Having a poor signal on your car radio is always a pain, and that stands true for any kind of driver.
Even if you are not an audiophile who likes to listen to music at the highest quality, having a poor signal is something that annoys all drivers.
In this article you’re going to learn how to boost your car’s radio signal, but, in order to do that, we will first learn about the causes behind these issues.
By the end of this article, you will be able to tune into your favorite radio station and never worry about poor signal again!
- How To Boost Car Radio’s Signal: A Step-By-Step Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions How to Improve Radio Signal in Car
The Causes Behind Your Radio’s Weak Signal
First of all, we need to understand that there are many cases where a weak signal is caused by something that is beyond our power.
For example, your radio will not be able to receive radio waves perfectly if you are in an area with many tall buildings. The same is true in hilly areas.
Why? Because there are many obstacles between the receiver (your radio) and the source of the radio waves which you are trying to receive.
Another cause we can’t do much about is solar flares. They affect our lives in many ways, but did you know that they also cause interference?
Usually, most interference problems can be solved, but not if the cause is the sun itself.
Interference can be caused by any device that uses electricity.
This kind of interference can be characterized by an unpleasant sound, like a buzz, or a hum, or anything else that makes it impossible to listen to the current radio station..
RFI (Radio Frequency Interference)
RFI is another type of interference, but – unlike in the case of electrical interference – you might be able to hear much more than just buzzing noises, such as people talking or music.
The antenna is said to be the most important component of a radio system. Rightly, many of the signal problems are caused by the antenna in one way or another.
Fortunately, most of these problems can be easily solved.
Faulty head unit
So you’re not surrounded by tall buildings or trees, the weather is great and your antenna is working as it’s supposed to.
There doesn’t seem to be any sign of interference either, so what’s the issue?
If the problem persists, chances are your head unit has a problem. Now you could either try to repair it or get a new one.
How To Improve Car Radio Reception
If we were to simplify what is written in the section above, we come to the conclusion that there are 3 potential problems that you could be dealing with.
- Something is obstructing the signal.
- Faulty equipment.
If something is obstructing the signal, there’s not much you can do, unless you plan to change your location.
What if you’re dealing with interference?
Electrical interference is fairly easy to spot because most of the time you will hear a buzzing noise coming from your unit.
And, as we explained earlier, anything that uses electricity can cause electrical interference.
What this means is that you need to check every single electrical device in your car and see if anything emits a signal.
This can be done with an AM radio dial on the first station.
This AM radio will make a noise every time to move it closer to the culprit. This way, you will know the source of the interference.
One simple solution would be to add ferrite cores to the wires of that device. Or, if you feel like it, you could replace it completely.
We’ve written an in-depth tutorial on how to detect and get rid of any kind of electrical interference, so we recommend you read that one to know exactly what needs to be done.
If you aren’t actually dealing with any kind of interference, it can only mean that either your antenna or your head unit is faulty.
In a section of this article, you will find a step-by-step guide on how to solve a few issues related to the antenna.
As we’ve previously explained, the antenna is the most important piece of equipment in any radio system.
The antenna is the one responsible for picking up the radio signals from the air.
So it doesn’t matter how expensive your head unit is if your antenna doesn’t function properly.
- AM Radio (if dealing with interference)
- Ferrite cores (if dealing with interference)
- Brand new antenna (if your current one is the problem)
- Signal booster (recommended)
- Brand new head unit (if your current one is the problem)
How To Boost Car Radio’s Signal: A Step-By-Step Guide
01. Extending the antenna
This is the easiest thing you can do, but it’s good to make sure you’ve tried the simple stuff before delving into more complex stuff.
Many antennas on the market can be shortened so that their distance is shorter. If the antenna is really shortened, it certainly will not receive the signal as well.
And if you’re wondering how it even got pushed in: who even knows?
If you took the car to a laundromat, it is possible that one of the employees pressed the antenna. This is very common.
It is very common for those employees to forget to extend the antenna after finishing their work.
So, all you have to do is make sure that the antenna on your car has the required length.
Remember, this will only work if your antenna is manual. If, by any chance, your electric antenna failed in the down position, don’t pull it unless you want to break it.
02. Checking the connections
If you have made sure that the antenna is extended properly, the next step is to check the connection between it and the head unit.
First things first, check the back of your head unit and see if the antenna cable is seated properly.
Move the cable back and forth to see if the signal changes in strength. Normally, you shouldn’t be able to hear a difference.
One more thing: the issue could be somewhere along the cable, not necessarily at the end of it. So carefully check the cable for any kind of damage.
03. Getting a new antenna
Whether you have identified connection issues or the signal is still weak although you couldn’t find anything, you should consider buying a new antenna.
If the current antenna is rusty, or if it has been hit or exposed to favorable conditions, there’s not much you can still do with it.
Sure, it’s not nice to spend money on such an unforeseen thing, but keep in mind that a new, better-performing antenna will certainly boost your radio’s reception.
You will be able to find the best antenna in our “recommended products” section. It is rather inexpensive, but it does it work fantastically.
The vast majority of customers encountered problems similar to the signal, and this antenna helped them a lot.
04. Getting a new head unit
Getting a new head unit is something that should only be done if you have made sure that the antenna works perfectly, that its connection is proper, and that its position is favorable.
In some cases, your head unit may be the cause of the weak signal, as they can also break down over time.
If you have the same head unit for a long time, it is not uncommon for time to have its say and for the radio to stop working as it should.
Acquiring a newer, better head unit will definitely put an end to your weak signal problems.
However, there is one last thing that you could do to further enhance your car radio’s reception.
05. Getting a signal booster
This step is somewhat optional, because – if you’ve implemented all our tips so far – most likely your reception is just fine.
However, if you’re trying to boost your radio’s reception just a little bit more, or maybe you still get a weak signal from time to time, you can buy and install a signal booster.
What signal boosters do is self-explanatory, but they also reduce the noise, making the sound much clearer.
We have prepared a very good model for you in the “recommended products” section which, just like the antenna, comes at an affordable price despite its incredible performance.
So, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve been dealing with a weak signal. Follow our tips above and you will end the weak signal once and for all.
Installing that signal booster is going to greatly enhance your reception, and you’ll be able to enjoy any radio station like never before.
Let’s talk about how much all this is going to cost you. As you can see, most of the issues discussed above don’t require an expert, as they can be solved by yourself with ease.
However, whether you’re dealing with electrical interference or you need to replace an antenna or maybe the head unit, you’re still going to invest a little bit of money.
In order to get rid of interference, we recommend you buy a set of ferrite cores, also known as ferrite chokes.
These are not very expensive and will do their job just fine.
In the “recommended products” section you can actually find a good deal on Amazon. For a decent price you can purchase quite a few ferrite cores.
Now let’s say your issue is not caused by electrical interference, but rather by a busted antenna or head unit.
Antennas are not very expensive. In fact, a good antenna like the one we’ve attached in the next section is about 25 to 35 dollars. That, in our opinion, is a great price!
But as you can imagine, head units are a lot more expensive. Luckily, a weak signal is rarely caused by a busted head unit. Even so, if you do need one, you can also find a link in the next section.
A good head stereo unit could cost you anywhere from 550 dollars to 1000 dollars and beyond.
It depends on how much you’re willing to spend, but these are much expensive nonetheless …
A much cheaper idea would be purchasing a signal booster. The one we’ve attached comes at the incredible price of 10 dollars!
Frequently Asked Questions How to Improve Radio Signal in Car
Q: What can I do to improve my FM radio signal strength?
A: There are quite a few things you could do. First, make sure that there isn’t any electrical interference going on in your car.
Secondly, check the antenna and its connections. Make sure it is extended and that it works properly.
The last one of the culprits is actually the head unit. But for more information, make sure to read our entire article on how to boost your reception!
Q: Do car antenna boosters work?
A: Yes, antenna boosters or signal boosters do a great job at enhancing your signal, especially on those stations that don’t sound as well as other stations.
However, we must say that before purchasing a signal booster, you should make sure that your antenna is doing its job properly.
Even though signal boosters are great pieces of equipment, the antenna remains the most important one when it comes to radio.
Q: Why is my car radio signal so weak?
A: Your weak signal could be caused either my electrical interference, by obstruction or by a bad antenna.
These are the most common causes but, luckily, all of these are easy to get rid of.
Q: Will aluminum foil boost radio antenna signal?
A: This is a cheap method of slightly enhancing your car’s radio reception.
While it’s not the best, you can still attach a small aluminum flag near the top of your antenna in order to get a little bit of extra signal.
We hope that our tutorial on how to boost car radio’s signal helped you. As I explained, there are several problems that can cause a weak signal, but for every problem, there is a solution.
We recommend that you consider buying a signal booster. This will make your life much easier because the chances of facing a weak signal will decrease considerably.
Last but not least, make sure to check the attached YouTube videos!