Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Bernard Juchli
You want to know the reason for car radio not working but CD does. A car is built to make transportation easier and convenient but the radio brings entertainment.
Over time, radios in cars are becoming standard equipment, and presently really advanced. Vehicle systems today feature not just radios but CD players, built-in subwoofers, and satellite radio, just to mention a few.
When your car radio no longer works but the CD is, the issue is fixable—it could even be a wiring problem you can DIY. However, it’s usually advisable to contact a technician if you have no basic skills, or develop one.
How radio works in a car
The operation of a radio in your car is quite complex. The radio relies on power from the alternator when you start the engine. If the engine is not running, the radio draws power from the battery, which could be one of the reasons your battery drains when there’s a problem.
The radio is wired to the battery and alternator, and also to the various speakers installed across the cabin.
The fuse is also an important component here—your car radio needs at least one fuse to operate. Nonetheless, depending on your vehicle make, model, or model year, as well as the car trim package, the radio may require multiple fuses to run.
The function of fuses is to protect electrical components from power spikes. Thus, fuses blow when excessive current flows through the system.
Your car’s radio typically operates in tandem with other audio components. In vehicles with higher-end car audio systems, you’d have an onboard amplifier. And the system stops working whenever the amp does not get electricity.
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Radios not working in a car is most common with aftermarket equipment. Nonetheless, even OEM equipment can run into problems, ranging from the damaged antenna to shorts and blown fuses.
Car radio not working but CD does: why and how to fix
It can be challenging to troubleshoot the radio problem of your car since the cause could be any of the numerous potential problems. The common reasons and fixes for your car radio not working while CD does include the following:
1. Broken antenna or tuner
Antenna tuners are particularly necessary for use with transmitters. If the antenna or tuner is faulty, your car radio will not work but the CD does. A damaged antenna prevents the radio from receiving the station signal.
How to fix
An experienced technician will advise you on this. However, when the tuner is faulty, you may have to replace the head unit.
2. Short in wiring
Wiring short is a common problem—a short in the wire will prevent the radio from playing but the CD will work.
Here, one or multiple wires are shorted out in the audio system. The symptom is usually either an erratic radio operation or no operation at all.
The consequence is blown fuses in rapid succession. If the short is not fixed, don’t bother with fuse replacement—it’ll get blown again.
How to fix
You need a technician to diagnose and fix the short problem.
3. Blown fuse
Another common cause for car radio refusing to work while CD does is a blown fuse. If your fuse blows, the radio will not turn on—it could be one or multiple blown fuses, depending on how many fuses your vehicle make and model uses. This could also be the radio a radio will turn on but not sound.
How to fix
The simple solution is to find and replace the blown fuse. First, the radio needs to be tested for power and ground—use a voltmeter. Finally, have the fuse replaced following your automaker’s instructions online or according to the owners manual.
4. Theft protection measures
If your vehicle radio, typically factory/stock systems, has a security feature that stops it from working after a power flow disruption, this could be the reason it is not working.
This anti-theft feature merely makes the radio useless until the owner restores it following certain steps. The radio may have been tampered with by someone else.
This could be a result of a dead or disconnected battery. The radio should indicate the problem with a limited or different display than what you normally see.
How to fix
The fixing measure depends on your car model, so different, refer to your owner’s manual if you suspect this to be the problem.
5. Faulty speaker wires
Perhaps, the radio is running but the connected speaker wires are faulty. The radio will not work if this is the case but the CD will still work.
Speaker wires run through the cabin and connect each speaker to the head unit or the amp.
How to fix
What to expect from a mechanic
Contact a professional mobile mechanic or go to a repair shop. A mobile mechanic will visit your home or workplace and inspect the audio system to know the cause of your radio not working.
Voltage testing, trace wiring, and blown fuse inspection, to mention a few, may be performed by the technician, to determine why the CD is still working but radio won’t.
A detailed inspection report, including the cost and scope of necessary repairs, will be given to you.
Remember, modern automotive audio systems are quite complex, so a number of problems are likely to be the cause. After the professional detects the problem, you will get the recommended repair steps to get your radio working again.
A car radio that won’t work won’t stop your car from driving. But considering the inconvenience and limited entertainment options, this can be a problem. You need to be aware of what goes on around you after all. If your car radio won’t work, have a mechanic quickly look into it to get you up to date again with your environment.