A car audio system and speakers are a vital part of the driving experience every day, be it for work or pleasure.
Speakers are the components of your car audio system that helps you listen to music, navigational instructions, reminders, or phone calls with accuracy and clarity, and so if they go bad they can deny you all those listening capabilities.
So, Do Car Speakers Really Go Bad?
Yes, car speakers can go bad, especially if the speakers have gone through a lot of wear and tear by constantly listing to audio at excessive volume. Other factors that can affect your car speakers are failed complements within your audio system sending voltages exceeding speaker specification, external factors such as weather elements (e.g heat, moisture, dust, etc), physical damage (e.g broken grill, damaged cone, or liquid damage), and quality of car speakers themselves.
- So, Do Car Speakers Really Go Bad?
- Do Car Speakers Wear Out Over Time?
- What Causes Car Speakers To Degrade?
- The Material Used In Speaker Components
- The Placement Of The Speakers And Weather Conditions
- Faulty Component In Audio System
- Fader & Balance Control (Right, Left, Front, Back) Test
- Tone (Treble, Middle, Bass) Test
- Vibration Test
- Distorted Sound Test
- Rattling Sound Test
In this article, we will try to explain the causes of car speaker damage so you can prevent them from damage, how to identify which car speaker (multi-speaker) is damaged in your system, and how to replace them.
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- What Is A Head Unit In A Car Stereo? (Explained)
Do Car Speakers Wear Out Over Time?
Indeed, speakers may break down over time.
Car speakers get damaged due to accidents or negligence, such as increasing the volume excessively and keeping it there for very long.
They can also fail due to their age as the speakers become brittle or the coil inside gets dirty or rusted blocking its movement, unable to reproduce sound.
Over time the magnet behind the speaker can also lose its magnetic strength due to exposure to an external electromagnetic field losing the speaker sensitivity.
Additionally, speakers constructed of poorer materials are often prone to blow out during regular use while operating at higher volumes.
Also, some speaker components are more prone to deterioration than others due to extreme weather conditions and depending on where you live.
If you live in the colder part of America such as Alaska, the speaker cone can get brittle over time and crack.
If you live in the hotter part of America such as Texas, then moisture can accumulate over time due to condensation, and exposure to the sun’s UV rays or sand can penetrate into the cone.
However, if you live in a wet part of America such as Hawaii, then moisture and water can penetrate into the speaker damaging it.
It could well be a combination of the above factors, over time, if you get all seasons in your state.
When these components wear out over time, the overall sound quality of the speakers suffers.
Speaker components such as the surround, cone, capacitor in the crossover, and ferrofluid in certain tweeters deteriorate, lowering the overall sound quality.
What Causes Car Speakers To Degrade?
Following are some of the main factors that cause car speakers to deteriorate.
The Material Used In Speaker Components
The manufacturer chooses the components to utilize to build the speaker’s components.
The budget influences the design and material options and the ultimate price of the speakers.
Some manufacturers employ low-cost capacitors in their crossovers, which wear out far faster than expensive high-quality capacitors.
High-quality capacitors have significantly superior construction quality due to the materials used. They deteriorate with age.
The Placement Of The Speakers And Weather Conditions
The location and use of your speakers influence their lifespan.
It is recommended that you maintain your sound system clean since dust can impair the efficiency of your speakers and render them incapable of producing high-quality music.
The UV rays emitted by the sun damage the speaker cones or screen fabric over time.
Direct sunlight can cause its voice coil to overheat while it is running.
If you store your speakers in a humid climate, they will degrade faster.
Moisture not only deteriorates and surrounds the cones but also damages the speaker’s metallic components over time.
Faulty Component In Audio System
Faulty components in your audio system can send incorrect or distorted voltage to the speaker making it unstable and damaged.
Incorrectly connected polarity to the speaker from your audio system or amplifier can also damage your speakers.
If you have damaged speaker wires touching each other or lose connection resulting in a short circuit, that can also damage the speakers.
What Causes Car Speakers To Stop Working Or Blow?
The four common ways that speakers will experience blow-out are as follows:
Burned Voice Coils
The conductive portion of the speaker driver dissipates heat in general. However, if the intensity of the sound source is high, the driver may be unable to prevent overheating.
It can cause the conducting part to burn or melt. Too much heat will melt the coils or fuser the coils to the magnet.
In the worst-case scenario, it makes the speaker incapable of reproducing the audio signal properly or making any sound.
The speaker motor’s strength and flexibility are reduced after a certain limit. It may strain or break.
Overloading a speaker with a high-amplitude sound can stress or tear the suspension. The first thing that happens as the motor reaches its limits of motion is sound distortion.
Nevertheless, significant trauma will very definitely damage the speaker. Foreign objects and particles can harm and strain the speaker. Thus, many speakers incorporate grilles for protection.
The material in older speakers may decay to such a point that the speaker’s performance suffers significantly.
It is most common with the bubble covers and dampers of earlier speaker types.
It can also develop with other substances that erode due to regular wear and use.
Fuse Failures And Damaged Wires
Electrical fuses are used in some active speakers to prevent speaker blow-out.
If these fuses blow, the speaker cannot be switched on and may appear blown out.
Replacing this fuse may bring the speaker back to life while protecting it from high-amplitude audio sources.
Loose wiring can also cause speaker burn-out, which appears as distortion, crackling, and popping of the sound.
How Long Do Car Speakers Last?
In general, car speakers can last anywhere from 10 to 25 years.
The atmosphere has a significant impact on how long a speaker will survive.
There are several aspects to consider while deciding how long the speakers will last.
The overall life of a car speaker depends on numerous criteria such as the manufacturer, kind, quality, frequency of use, maintenance, materials utilized, and climatic conditions.
There are several vehicle speaker brands on the market today, which implies that certain manufacturers have better quality control requirements than others.
The more you use your speakers, the more they deteriorate. However, if you use them moderately, they will last longer.
But if you don’t use your speakers for a long period of time they can also get blocked due to inactivity.
If the speakers are exposed to extreme heat or rain, they will not survive as long as those maintained in dry and cooler environments.
Extreme heat may deform the speakers in your automobile, causing them to shatter or even explode.
Moisture deteriorates the exterior shell and lowers sound quality, sometimes resulting in the speakers failing.
The Car’s Age
The age of a car also influences how long the speaker will survive.
Because automobile manufacturers have been more conscious of the importance of sound quality in recent years, newer cars feature better built-in systems than earlier ones.
Playing At A Loud Volume
By turning up the volume too high for the speaker, you might destroy it.
Furthermore, playing excessively loud music over time may damage and distort the cones.
Car speakers ordinarily survive for several years if the vehicle is well-maintained.
Otherwise, the odds of something going wrong are higher than usual.
How To Identify If Car Speakers Are Gone Bad?
Today’s car audio system comes with multiple speakers e.g stereo systems come with at least 2 speakers (Righ channel & left channel) however surround sound systems come with at least 8-10 speakers for that surround sound effect.
So finding which of those multiple speakers has gone bad can become a challenge. Quite often you don’t even notice it unless you pay attention and listen to individual speakers.
Below are some of the diagnosis tips:
Fader & Balance Control (Right, Left, Front, Back) Test
Play some music on your audio system, keep the volume at low to medium, and check the controls settings on your head unit.
Locate the fader & balance control on your head unit.
Fader control allows you to adjust the sound from the front and back car speakers.
Balance control allows you to adjust the sound from the right or left car spearkers.
Adjust the fader to isolate the speaker that is not producing sound or is faulty. This will allow you to pinpoint and listen to that specific speaker while other speakers are muted.
Tone (Treble, Middle, Bass) Test
Same as above, play some music on your audio system, keep the volume low to medium, and check the control settings on your head unit.
Located the controls that mention tone settings i.e Low, Medium, and High music notes, to see if the car speaker is missing the Treble, Middle, or Bass sound effects.
Adjust the tone by placing the Treble at maximum with the Middle and Bass at a minimum, and listen to the music, this will tell you if the car speaker is hitting the Treble.
Adjust the tone by placing the Middle at maximum with Treble and Bass at minimum, and listen to the music, this will tell you if the car speaker is hitting the Mid notes.
Finally, adjust the tone by placing the Bass at Maximum with Treble and Middle at minimum, and listen to the music, this will tell you if the speaker is hitting the Bass
The high-end car speaker will be able to hit all three Treble, Middle, and Bass notes however regular speakers might have only two (e.g Treble and Bass).
This will tell you if your car speakers are hitting all Treble, Middle, and Bass, if not, then the speaker which is not is damaged.
Car speakers need to vibrate to make sound, so if you can feel the vibrations by touching the speaker, then the speaker is working, otherwise, it could be faulty or have a loose connection.
If you are unable to feel the speaker directly feel the grill of the car speaker and see if there are any vibrations. It could be hard to feel the vibrations in the car as other speakers can contribute to the vibration.
So if you compare the intensity of the vibrations by feeling the grill, that will tell you if the speaker is working or not.
Distorted Sound Test
Put on any music or radio channel on your audio system and closely hear for any distortion.
If you hear distortion move closer to that speaker and listen carefully to the distortion and compare it with other speakers in the car.
If you hear distortion on only that specific car speaker, then by using the process of elimination, you have identified the bad one that needs to be replaced.
Rattling Sound Test
If you hear a rattling sound from any of the speakers then that speaker is already blown.
Using the same technique (the process of elimination) as above to diagnose, the speaker that is emitting the rattling sound is the bad one and needs to be replaced.
How To Replace Bad Car Speakers?
Once you have identified the bad speaker, you would want to replace them with good ones.
You can either go with the exact replacement that was provided by the manufacturer or go with newer better OEM ones such as JBL, Pioneer, Kicker, JL Audio, Focal, Alpine, Kenwood, Rockford, Fosgate, Alpine, etc.
Whichever ones you go with make sure you have the correct specifications and dimensions. You can check with Churchfield (How we determine car speaker sizes for the best fit) or similar stores that sell speakers.
Below are some quick steps to replace your care speaker from the door panel:
- Open the car door panel
- Disconnect speaker connections (marked them for polarity)
- Unscrew and remove the damaged car speaker
- Connect wires to new car speaker
- Screw the car speaker on the door
- Reinstall the car door panel
Here you can find out more about how to install car speaker baffles (Boom Matts).
Car speakers are robust, but there’s no telling how long they’ll last.
After all, they are constantly exposed to heat, moisture, and dust, which can accelerate their deterioration.
Other elements that impact the longevity of the car speaker include the quality of the material used for the car speaker, the type of theater system installed in the car, the power supply to the car speakers, and the installation quality, among other factors.
The key is to take care of and maintain your speakers properly, they might live longer than expected!
Do Speakers Wear Out? And If So, What Causes It?
Loudspeaker Blow-Out: Why It Happens & How To Avoid/Fix It