There are lots of reasons why the DAB radio in a car might not work properly, so fixing the problem isn’t always easy. On this page we’ve summarised some of the most common car DAB radio reception problems and their possible fixes.
Problem 1: You can’t receive any DAB stations
Sometimes your car stereo display will say something like “No signal” or “No service”, meaning that you can’t receive any DAB radio stations. This could be caused by a fault with the DAB radio itself, or failure to install the aerial properly.
Here are some possible fixes:
- Try a factory reset – Look in the car manual or search Google to find out how to do a factory reset. If you can’t find out how to do a factory reset, disconnecting and then reconnecting the car battery will usually do the same thing.
- Make sure the aerial is powered (if applicable) – If you are using an amplified DAB car radio aerial that uses phantom power you will need to make sure that it has access to a phantom power supply. Otherwise, the DAB radio will not work properly.
- Aerial type – if you change your car radio from FM to DAB you will normally need a new aerial.
- Replace the radio – If you have just bought your car and the DAB radio has never worked, contact the dealership as this probably means the radio itself is faulty and needs to be replaced.
Problem 2: The DAB reception is very poor
If your radio works but just has poor reception the problem is probably due to interference, your location or the position and angle of your aerial. Here are some possible fixes:
- Disconnect possible sources of interference – Other electronic devices in the car such as dash cams, sat navs and USB chargers can interfere with the signal. Try disconnecting unnecessary electronic devices and see if this improves the DAB radio reception.
- Try again in a different location – One of the most common causes of poor radio reception is your location. Poor reception can be caused by geographical features such as hills, trees and tall buildings. Some areas of the UK such as the Scottish Highlands have very poor or no DAB coverage. If the DAB reception is fine in some areas but not others you can switch to FM or AM when the DAB signal is bad.
- Change the aerial position and angle – The best place to put a DAB aerial is usually on the roof of the car or on the rear window. It should be positioned on the outside of the car and as far from the engine as possible, as electrical discharge from the engine can interfere with the DAB signal. You should also check that the angle is as vertical as possible. DAB aerials usually work best vertically, unlike FM aerials which work better horizontally.
Problem 3: DAB radio keeps losing signal
When DAB was launched, one of the claimed benefits was better radio reception combined with less loss of signal from obstacles due to a wider signal being transmitted. However, it’s still quite common for DAB car radios to frequently lose signal when you’re on the move.
Buildings, hills and other obstructions can still block the signal to some degree but this should only be temporary and the signal should soon reappear. A longer period of loss may indicate a weak signal or no signal at all in the area and you may need to switch to FM to hear a particular programme; some radios can switch automatically between DAB and FM depending on signal strength.
Retuning and Checking
If you have a relatively new car, the radio may have been tuned to DAB stations in a different location. Deleting all the presets and then re-scanning to select local ones may fix the problem.
Losing a signal at a particular time or at the start of a specific programme, typically a news bulletin, is a known problem with some BBC stations and should eventually be resolved. It’s apparently caused by a signal being broadcast before the programme starts and is intended to retune the radio to a different station, which can result in the programme being lost instead.
More frequent losses of signal can indicate a problem with the equipment. This could be due to a bad connection, the wrong type of aerial being fitted, interference from a USB adaptor or similar, failure of the head unit or some other problem.
If you can check each part of the setup, you may be able to identify and correct the fault fairly easily. Failing this, you may need to consult your local dealer or car accessory supplier, or try using a car radio adapter or getting a new DAB radio aerial.
We hope these tips have helped you get your DAB car radio working. Please leave a comment if you have any other tips to share.