What to Do When the Stereo Receiver Suddenly Switches Off

A typical home theater setup with connected TV, stereo receiver, speaker, gaming console, and components.

 Gary Altunian

A sudden power disruption from your stereo receiver represents a potentially serious problem even if it only occurs intermittently. You should identify the cause of the problem and fix it promptly to avoid damaging your equipment.

Check Connections

It's always good practice to make sure your equipment is off before you start poking around and testing connections. Check that there are no loose strands of speaker wire touching either the back panel of the receiver or the back of any connected speakers. Even one small strand of stray speaker wire is enough to cause the receiver to switch off, due to a short circuit. Remove loose strands, strip the affected speaker wires with the wire strippers, and then reconnect the speakers to the receiver.

Inspect Speaker Wires for Damage or Fraying

If you have pets, check the full length of all speaker wires to make sure that none have been chewed through. Unless you have wires that are hidden or out of the way, appliances (e.g. vacuum), furniture, or foot traffic also damages wires. If you find any damaged sections, splice new speaker wire or replace the whole thing. When you're finished, reconnect the speakers to the receiver. Verify a solid speaker wire connection before turning anything back on.

Assess Overheating

Most electronics have a built-in fail-safe to protect against overheating. These fail-safe systems are designed to automatically switch the device off before the level of heat causes permanent damage to the circuits. Very often, the device won't be able to turn back on until the excess heat has sufficiently dissipated. Check if your receiver is overheating by placing your hand on the top and sides of the unit. If it feels uncomfortably or irregularly hot to the touch, then overheating is likely the cause. You can also check the front panel display of the receiver since some systems feature warning indicators.

Check speaker impedance

Low impedance means that one or more speakers are not fully compatible with the power delivered by the receiver. A speaker with an impedance of 4 ohms or less may be too low for the receiver you have. The best way to confirm appropriate impedance levels is to check the speaker and receiver product manuals to compare compatibility.

Ensure Adequate Ventilation

It's important for a stereo receiver to have enough ventilation, especially if it's located in an entertainment center or close to other electronics. It's best to not have anything sitting on top of the receiver or blocking any vents or exhaust because the blockage traps heat and leads to overheating. Move the receiver so that it's away from other components, preferably in a cabinet that is less confined for better air flow. You could alternatively install a small cooling fan inside the entertainment center to boost air circulation.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Protect the receiver from sunlight. Sometimes this solution can be as simple as closing the blinds. Otherwise, you'll want to relocate your receiver so that it's out of the way.

Clean Excess Dust

Even a thin layer of dust acts like insulation. Inspect the interior of the receiver through any open vents or slots. If you can see some dust, use a can of compressed air to blow it all out. A small hand vacuum can help suck the dust out so it doesn't just resettle elsewhere.

Check Current

Underpowered circuits are at risk of damage. If a receiver is not getting enough current, it will turn itself off. If your receiver shares a wall outlet with another high-current appliance (e.g. refrigerator, air conditioner, heater, or vacuum) the receiver may shut itself off when there is insufficient current. Or if the receiver is plugged into a power strip, it's possible that you have too many other electronics plugged into that same strip. Plug the receiver into a wall outlet that isn't used by anything else.

Service the Receiver

If bad wires, overheating, or low current aren't the problems that are causing the receiver to shut off, then it's likely that the unit needs service.