Skip Main Navigation

Car Radio Reception Article 1 of 2

You've been there. Listening to the radio in your car, taking in interesting news, excited to hear what the radio host might say to the next caller, or feeling the tension of a close baseball game. And then you get home, or arrive at work. You know it will take just a couple minutes to get inside and turn on the radio, so you wait for the station break or the end of an inning to make your move. Finally, you're inside and out of breath from running to your radio. You turn it on, tune in the station, and... huh? What happened? The reception is terrible! The signal was clean and clear in the car, but it fades in and out inside. Or it's full of static. Or it's just plain gone. You wonder if something is wrong with your radio, if the antenna is broken, or if the tuner isn't precise enough. Maybe you grab your keys and decide to go back out to your car, catch the rest of the program or the game there. Why does this happen?

Though it may seem sometimes like your car radio is better than any other radio you own, it's not really such an exceptional receiver. The small whip antenna on your car actually combines with the car's metal body to produce the affects of a much larger antenna. Your car radio is also specifically tuned for the coaxial feedline and whip antenna to give you the best reception for a small antenna. You can test the sensitivity of your car's whip antenna by tuning your radio to a weak AM station and touching the whip antenna with your hand. You'll hear a lot of static and noise coming from all the atmospheric electrical noises bombarding the radio's sensitive amplifiers.

Two of the most common problems related to poor AM reception are radio noise interference, and weak AM reception. If you are dealing with a radio noise and interference problem, you'll probably notice that your radio gets noise on AM but not on FM. That's because AM transmits on a very low frequency compared to FM, and AM is more susceptible to the radio-made noise from almost every electronic device within the vicinity.

If you suspect that your home or office radio's reception problem is caused by interference coming from another electronic source, please visit our Radio Noise and Possible Solutions page for a very informative radio interference troubleshooting guide.

Car stereos are also succeptible to radio interference. The interference you hear can be caused by your car's own electrical components. If you hear a high-pitched whining noise that changes when you step on the gas, the noise is most likely coming from the alternator, distributor or sparkplug wires. Keep in mind that audio interference problems can also be caused by your vehicle's fuel pump. The final and least common possible source for radio interference occurs when noise generated by the on-board computer is transmitted to the hood and then retransmitted to the antenna.

NOTE: In many cars with electrical noise problems just putting the key into the ignition and turning it to the "on" position, and wiggling the key without starting the car may cause AM radio noise.

The other common problem related to poor reception is basically a weak signal. A station having a low powered transmitter can cause this problem. On the other hand, you may be tuned into a strong 50,000 watt powerhouse, but you are so far from the transmitter that by the time the signal reaches your receiver, the signal has lost its stamina. As a final point, if you are listening to a strong local station, but you find that you are still experiencing poor reception, the most likely culprit is simply a poor receiver or antenna.

If any of these AM radio reception problems sound familiar, or if you're not happy with the performance of your car radio, keep an eye out for our next What's in the News article, where we've put together some ways to diagnose and fix common radio noise and weak AM reception problems discussed in this article. Be sure to check out the next article where we'll give you the answers to the The Car Radio Reception Question.

As always, please contact us with any comments or article suggestions you might have.

Send this article to a friend!
Share this article with a friend! Please complete the fields below, and we'll send your friend an email from you with a link.
Note: You and your friend's email addresses are only used once as a referral. We will not collect or store the email addresses.

(optional)
500 character max
  • This WiFi Antenna is hands down the best. It allows me to connect to a business almost a half mile away. Two months time and this baby paid for itself. I am a very happy with my purchase.
    — John A., Mill Valley, CA
  • This radio deserves five stars because it sounds great, the ease of use and preset stations. This radio will become your favorite radio, also backed by great customer service if ever needed, thank you very much.
    — Pete P., Santa Rosa, CA
  • This is an excellent internet radio. I have had the unit playing constantly from the time I received it. Excellent sound for such a small unit and the remote works wonderfully.
    — James H., Richmond, BC
  • Good sound, lightweight and comfortable; not too tight on the head. I like one feature; it doesn't tell you where to place the speakers, left side or right side.
    — Harry W., Manassas, VA
  • I purchase this product specifically for AM recordings and it has worked superbly. I wanted to wait awhile before I gave my opinion on the product. It has worded exactly as advertised and more.
    — Jack L., San Pedro, CA
  • Very nice, economical home lighting. If you're used to the white light of fluorescent bulb replacements, these will offer the same type with no toxic ingredients or damaging UV radiation.
    — Gary B., San Francisco, CA
  • This antenna does work well; however placement and the shape you have it bent into is very important. I live about 70 miles away from Toronto and receive a lot of Toronto FM stations static free with the FM reflect.
    — Thomas S., Buffalo, NY
  • I'm not sure how I gone this far in life without it. I just love it. The best sound ever from an AM radio.
    — James G., Springfield, MA
  • This device is awesome. As a contractor, I can not access my customer's network for security reasons. Now, with my office on the second floor, I can connect to a WiFi hotspot 1.5 miles away and my signal strength is strong!
    — Robert S., Tabernacle, NJ
  • I just received my EP radio yesterday. I'm totally impressed with the old school simplicity and the modern day sound quality. Thank you, C.Crane!
    — David C., Raleigh, NC
  • I have had only one, thank the lord, occasion to use this in and emergency situation and it worked flawlessly. Only one in the area with radio for two days of power loss... Thank you CCrane!!
    — Vernon P., Dufur, OR
  • This radio is totally fantastic!!! It will provide service in any condition and works as engineered and advertised. I am going to order more units for all family members.
    — Glen B., Bethlehem, PA
  • This radio is wonderful. Small but powerful. Several years of service and no problems.
    — William B., Litchfield, IL
  • Just received this little jewel... did not open the manual and I was listening to NPR within minutes... no kidding. I'm a radio guy and the audio is great and look forward to a lot of great listening.
    — Lin F., Inman, SC
Recently Viewed Products