We’ve all been there, singing along to a great tune on our favourite radio station when suddenly the tuning goes skew-whiff and inexplicably gives you a blast of intermittent static (or worse, BBC Radio Three). If this happens to you on a pretty regular basis, then it is more than likely you have a problem with your radio’s ability to maintain its tuning. Fortunately there are a number of ways to rectify this irritating problem.
Look at your antenna
It is frequently the case that an after-market antenna is able to garner a higher-quality reception than your car manufacturer’s stock antenna, therefore you may find that investing in a new antenna will help to ensure your radio stays tuned. If you do decide to go down this route then make sure you place your antenna as far away from the engine as possible. The reason for this is that the engine’s electrical discharge can interfere with signal reception (this is why many ‘stick-type’ antennas are mounted at the rear of most modern vehicles).
Be careful when removing your stereo
Most modern cars make use of a RF amp somewhere within their stereo set-up, the power cable for which is often located on the same connector as the antenna on your radio. If you bend a pin while connecting/disconnecting this plug (it’s easily done) then you may well find that the tuning on your radio becomes erratic and/or temperamental, particularly at lower frequencies. The message here is very clear – if you need to take your stereo out of its cavity for any reason then make sure you are very careful about it.
Give your radio a boost
Another good option for is to install a signal booster to your radio in order to increase its range (an option favoured by TV tuners). It is important to mount your booster as far away from the antenna as you can as the high-frequency waves emitted by the power supply are likely to interfere with radio reception. Although boosters can be very beneficial devices, it is worth noting that they are not always the best option in highly urbanised areas as they aren’t immune to structural interference.
Having a poorly grounded antenna can also be a cause of temperamental radio tuning. When installing a new antenna (or checking your old one), ensure you put its grounding lead in the best spot possible i.e. on a metal spot (usually on the chassis) well away from any paint or corrosion. If you want to hedge your bets further then coat the exposed metal area with silicone glue or grease after grounding the wire as this will help to prevent corrosion and oxidation.
If all else fails then you can always replace your radio tuner with a high-definition version. HD radio systems make use of ‘diversity tuning’ by utilising not one but two antennas, alternating between the two to use whichever one has the best reception at any given moment. This is another option which has found favour among aficionados of car-based TV tuners.