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[SOLVED] Car Stereo Cuts Out When Volume Is Turned Up

You’ve just finished installing a new stereo system in your vehicle. And now can’t wait to listen to your favorite soundtracks on the road.

Upon testing, you find that the sound is indeed rich and detailed. But it stops working as soon as you increase the volume. And now you don’t know where to begin diagnosing this problem.

As frustrating as it may seem, this problem is pretty common among car audio systems. In most cases, it happens due to a voltage drop, weak wiring connections, incorrect wiring gauges, or weak speakers.

7 Fixes If Your Car Stereo Cuts Out When the Volume Is Turned Up

Here, we’ll discuss these issues in detail.

1. Protect Mode on Amp

Protect Mode on Amp

The protect mode is the first thing we’ll check for if the sound cuts out at higher volume levels.

It is a red light on the amplifier, which indicates something’s wrong with it. And this problem has caused the amp to go into the ‘protect mode’ – to save itself from permanent damage.

While this mode can be activated for various reasons, the most common ones are amplifier overheating, load mismatch, or bad wiring connections.

Therefore, to get the amp out of this mode, you must confirm that your audio system has none of these issues.

2. Weak Speakers

Weak Speakers

Another reason for the sound cutting in and out can be weak or damaged speakers/sub.

While such speakers can play music at low/medium volume levels, power handling at higher levels is too much of an ask.

Some common reasons speakers become weak include aging (wear and tear), physical damage (punctures or tears in the speaker cone), low-quality build material, or damaged/burnt voice coil.

3. Bad Grounding

The amplifier’s bad grounding is one of the primary reasons behind the stereo cutting out at a high volume.

Bad Grounding

To check whether you have this issue, you’ll have to use a multimeter and check the voltage level at the amplifier’s ground terminal.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Turn off your vehicle.
  •  Set the multimeter to DC voltage mode at 20V.
  •  Turn on the car stereo while the engine is off.
  •  Connect the positive and negative probes of the multimeter to the 12V terminal and the ground terminal of the amp, respectively.
  •  You should get a voltage reading above 13V.
  •  Most people make a mistake by leaving the test at this stage, thinking their ground connection is good.
  •  Instead, at this point, you should increase the volume level to the max and watch the voltage reading as you’re increasing the volume level.
  •  Suppose the voltage reading decreases as you keep increasing the volume. In that case, it indicates a voltage drop – a sign of a bad amp grounding.

A bad grounding is usually a result of a less-than-ideal grounding spot combined with a loose/corroded ground connection and an incorrect wire gauge.

To solve this issue, you’ll have to re-examine the car amp installation and make sure it has none of those issues. You can read our post about bad amp grounding for more information.

4. Shorted Speaker Wires

Shorted Speaker Wires

Although not as common as the other scenarios we’ve discussed, shorted speaker wires can sometimes cause the speakers to cut out randomly.

Many first-time car audio installers don’t care much about cable management, which can result in the speaker wires touching a metal – causing the terminals to short out. This shorting, in turn, results in the amp overheating or protection mode, and the car stereo cuts out as a result.

Therefore, check your speaker wires and make sure they’re not damaged, frayed, or exposed at the terminal.

5. Too low impedance

Every car amplifier has specific power handling at 4 Ohms, 2 Ohms, or 1 Ohm.

It means that if you’ve wired your subwoofers incorrectly, or if they demand more power/lower impedance than what that amp is designed to deal with, the latter will shut off after some time – 10 minutes or so.

You can check whether that’s the issue using a multimeter.

  • Disconnect the speaker wires from the amp.
  •  Switch the multimeter to resistance mode and calculate the resistance between its positive and negative lead – by touching them to each other.
  •  Note down this reading. Usually, it’s 0.8-0.9 Ohms.
  •  Now connect these wires to the speaker wires and check the resistance reading. For a 2-Ohm sub, it should give you 2.8-2.9 Ohms.
  •  Subtract the previous reading from the new one, and you’ll get the impedance value for your subwoofer/speaker. 2-8-0.9=1.9 Ohms.
  •  For a 2 Ohms sub, the impedance value between 1.8-2.2 Ohms indicates that it’s good.
  •  On the other hand, if it’s 1 Ohm and your amplifier is designed to work at 2 Ohm or higher, the impedance is too low. And it is causing the amp to go into protect mode or cut the sound in and out.

6. Alternator Issues

Alternator Issues

In rare cases, a faulty alternator can cause the car stereo to cut out when higher volume levels.

The alternator powers the car’s audio system the same way it powers other vehicle systems.

If the amplifier becomes more demanding, the alternator will have difficulty keeping up with it. And you’ll have a voltage drop, resulting in sound cutting out.

If you hear grinding or whining sounds or the alternator belt is loose or damaged, the alternator is weak for your car audio system.

You’ll have to upgrade your alternator and the big-3 electrical wires to solve this issue.

7. Other Less-Common Reasons

Apart from the issues we discussed above, there can be some additional reasons why your car stereo cuts out when you turn up the volume, such as:

  • Incorrect wire gauge
  •  Damaged wiring
  •  Improper installation
  •  Too many speakers/subs for an amplifier
  •  Poor head unit ground connection


So these are some of the issues why your car stereo is cutting out at higher volume levels.

If you’ve followed the above steps and your issue still exists, I recommend consulting a mechanic.

That’s because it looks like one of your audio components, radio or amplifier, has an internal failure and needs to be repaired or replaced (depending on the degree of the damage).

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Bluetooth Cut In And Out On My Car Stereo?

The most common reasons for Bluetooth connection cutting in and out are signal interference, low phone battery, multiple Bluetooth connections, and hardware incompatibility.

Why Does My Amp Keep Blowing Fuses When I Turn It Up?

If the amp blows a fuse every time you turn it up, it indicates impedance mismatch, overloading, short circuit, and internal failure.

Does High Bass Break Car Speakers?

Every car speaker has different specs/materials determining how much power it can handle. Pushing your speakers beyond that limit can damage the surround and spider or burn out the voice coil.

What Causes Car Subwoofers To Cut Out?

Some common reasons car subwoofers cut out include overheating, loose/damaged wiring, insufficient power, and a damaged subwoofer.

Why Does My Radio Keep Losing Sound?

The leading causes for car radio intermittently losing sound include radio/amp overheating, firmware issues, and faulty head unit.

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I'm Miles Walker and I'm the founder of CarAudioInsight. I've been in the car audio industry for over 20 years and have a wealth of knowledge to offer on all things related to car audio. I graduated from UC Berkeley with an electrical engineering degree, so you can rely on me for top-notch expertise and advice when it comes to upgrading your sound system.

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