How to Fix a Car CD Player

car cd player

If you own a vehicle, then knowing how to fix a car CD player is important knowledge to have. If you own your car for a long time, you will likely be faced with the task of fixing or replacing the player in your car at some point.

The Basics of How to Fix a Car CD Player

Just because a car CD player is electronic doesn't mean that you should be afraid to open it up and attempt to do your own repairs. Many people assume that a CD player is a complicated electronic device, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The player is actually made up of just a few mechanical parts that can break, and repairing those parts is sometimes surprisingly simple.

Simple Troubleshooting

Before you decide to open up the player and attempt more invasive repairs, try some of these more basic troubleshooting tips to figure out how to fix a car CD player:

  • Is the problem related to the volume or quality of the sound? This could be related to the speakers and not the main unit of your audio system. Take the time to remove the covers from the speakers in your car and make sure there's no trapped dirt or damage. Also check the electrical connections on the back to make sure they are still firm and make a good connection.
  • If the speakers look fine, another issue that could affect sound is the quality of the connections behind the head unit of your system. You'll need to open the dash to access the unit (see your owner's manual or an auto repair manual for your car). Make sure all channel (speaker) connections are solid and make good contact.
  • When you insert a disc, is the CD display blank? While it sounds simple, one of the most common mistakes people make is inserting a CD upside down. This will cause the player to act as though it isn't working.
  • Is the music skipping or stopping completely? This is commonly caused by dirty or damaged tracks on the disc. Before assuming that the problem is with the player, test a few newer CDs and see if the skipping behavior continues. If it doesn't, the the problem is the disc and you'll need to look into cleaning or repairing the disc so that it can play normally again.

If you've explored all of the possibilities listed above and you're still having difficulty, you may need to explore how to fix a car CD player using a more advanced approach.

Advanced Troubleshooting

While some people save the advanced troubleshooting for an electronics technician, the following tips are a few things that you can do on your own. Performing the following maintenance on the CD player may repair the problem that you're seeing.

Skipping Audio

If you are experiencing skipping audio, or music that simply stops playing entirely, try the following maintenance tips:

  • Clean the objective lens and spindle. Contamination of the lens with dust or dirt can significantly reduce the quality of the data read off of audio discs. You will need to remove the unit from the dash, open it up, and locate the lens. If you can open the CD door and see the lens by shining a flashlight inside, you can clean it by inserting a long Q-tip moistened with pure isopropyl alcohol.
  • Examine the lens after you've cleaned it. If you see any major scratches, that means that the lens assembly may require replacement, and you'd be better off buying an entirely new CD player. Most problems are caused by a dirty lens though, so a simple cleaning may do the trick.
  • If you can get the end of a Q-tip under the lens and you can lift it up slightly, insert another alcohol-moistened swab underneath and clean off the turning mirror (looks like glass) under the lens.
  • After cleaning, next check the movement of the lens itself. If it tends to stick while moving up or down, or it doesn't remain flat with the deck while being moved around - this is a sign of a mechanical failure and that the entire unit may need to be replaced.

CD Door Problems

If the door of your CD player sticks or otherwise doesn't work properly, try the following troubleshooting ideas:

  • Open the bottom of the player and remove the optical deck. Make sure to use jeweler's screwdrivers and carefully store the screws that you remove (they are tiny!). Examine the drawer mechanism for loose or broken parts. If there's a belt, check that it is still attached and tight. Replacing the belt is an easy and cheap fix.
  • Examine all gears and observe the electric motors for any burn marks or damage. Apply silicone grease to moving parts. If the door is noisy, you can also put a drop of electric motor oil inside the electric motors to quiet them.
  • Many CD players have a lock attached to the door that is used to protect the device during shipping. Check that the lock is not in place or otherwise blocking the sled drive from extracting the CD.
  • If the inner workings are somewhat dirty, this could be the cause of the problems. Using either an air compressor with an air gun attachment or a toothpick, try to remove dirt and grime from the gears and other moving parts. Lubricate the moving parts with silicone grease to aid operation.

You May Be Able to Fix It Yourself

Most of the time, simple troubleshooting tips will resolve any problems you're experiencing with a car CD player. However, there will be times when there are mechanical failures. Don't be afraid to tackle the repair work yourself. Often, just replacing a very inexpensive part or cleaning the inner workings of the drive will completely renew the device back to perfect working condition.

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How to Fix a Car CD Player