Do Car Antennas Go Bad Over Time? (Checked & Explained)

Even if your car comes with the latest infotainment gadgets such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s something oddly satisfying about listening to your favorite radio station while stuck in traffic or driving on road trips. A faulty car antenna can dampen that sweet experience.

Car antennas basically are of four types: window-mounted, electric, stationary, and manually retracted whips.

In this article, we answer your questions about car antennas going bad.

How Long Do Car Antennas Last?

Antennas of most recent cars rarely go bad.

However, the antennas of cars that are not recent or cars with long, thin metal antennas sometimes go bad and may need replacement.

They may become faulty and need to be replaced after about four to six years.

The wearing out is faster if you live close to the ocean, where salty sea breezes can aid corrosion. In general, you will only need to change the antenna if the mast is obviously rusted or broken.

How Do I Know If My Car Antenna Is Bad?

You get to know if your car antenna is bad when it does not receive AM and FM signals well again. If you are sure a station is within your vicinity and the signal is poor, maybe your car antenna is starting to go. Consider checking the antenna for any physical damage, especially if yours is the long, thin, mast type.

Be sure that the antenna is really the problem. In that case, you need an ohmmeter to test the antenna.

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Can I Make My Car Antenna Stronger Again?

Your car antenna can get stronger again by doing the following:

  • Pull up an extendable antenna mast. Manual antennas can end up pushed in, in several ways. A car wash attendant might have forgotten to pull it back out, a bird might perch on it, or a passer-by can decide to push it in. Whichever situation occurs, it is important to check your antenna if you have a retractable antenna and your reception has been bad.
  • Check the antenna connections. If the radio signal is failing, you may want to check your antenna connections. You will need to tighten some loose connections to strengthen your reception.
  • Install a signal booster. A radio signal booster can make your antenna stronger if you receive signals but are not strong enough.
  • Get a new head unit: After checking out for every other possible problem and the signal still seems to be poor, then it might be the proper time to change the head unit so that the antenna receives an appropriate signal and gets stronger.

Can You Test Your Car Antenna Signal?

You can test the signal of your car antenna using an ohmmeter or a multimeter (set the meter to ohms for a multimeter). Disconnect the antenna pin from the radio and then carry out these three tests:

Test number 1: Connect one metal piece of the meter to the top of the antenna, and the second to the radio pin. The reading should be very low, usually below 5 ohms. Any reading above this value suggests that either the antenna or the cable is faulty.

Test number 2: Connect one meter lead to the cable and the other to the antenna base. The reading should also be lower than 5 ohms.

Test number 3: Connect one lead to the cable end and the other to the radio pin. The reading on the meter should be infinite resistance.

While carrying out these tests, wiggle the antenna. The wiggling should not bring about any change in the reading.

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Why Does My Car Radio Keep Losing the Signal?

Your car radio can lose signal for any of the following reasons:

An Extendable Antenna Mast Pushed In

If your car has a retractable whip antenna, you should be very sure that the mast is not pushed in when you want to put the radio on. Double check your car antenna when you lose signal and you have a retractable mast antenna on your on your car.

Bad Antenna

Your car antenna might be faulty, and this affects reception of signals.

Also, most recent cars have flat, window-mounted antennas that cannot be vandalized easily and don’t break the silhouette of the car. They however sometimes, do not tend to work like the old-fashioned mast antenna.

Faulty Radio Transmitter

This has nothing to do with your radio or antenna. The entire fault is your favorite radio station’s hardware. Maybe their transmitter is faulty. In that case, your radio station needs to put the hardware it uses to pump out tunes over the airwaves right.

Radio Frequency Interference

Electronic devices such as a smartphone and car alternator can cause the radio to give a buzzing sound, hence a poor signal. This is referred to as Radio Frequency interference. This may occur when you’re on a call. The problem can occur if the radio frequency of your device and the station you’re listening to is close.

Tall Buildings and Mountains

Tall buildings and hills can obstruct radio signals and can also bounce off and reflect the signals in ways that cannot be predicted. The obstruction makes your antenna lose signal while the bouncing off and reflection results in multi-path reception issues.

Rusty or Corroded Antenna

You are likely to notice if your car antenna fell off. But if the electrical connections become rusted or corroded, you may not be aware of this. Sometimes, antennas can also get loosened up over time because of vibration, which will bring about poor electrical connection.

If there is no proper connection between the tuner and the antenna, the radio signal suffers.

It is advisable to replace the antenna or clean up the rusty or corroded part when you notice this.

Broken Head Unit

Car radio head units are very strong, but they still go bad sometimes. If the tuner in your head unit is damaged, you won’t be able to hear anything from the radio.

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How Much Does It Cost to Have a New Car Antenna Installed?

According to, the average cost of installing a new car antenna is between $148 and $164.

The type of antenna and labor cost are the greatest factors that affect the overall cost of replacing a car antenna. Labor costs range from $58 to $74. The antenna parts have an average cost of about $90.

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