When you experience annoying signal drops or interference when trying to listen to the car radio, then there is a very good chance that it was caused by something you can’t do anything about.

A person cannot get good reception on the car radio
Lifewire / Bailey Mariner

Whether you’re trying to tune in to your favorite AM talk show or listening to FM music, everything from tall buildings to solar flares can take a toll on your listening experience. And if you don’t have a lot of traction with the local zone board — or haven’t figured out how to control the sun with the power of your mind — most of these problems will be decidedly resolved on the «can’t do anything about that» side of the line.

However, if your problems with reception persist, you are probably dealing with a hardware problem, most of which are easy to fix.

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Is your antenna mast extended?

Ястреб на крыше автомобиля атакует автомобильную антенну с помощью когтя

John Cancalosi / Photo Library / Getty Images

There are many ways a manual antenna mast can end up getting hit, such as if the auto attendant forgot to pull it out, or perhaps a large bird decided to perch on top of it. Whatever the case, if you have a retractable mast and your reception has been terrible lately, it’s definitely worth checking that out first.

Because the antennas work by picking up radio waves it goes without saying that a collision in a car can make it difficult for the antenna to work properly. Pulling it back in if you find yourself pushed might be all it takes to greatly improve your reception.

This may sound like a very simple thing, but it’s actually amazing that hand antennas are retracted and then left that way. Since there is no mechanism to prevent these masts from retracting, any can go through and push your antenna down. Car washes on duty push them through especially often to keep them from breaking during a wash, and if someone doesn’t remember to pull it back out the other side, it’s pretty easy to just shoo anyone even wiser.

The electrical antennas that extend when you turn on the radio can also fail in the down position, in which case your radio reception is likely to be quite poor. And since many of these antennas are out of your normal field of view, you may not even notice that the engine is broken unless you specifically look for it.

While you can use pliers to pry out a faulty electrical antenna, this can strip gears or damage the motor.

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Check antenna connections

Если вы едете на более старом автомобиле, сначала проверьте подключение антенн, потому что это может быть проблемой.

Szymon Kaczmarczyk/Getty Images

One of the most common causes of poor car radio reception is a bad antenna connection. If the antenna cable is loose in head unit or any connections are loose, worn, or corroded, you will often find it difficult to tune in to your favorite radio station.

The first thing to check is the connection between the antenna cable and the back of the head unit. If it is set correctly, you can find the station to which can tune in, and then gently rock the antenna back and forth. If the connection is strong, you should not notice anything. If the connection is lost, you will probably notice the tuner drop and then get a signal again. If this happens, you should tighten the antenna and check for grounding.

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Get a new antenna

Новая выдвижная автомобильная антенна

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When checking the antenna connections, you may find that the antenna’s fasteners or mast are corroded, corroded, or otherwise damaged. In this case antenna replacement usually does its job. Because rust and corrosion can prevent the antenna from making a solid connection to the head unit, simply replacing the head unit often results in better reception.

There are also a few other cases where a new antenna is required. For example, some vehicles are supplied with mesh antennas mounted on the rear window instead of conventional whip or mast antennas. These flat antennas have some aesthetic advantages and cannot be broken by a car wash or vandal, but they often suffer from poor reception in big cities or hilly areas. In some cases, a whip antenna will provide better reception.

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Install signal booster

Wifi символы над городом ночью

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flares — radio carriers far from a panacea for poor reception, but there are certain circumstances under whom they will treat , what worries you. If you can get a signal from a particular station but it is particularly weak, a signal booster can improve your reception. However, amplifiers won’t do anything for you if the signal degradation is due to obstructions such as tall buildings and hills.

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Get a new head unit

Две женщины склоняются над приборной панелью

Lawrence Mouton / PhotoAlto RF Collections / Getty Images

In general, radio tuners in car head units are much more advanced than home radios. There are many edge cases and exceptions, but even a cheap digital head unit has a lot more going on under the hood than a regular clock radio or boom box.

That being said, not all head unit radio tuners are created equal. So if you’ve checked everything else and you can’t blame your reception problems in the rain (or tall buildings or nearby hills), then it might be time replace head unit .

Some low-end budget head units skimp on radio tuner quality, but even if your radio was fine when it was new, glitches happen. So if nothing else works, you might just have a broken car radio in your hands.

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