Car Doctor Q&A: Radio Static or Just the Car Doctor’s Program?

Posted by

AAA Car Doctor John Paul will not abide ONE SINGLE LISTENER not being able to hear his program on Saturday mornings. If this won’t work, he’s making a house call.

Q. I’m writing about a problem that I and others with whom I’ve spoken have encountered somewhat often. As the cars (different makes, models and years) get older (7 years or more), the AM band reception begins to deteriorate. In some instances, there is a background sound (high pitched) that makes it a challenge, but not impossible, to hear. The FM bands come in just fine, which suggest that it’s not the radio itself. I live on Cape Cod and try to listen to your radio show but the static drowns you out. I can listen to you in the house and online but not in the car.

RELATED: BestRide on the Radio

A. The problem is most likely due to corrosion or a faulty antenna cable. This corrosion is all a result of the car getting older and living near the ocean. AM radio reception is very dependent on a well-grounded antenna as well as other electric systems within the vehicle. The first and simplest place to start is with the antenna. If the antenna cable is worn or the mount is rusty, AM radio performance will suffer. Poor body grounds, engine grounds and other poorly grounded electrical components can also generate radio noise on the AM band. As a simple test to see if it is the radio or the car, put a portable radio in the car, if that radio has static then the car is a problem. If the portable radio is clear then the car’s radio is a problem.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.