Why My Car Stereo Won’t Turn On With Ignition? [Solved]

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.

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.

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.


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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