How to diagnose and suppress noise

An interactive flowchart to help you solve some common problems found in car audio systems


Buck Pomerantz

Buck Pomerantz was born and raised in Philadelphia. His parents bought their first television set when he was born. He figured out how to run it by the time he was two. Besides athletics, his formative interests included electronics, amateur radio, music, and stage crew work. He got his BA in writing from Brown University. Then he joined a rock 'n roll band as their soundman and moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. After that venture failed, he spent time in Boston, New Orleans, and Berkeley. He worked in a music store in Austin manufacturing, installing, repairing, and operating sound systems for recording studios, clubs, and bands. He moved back to Charlottesville, ran a little recording studio and finally joined Crutchfield as a copywriter. He has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren, but after a good nap he can still rock out.

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Electrically speaking, your car is a pretty active place. Every piece of electronic equipment in your car, such as power windows, windshield wipers, and the alternator, generates its own small electrical field. These fields can be conducted through the metal that makes up your car's body and chassis. They're not really a problem until they sneak into the audio components of your stereo system and become noise.

Check all connections
You can solve almost all noise problems, without the need for adding noise filters, by making sure that every component is installed properly, that high-quality equipment (especially wiring and cables) is used, and that the car's charging system is working properly.

Loose grounds cause noise
Besides the stereo system, noise can also come from the vehicle's electrical system. Often, tightening or replacing a vehicle's ground cables will clear up the noise issue in the sound system.

  • Check the battery fluid level and fill, if necessary
  • Make sure the battery leads are tight to their posts
  • Make sure the battery's negative-to-chassis ground cable is sturdy, intact, and tightly secured

How to diagnose and eliminate noise
Use the following process to diagnose and cure the most common noise problems associated with systems with outboard amplifiers. The idea is to isolate the specific cause of the noise so you can eliminate it. For a more detailed explanation on how to eliminate noise, see our Car Audio Noise Suppression Guide. If these tips don't solve the problem, it's helpful to be able to call on Crutchfield Tech Support. If you purchased your gear from Crutchfield, or purchased tech support separately, you can contact them toll-free seven days a week.

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Noise Suppression Flowchart

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