5 Bad Remote Wire Symptoms

The remote wire in your car turns the stereo amplifier on and off. When it goes bad, it causes one of the most common amplifier issues (especially during installation), and this can significantly undermine sound input, cause distortion, and ruin your driving and music-listening experience. Therefore, knowing some of the symptoms of a malfunctioning remote wire can come in handy.

Here are five common symptoms of a bad remote wire:

  1. The amplifier doesn’t turn on.
  2. Battery power drains rapidly or overnight.
  3. The remote turn-on wire has voltage with an off ignition.
  4. The amplifier overheats.
  5. The amplifier’s fuses are blown.

Let’s go into detail on the above symptoms to help you determine whether the remote wire in your vehicle stereo system is faulty.

1. The Amplifier Doesn’t Turn On

The remote wire is blue. It usually has a characteristic white stripe responsible for transferring voltage to the amplifier when the head unit is switched on and connects the amplifier and the stereo. Therefore, one of the tell-tale signs you have a bad remote wire is that your amplifier won’t turn on.

Granted, other common issues may cause the amplifier not to turn on. Therefore, it’s important to first rule these out before you can narrow the problem down to the remote wire.

Other than a bad remote wire, the main reasons the amp doesn’t automatically turn on are: 

  • Your amplifier doesn’t have enough power;  
  • There are issues with the ground connection; or
  • The amp is blown.

Therefore, if your amplifier has enough power but will not turn on, and the ground connections are sound, you’re likely looking at a faulty remote wire.

It’s also possible the amp is blown. If you replace the amp and the problem goes away, you may not need to do anything about the remote wire.

On the other hand, if the amp is working, has enough power, and is properly connected, but doesn’t automatically turn on once you turn the ignition, you likely have a bad remote wire and you need to replace or repair it right away.

2. Battery Power Drains Rapidly or Overnight

Another common symptom of a bad remote wire is when your vehicle’s battery drains quickly or overnight. This comes down to how the remote wire functions, as I’ll explain shortly. See, a remote wire will automatically turn the amplifier on and off. Therefore, if you turn the car stereo or the vehicle ignition on, the remote wire automatically turns the amplifier on, and vice versa.

Considering the above, a bad remote will cause your amplifier to stay switched on, even after you’ve switched the car stereo or ignition off. In other words, the amplifier will continue to draw power from the car battery, causing it to drain power faster.

This is an especially common problem if you first have to turn the car amplifier on manually. You need to be extra vigilant and remember to turn the amplifier off after switching your ignition off. However, for most drivers who are used to automatic functioning, always remembering to turn off the amplifier manually can pose a challenge.

If the amplifier remains on when it doesn’t have to be, you risk damage to the amplifier itself, the battery, and other components of your stereo system, such as the amplifier fuses and speakers. 

3. The Remote Turn-On Wire Has Voltage With an off Ignition

A remote wire connects to the car’s electrical system, which gives it voltage once you turn the ignition on. It then transfers this voltage via a remote turn wire to the amp, and it’s this connection that gives an automatic on and off functionality.

Once you turn off the ignition, the connection between the electrical unit and amp is disconnected because the remote turn-on wire stops transferring voltage, causing the amplifier to turn off automatically.

Therefore, you don’t need to have a dead battery to know that you have a bad remote wire. Because of the remote wire’s role in transmitting voltage, you can determine whether it’s faulty by testing it for voltage using a multimeter.

I recommend the INNOVA 3300 Hands-Free Digital Multimeter (available on Amazon.com) for this purpose. It’s a UL-certified product, meaning you can be sure it’ll work properly for its intended purpose. And because it’s hands-free, you minimize the risk of contact with delicate (or dangerous) vehicle components.

To test for voltage, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Turn the vehicle ignition off.
  2. Place the multimeter’s positive lead on the remote wire’s end.
  3. Place the multimeter’s negative lead on the grounding point.
  4. Ensure that the positive lead is in contact with the wire strands located in the remote turn-on wire’s jacket.

If the remote wire is working correctly, there should be no voltage.

If you discover there’s still voltage based on the multimeter reading, it means the remote wire is faulty, and the amp is still drawing power from the electrical unit, which can result in a dead battery.

To ensure that the amp is still drawing power, turn the ignition on, and repeat the steps above to check for voltage. Typically, you should have a reading of 12+ volts when the vehicle ignition is on.

If you have the same reading when the vehicle ignition is off, that means the remote turn-on wire remains connected to the electrical unit due to a faulty remote wire.

If you have a reading of zero when the ignition is on, it also means the remote wire isn’t transmitting the voltage from the electrical unit or that the remote turn-on wire is not connected correctly.

4. The Amplifier Overheats

In most electrical systems, issues related to improper wiring or poor ventilation result in overheating. Your car amplifier is no different. As previously mentioned, a faulty remote wire can cause constant power transfer to your battery, and this transfer only stops when the battery is drained completely. This constant voltage transfer to the amplifier can therefore cause the latter to overheat. 

Most vehicle amplifiers have safeguards against overheating. If your car amplifier overheats, it shuts down automatically due to heat buildup. This mechanism is referred to as protection mode and is essential to prevent further damage to the amplifier.

By the same token, a faulty remote wire may result in a lack of sufficient power to the amplifier. In this case, the amplifier will overheat and shut down because it’s not receiving enough voltage to sustain the output necessary to improve the audio quality of your car stereo.

If you experience issues with your amplifier overheating and shutting off and it’s not a ventilation-related issue, it could indicate that you have a faulty remote wire.

5. The Amplifier’s Fuses Are Blown

Another common sign you may be dealing with a bad remote wire is when the amplifier keeps blowing its fuses, and the issue is not because of a bad grounding wire.

As in the case of the amplifier overheating, blown fuses will occur when the amplifier is: 

  • Not receiving enough voltage; or 
  • When there’s constant power resulting in heat buildup and overheating.

When the amplifier blows a fuse, it won’t always go into protection mode. Fortunately, it’s easy to determine if your amplifier has blown a fuse.

Remember, for the amp to continue to perform optimally, it needs a steady power supply to bolster the volume and enhance the audio quality.

Therefore, you’ll notice that the audio will lower along with its quality. This is a tell-tale sign that your car amplifier has blown a fuse (or fuses if your amplifier has multiple fuses).

If you want to add an extra layer of protection to your car amp’s fuses, I suggest you purchase the ZOOKOTO 0/2/4 Gauge AWG ANL Fuse Block 300A Inline ANL Fuse Holder (available on Amazon.com). Because the container is clear, you can easily check the status of your fuses without having to pry delicate parts apart, making troubleshooting easier and less risky. 


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