Why Your HD Radio Keeps Cutting Out (With Fixes)


HD Radio in car

HD Radio utilizes two different but identical channels to broadcast over analog and digital channels at the same time. This is unique because most devices can only handle one kind of stream (either analog or digital) at a time. However, the perks do have a few shortcomings as you’ll see soon, but fret not, cause I have got the solutions as well.

The signals in HD radio need to be properly aligned. The analog audio is delayed by 8 seconds to match the digital audio’s time delay. Any disturbance in this process can cause the audio to cut out along with other issues such as interference, worn-out equipment, bad wiring, etc. 

It’s time to discuss the issues and their underlying solutions in greater detail so without further ado, let’s get started.

Problems with a failing tuner and how to fix it

Failing tuner is one the most common causes that lead to HD radio cutouts. The tuner is an important piece of equipment as it is responsible for receiving signals and with time, it loses efficiency, making it harder for the radio to receive a constant signal stream, decode the data and convert it into different channels.

Fix

The easiest way to diagnose a tuner issue is via the messages ‘channel not subscribed’ or’ channel not available. The HD radio will keep asking you to switch channels even if you are subscribed to it. It’s mostly caused due to a blown fuse and changing it would resolve the issue. You may not even have to take it to the mechanic and DIY at home instead.

1. Remove the key.

2. Open the fuse box in your car and find the one for the radio.

3. Take it out and check if it’s blown. 

4. Buy a new one matching the exact specifications, any more or less can hard your radio system. CrocSee offers a collection of 250 fuses, which is probably more than you’ll ever need in a lifetime. But it’s super cheap and you might as well have spares for yourself and others.

5. Place it in the box and you are good to go. 

In case this trick fails or if the fuse keeps blowing time and again, you should have the car looked over by a mechanic as soon as possible. 

HD Radio cutouts due to physical obstruction and how to fix it

Physical obstruction is an unsolvable problem. It is common for the radio to lose reception when you are driving through a tunnel, along mountains, through a thick canopy of trees, or even next to a row of tall buildings. Depending on the quality of the radio, you may experience little to no cutouts altogether. 

For instance, I was out on a road trip with another friend of mine last winter and we came across a dense forest where our radio almost lost all connection to the outer world. However, the family that drove past us were blaring theirs at full volume. I did not give it a thought at that time but now as I am writing this, I think it’s time to change the radio set, or at least give it a proper checkup

Fix

There is not much you can do to fix the issue, especially if other drivers alongside you face a similar problem. This means there is nothing wrong with the radio, it’s just the terrain. However, if you have experienced a situation similar to mine, then changing the radio setup might resolve the issue. The P.L.Z MP-800 Car Entertainment Multimedia System in my opinion is one of the best HD radio options out there. It’s compatible with all the latest Android and iOS devices and the touchscreen makes it easier to manage your playlist.

Bad wiring leading to radio cutouts and how to fix it

Bad or lazy wiring can lead to an array of problems including radio cutouts. Car wires are carefully placed throughout the interior of the vehicle. A careless tug could disrupt the inner circuitry. Wires easily come undone if they are not properly tied together. You may end up loose ends, weak points, or even exposed edges that could short out the entire circuit.

Fix

To fix the issue you will have to inspect every wire that goes in and out of the HD radio. Make sure they are securely plugged into the head unit. Give the connectors a little wiggle, even flex the wirings a bit and see if they come off easily.

For better results, switch on the radio and start with the repairs. If you receive a lot of static even on a light touch, then the wires could be defective. Change any such connections and double-check the results. 

Bad wiring takes patience to fix but needs to be with care because it’s feasible to frequently drag out the wires for fixes.

Radio cutouts caused by an antenna and how to fix it

Antennas are easily broken or bent under severe duress and if you are exceptionally unlucky, then you could also end up with a manufacturing defect. The best way of discovering the issue is from the message “antenna not detected”. 

Fix

There are several ways you can address the problem. Firstly, you can switch off the head unit and wait 10-30 minutes before switching it on again. A simple restart almost always fixes the issue.

In case the problem is not resolved, check for physical damage. If it’s indeed broken or bent, then visit a mechanic and see if they can salvage the thing. In case the antenna looks good and undamaged then look for a lost connection. Disconnect and reconnect the antenna (if possible) to the head unit and check for a signal. 

If you are not getting a signal, then it’s time you get a new antenna. I would advise going to the mechanic before purchasing a new antenna though. 

F.A.Q.

How to listen to HD Radio on a Factory Stereo?

There are not any hardware add-ons that could enable your current factory radio to receive HD Radio. However, you can connect your phone to the car’s stereo and use an HD Radio app instead. There are tons of free apps on both iOS and Android.

Do note that this will consume your cellular data based on the streaming quality. So if it’s possible, go into settings and set the quality based on your data pack. Roughly speaking, low-quality streaming consumes about 29 MB per hour while high quality consumes 115 MB per hour. 

Some radiostations have tie-ups with cellular service providers like T-Mobile to provide free streaming service on specified platforms, so you might want to look that up.

How to connect a smartphone to your car’s stereo unit?

To connect your smartphone to the car’s head unit, you will need either an auxiliary, USB, or a wireless adapter. 

Does HD Radio sound better?

It’s a matter of personal opinion. While some prefer high-fidelity FM transmissions, others are more impressed with HD Radio. 

The only deciding factor is the signal strength. While traditional FM signals degrade over bad signals, even reverting to noisy mono outputs, HD Radio can maintain the integrity of the sound quality a lot longer. Although they appear to be lossy and cheap renditions of compressed MP3 audio, it’s better than nothing.

Check out this article for more information about HD Radio quality compared to FM radio.

Conclusion

Although HD radio isn’t all that popular, people are warming up to the idea of listening to a slightly better quality audio stream without burning through their daily data quota. Given the rarity of the technology, it is not uncommon to come across a few problems. Fortunately, you now know all the solutions to anything related to HD Radio. Stay tuned for more helpful tidbits on future tech. Until next time.

Difference between Bluetooth versio...
Difference between Bluetooth versions

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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