issue if the noise reappears.

When your radio is turned up loud with aftermarket amplifiers and subwoofers, your stereo is drawing too much power for the alternator to keep up. One can solve this problem in several ways:

• Add a capacitor to the circuit. Even curing headlight dim isn’t high on the list of uses for a capacitor. To provide continuous 12v power, a capacitor is used to bend the power spikes from the battery to the amplifier. In some circumstances, adding a capacitor with the right farad will curve your amplifier’s power use spikes enough to keep your headlights from dimming. The farad-to-wattage conversion rule is 1 farad per 1000 watts.

• Replace or upgrade the alternator. OEM alternators aren’t always powerful enough to power your upgraded radio. The headlight dim can be solved by upgrading the alternator to supply enough power to handle your increased amplifiers/stereo.

• Get a Bigger/Better Battery: One of the causes of your headlight dimming issue could be an old/cheap battery. Replace your battery with a newer, larger battery to handle additional power and load. Although this is unlikely to solve the problem, it may aid in its resolution.

• Invest in an Auxiliary Battery: Install a separate battery that will power your stereo. This will reduce the load on your engine battery and, in some instances, will resolve the dimming of your headlights.

Reason #10- Issue with The Connections Between Your Antenna and Head Unit

If you’re not careful, this repair might break something. Because most head units handle more than just audio, this is the case. Essential services such as Bluetooth integration, voice commands, safety alerts, and navigation could be affected if your car radio or wiring is damaged.

In many circumstances, replacing your head unit necessitates removing the dashboard trim as well. This could be a straightforward task or a frustrating experience, depending on your vehicle. The Amorkaa, 112 Piece Trim Removal Kit, has all the necessary equipment to complete the task.

Disconnect your battery’s negative (-) or black terminal before beginning. Shift the cable to the side, far from the battery terminal. The negative and positive wires should not come into contact.

While you’re working with your head unit, disconnecting your battery assures that no unexpected surges of current will damage it.

One can find instructions for removing the dashboard trim panel and head unit in your owner’s handbook. For most makes and models, Car Manuals Online has a guide accessible. Use the right nylon trim removal tools and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

If you’re having trouble moving the panel, don’t try to move it by force. Only the clip, the panel, or both will be damaged. Locate and loosen any screws or bolts. When you’re finished, make sure to store them somewhere safe so you can reattach the panel.

To remove your head unit, you’ll probably have to unscrew a few screws. You might need to use a key to loosen the clamps or a U-shaped wire tool to pull it out. (These are included in the Amorka Kit as copies.)

A Motorola plug is used by most automobile manufacturers and aftermarket head units to attach their antennas. However, other manufacturers, such as GM, Nissan, and Volkswagen, require an adaptor. Crutchfield’s Vehicle Selector can help you figure out your car’s specs and what tools you’ll need.

How To Examine Antenna?

Apart from the antenna, an ohmmeter is a handy, low-cost device that You may use to inspect a variety of different electrical components and lines. In a nutshell, it is a device that measures the resistance to current flow in an electrical circuit. A circuit with too much resistance prohibits sufficient current flow; too little resistance allows too much current to flow.

The power supply for an ohmmeter is a small low-voltage battery. When connected to a wire or electrical component, it transmits this low, known voltage to the object one is testing and displays the current resistance in ohms. One should never use this in a live circuit (one that has current flowing) since it can result in an inaccurate measurement or damage to the meter.

Get an ohmmeter with at least three ranges, or scales, that you can pick by twisting a knob, such as X1, X100, and X1000. You need to multiply the meter reading by 1 if you’re using scale X1, 100 if you were using scale X100, and 1000 if you’re using scale X1000. In simpler terms, a reading of 10 ohms represents 10 ohms on scale X1, 1,000 ohms on scale X100, and 10,000 ohms on scale X1000.

Before starting a test using an ohmmeter, switch it on and connect the two leads. The needle should be at zero on the face. If this doesn’t work out for you, I advise you to turn the calibrator knob until it does or replace the battery (last option) if you still cannot get a zero reading.

The antenna is up next. Remove the radio’s antenna cable.

Test#1: Join a meter-long lead to the antenna’s tip and its other end to the radio pin. 

 A standard measurement, usually less than 5 ohms, indicates a satisfactory electrical connection between the antenna tip and the radio pin.

Test #2: Connect a meter-long lead to the cable and another end to the antenna base. There is a strong ground connection if the reading is lower than 5 ohms.

Test #3: Join the lead to the end of the cable and other to the radio pin. The pointer will travel as far as it can on the meter, eventually settling at a symbol that resembles an 8 tilted on its side, the sign for infinity. The radio pin has no electrical connection to the ground in this state.

Wiggle the antenna while performing these checks. When the antenna is wiggled, the values should not change.

If the results of these tests do not match the results given below, the antenna is defective and should be replaced. If, on the other hand, everything appears to be in order and the antenna is in good working order, you can consider taking the radio to a repair shop or simply trading in the automobile.

What To Do If the Stereo Is Working Poorly, But No Audio Is Coming?

If you have tried and checked all of the pointers mentioned above, and luckily the stereo is somewhat working. Then you can try one of the following solutions as a quick alternative:

#1 Purchase A Signal Booster for Your Car Radio

A signal booster may be able to address your problem if your general reception is good and you only have issues with a few distant stations. Antenna Amplifiers, which boost the signal coming in through your antenna, may be helpful in such situations.

Your head unit’s tuner operates the same way whether the signal is AM or FM. It detects the signal and amplifies it before passing it to the amplifier. It’s boosted even more by the amplifier until it’s powerful enough to move your speakers.

The tuner can have issues tuning in if the signals are not competent. The signals will appear and then fade away and will not enjoy the music in peace.

Between the antenna and the tuner, an antenna booster boosts the signal by about 15dB.

With every additional 3 dB, the potency of a signal doubles. A 15 dB increase indicates that the signal entering the tuner is 32 times stronger than without the signal booster. This bump in power can mean the difference between receiving a garbled, fading signal and receiving a clear signal.

An antenna booster may disrupt your signal if you reside in a flat rural area. It also won’t work in “dead zones” created by nearby hills or big structures. They can magnify a weak signal but have little effect if no signal is received at all.

Antenna boosters magnify both the signal and the noise. As a result, if the problem is interference from competing radio waves or from within your automobile, an antenna booster will merely amplify the interference and noise.

#2 Using Your Phone to Stream Radio

Radio signals can go down for various causes that are out of your control. Ionospheric bounce can make distant transmissions detectable only at night or create interference with adjacent stations, and hills and towering structures can completely block off a signal. It’s also possible that you’re simply out of reach.

There’s still hope. You might be able to stream your favorite radio station if you have cellhave a cell phone service. Some radio stations transmit live on the internet. Locate your favorite station and stream the audio to your receiver.

How To Easily Repair a Car Radio Which Turns on But Doesn’t Play Any Sound

However, before attempting any of the troubleshooting mentioned above procedures, we recommend that you first try these three simple methods:

#1 Restart Your Stereo System

Remove the key from the ignition and turn off your car. After that, exit your vehicle and unplug the battery’s negative terminal. Before reconnecting the battery, give it a minute.

Now get in the car and turn it on to see whether the problem still exists.

#2 Reset to Factory Defaults

If your aftermarket vehicle radio’s sound problem persists after rebooting the device, you might try a system reset. Kenwood hard reset, Pioneer factory reset, and JVC restore factory settings have their guides. You can follow their instructions to complete it and see if the problem persists.

#3 Firmware Upgrade for The Radio

Finally, if nothing has worked so far and you’re certain the sound system isn’t broken, there could be a problem with the firmware on your aftermarket radio.

You can upgrade it to get rid of any minor problems in the software, which might also cause this problem. Simply download a new firmware version from the manufacturer’s website and install it according to the instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why isn’t my head unit getting power?

A head unit may not receive power due to a blown fuse, a disconnected or damaged wiring harness, or a faulty ignition switch. Check the fuses, wiring, and connections to diagnose the issue.

What color is the ignition switch wire for radio?

The ignition switch wire for the radio is usually red. It provides power to the radio when the ignition is turned on.

How do I know if my car radio is getting power?

To check if your car radio is receiving power, turn the ignition on and observe if the radio display lights up or if the radio produces sound. If not, inspect the fuses, wiring, and connections for issues.

What Is the Location of My Radio Fuse?

Fuse boxes are typically positioned in or near the instrument panel near the dash, although they can also be found under the bonnet and the back seat. If your radio, lighting, or other equipment stops working, it’s likely due to a blown fuse. Go in your owner’s manual under “Fuses.”

In An Automobile, What Is ACC Mode?

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is a system that assists automobiles in maintaining a safe following distance and staying under the speed limit on the road. This device automatically changes a car’s speed so that the driver does not have to.

After Changing the Battery in My Car, How Do I Reset the Radio?

Make an appointment with a nearby vehicle radio installation shop.
1. Turn on your ignition to the ON position to circumvent radio security codes on these vehicles.
2. Put on your audio system and check whether CODE is shown.
3. Finally, you should push and hold the radio’s power button.
4. You must hold it for around 40-50 minutes. Your automobile audio system will skip the code and turn it on within this time frame.

What Is the Problem with My Automobile Radio Display?

Your automobile radio display may not work due to a blown or damaged fuse. This fuse is located between the power line and the display device. If you replaced the standard stereo with a newer one, a blown fuseblown a fuse might cause the aftermarket stereo not to turn on.

Without The Code, How Can I Reset My Car Radio?

To reset a radio in a car without a code, do as follows:
1. Go to the owner’s manual and look for the radio reset code.
2. Go to the manufacturer’s website and look for the radio reset code.
3. Reach out to the customer support department for further clarification.
4. Visit a local dealer.
5. Contact a car radio repair shop.


If your car stereo isn’t turning on, there is no need to panic. Usually, there might be an issue with wiring, fuses, or even the anti-theft mode might be activated! All of these issues can be solved by you if you are equipped with the instruments and knowledge about automobiles, or by your local mechanic at decent prices.

Either way, you should be able to turn up the volume on your stereo in no time!

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