Identify and Remedy Issues With Your Car Stereo Speaker

Person's Finger Touching Music System In Car
Teerapat Seedafong / EyeEm / Getty Images

When you try listening to something through your radio, you might hear a horrible whining noise and assume that the engine is making noise through the speaker and that a speaker replacement is imminent.

Car speaker whine is unwanted noise that has been introduced to the system at some point. It’s usually possible to fix it without replacing any expensive components like your head unit, but it can be time-consuming and difficult to track down.

We'll cover some of the basics and hopefully, point you in the right direction on what to do about the whining noise.

Speaker Whine From Alternators

One of the most common causes of speaker whine comes from the vehicle’s alternator. If the noise changes in pitch or intensity when the engine RPM changes, then it’s a safe bet that you’re dealing with some type of engine noise, and interference from the alternator output is a likely source.

The issue at hand is that noise from the alternator is getting into your head unit via the power cables. You can deal with the problem in one of two ways:

  • Install a noise filter between the alternator and the battery
  • Install an inline noise filter in the head unit power cable

In either case, the alternator will still be "generating noise" but it won’t be able to get into your head unit and cause the speakers to whine.

Non-Alternator Engine Noise Problems

If you have an external amplifier, then you can pick up a lot of other engine noises that don’t have to do with the alternator. They won’t necessarily be whining noises, but they can be.

In this case, the problem almost always has to do with a poor amplifier ground, which can be fixed by ensuring that the amp is properly grounded. In some cases, you may also need to isolate the amp or install a noise filter.

Other Noise Problems

Just about every component and wire in a car audio installation has the potential to introduce unwanted noise into the equation, so it can be incredibly difficult to track down the culprit. If your speakers only whine when you’re listening to the radio, but not when listening to an MP3 player or a CD, then the problem is somewhere in your antenna or antenna cable.

Patch cables, ground wires, and other components can also pick up unwanted noise. In the case of speaker wires and patch cables, fixing the problem is often a simple matter of repositioning them so that they are far enough away from power cables and other potential noise sources, and ground issues are often solved by cleaning the ground location to ensure a solid connection.

Of course, the biggest challenge is actually identifying the source of the noise in the first place.