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[Radio]How to Improve Your Car Radio Reception?

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[Radio]How to Improve Your Car Radio Reception?

Postby admin » Tue Dec 29, 2015 7:20 am

If you have every experienced annoying signal drops, “picket fencing,” or interference, when trying to listen to your car radio, then there’s a pretty good chance it was caused by something that you can’t really do anything about. Depending on whether you’re trying to tune in to your favorite talk show on the AM band, or listen to some music on the FM band, anything from tall buildings to solar flares can adversely affect your listening experience. And unless you have a whole lot more pull with the local zoning board than I do—or you’ve figured out how to control the sun with the power of your mind—most of those issues are going to fall solidly on the “can’t do anything about that” side of the line.

Of course, there are a number of more mundane, easily fixed reasons for poor car radio reception. So before you go all Wreck It Ralph on some poor building that’s standing between you and your favorite radio station, check out these five ways to improve your car radio reception (listed in increasing order of difficulty and cost):

1. Make sure your antenna mast is extended
If your car has a manual or electric retractable antenna mast, and your radio reception has been suffering lately, then the first thing to check is whether the mast is extended. This may sound like extremely basic stuff, but it’s actually surprisingly common for manual antennas to be retracted and then left that way. Since there isn’t any mechanism to prevent these masts from being retracted, anyone can walk by and shove your antenna down. It’s especially common for car wash attendants to push these in to keep them from breaking off in the wash, and if someone doesn’t remember to pull it back out on the other side, it’s pretty easy to just drive away none the wiser.

Electric antennas that extend when the radio is turned on can also fail in the down position, in which case your radio reception will probably be pretty bad. And since a lot of these antennas are outside your normal field of vision, you may not even notice that the motor is broken unless you specifically go looking for it.

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

The first thing to check is the connection between the antenna cable and the back of your head unit. If that’s properly seated, then you may want to find a station you can tune into and then gently wiggle the antenna itself back and forth. If the connection is solid, you shouldn’t notice anything. If the connection is loose, you’ll probably notice the tuner drop and then reacquire the signal. If that happens, you should tighten the antenna and check the grounds.

And some cars may original with powered antenna, which will require power up, just as the following video shows:


3. Get a new antenna
When inspecting your antenna connections, you may find that your antenna mounting hardware or mast is corroded, rusted, or broken in some other new and exciting way. In that case, replacing the antenna will usually do the trick. Since rust and corrosion can prevent the antenna from making a good connection with your head unit, simply replacing the unit will often result in better reception.

There are also a handful of other cases that call for a new antenna. For instance, some cars come with “grid style” antennas mounted to the rear window glass instead of old fashioned whip or mast antennas. These flat antennas have some aesthetic benefits, and they can’t be broken off by a car wash or a vandal, but they often suffer from poor reception in big cities or hilly areas. In some cases, an old fashioned whip antenna will provide better reception.

4. Install a signal booster
Radio signal boosters are far from a panacea for poor reception, but there are specific circumstances where they will cure what ails you. If you can receive a signal from a particular station, but it’s especially weak, then a signal booster might improve your reception. However, boosters won’t do anything for you if the issue has to do with obstructions like tall buildings and hills.

5. Get a new head unit
On the whole, the radio tuners in car head units are streets ahead of home radios. There are plenty of edge cases and exceptions, but even a cheap digital head unit has a whole lot more going on under the hood than your average 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 issues on the rain (or the tall buildings, or the nearby hills), then your head unit might be the problem. Some low end budget head units skimp on the radio tuner quality, and it probably goes without saying that older, analog tuners usually aren’t as good as newer digital tuner.


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