Troubleshooting Car Audio Amplifiers


Car Audio Amplifier Problems

A common problem in many car audio installations, especially your first installations, is a problem with the car audio amplifier. These problems can vary from crackling, popping to just plain not working. Here's the step by step process to determining where the problem might lie.


Determining the Cause of the Problem

First you need to tear the car audio amplifier down to it's most basic state. Remove all of the speaker wiring and RCA wiring and leave only the power, ground and remote leads connected. This is basically the minimum connections for the amplifier. If you still have a problem in this state then either your amp is defective or you may have an installation problem such as the amp touching metal. Check to see that the your mounting screws haven't gone through your non-conductive amplifier mounting surface. You did mount your amplifier to a non-conductive surface didn't you?


Also check to make sure your amplifier has power, ground and a remote turn on signal. It's time to break out the voltmeter and test these connections. Your amplifier should have a power on LED that will let you know when it is on. It will usually be green but can be other colors. Check your owner's manual to know for sure. Some LEDs will turn orange or red when there is a problem with the amplifier or its installation.


If it's OK in this state and you have the correct power connections then start reconnecting the other wires until you find what causes the problem. Add the RCA cables first. If this doesn't cause any issues such as the protect light coming on then add the speaker wires one at a time. If the speaker wires cause the problem then they are probably touching the metal of the vehicle.


If the speaker wires are touching the vehicle it will often cause a motorboat effect from your speakers. Check to see that your speaker wires or the speaker's terminals aren't touching in places such as the rear deck. This is usually where the problem occurs. It's also possible for the speaker wires to become pinched by a seat or other vehicle part which can cause the wire to become grounded.


If after performing these steps you still can't get your amplifier working then it may need a trip to the repair shop. If it's under warranty then make sure you follow the proper procedure set by the manufacturer. Call the manufacturer if you're not sure.


Other Problems With the Car Audio Amplifier

If your amplifier is operating OK but you have noise then you'll want to read the article on diagnosing and troubleshooting these problems. That was covered in the last issue which is located at this page.

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