How to Troubleshoot Automobile Radio Reception

Updated November 21, 2016

Although most new cars come equipped with CD players, and MP3 players also are available for many models, automobile radios are not yet obsolete. Many drivers still enjoy listening to the radio, whether it is for music, talk shows, or to hear a local traffic report as they head home during rush hour. For these drivers, tuning into their favourite radio station and hearing static or humming can be very annoying. But there are a few ways in which drivers can maximise their chances of getting the best possible automobile radio reception.

Switch your radio to FM if you currently have it set to an AM station. AM radio signals can be weaker and therefore more prone to electrical interference. If you switch to FM and hear immediate improvement, wait until you get to a more open area or the top of a hill before switching back.

Switch your radio to monaural reception if your sound system is equipped with a mono/stereo switch. This can be helpful in getting better reception in hilly areas.

Look at your car's aerial antenna, checking that it is not loose or damaged. If it is damaged, you will need to replace it. This part is crucial to your car's radio reception because without it, the metal body of most cars blocks the radio from receiving signals. So if the antenna must be replaced, make sure you select one of good quality.

Check the length and positioning of your car's antenna. To get the best reception, the antenna should be about 30 inches long and should be mounted as high on your car as possible. Make sure the antenna is free-standing, not making contact with the body of the car, and if it is a telescopic antenna, be sure it is fully extended.

Keep track of when your car radio receives the most interference. If you hear a whining or ticking in time with the engine, or the radio interference worsens when you use your windshield wipers or heater, it may be the engine's electrical system causing your problem. A reputable mechanic should be able to repair it.

Check your car's connections if you are still having trouble. Make sure the antenna is securely connected to the stereo system and all of the wiring is in place. You may want to have an auto mechanic look this over for you.


AM radio signals usually cover a wider broadcast area than FM, so you may need to tune your car radio more frequently if you are listening to FM stations. Look for a product with diversity antenna reception when purchasing a new car stereo system. This system uses two antennas, constantly switching the antenna with better reception to the car's radio.


Do not use your radio's automatic tuning feature when driving in mountainous areas or in a deep valley. The scanning feature often will miss stations because the terrain is blocking the radio signal.

Things You'll Need

  • Antenna
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About the Author

Based outside Pittsburgh, Jamie Rankin began her career as a professional writer as a news and sports journalist with the "Daily Courier," a subsidiary of the "Pittsburgh Tribune-Review." Her work has appeared in both publications. Rankin, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University, has been writing sports and pet-related articles online since 2004.