Why Does a Car Speaker Rattle? Common Causes

By Vlad Samarin December 3, 2023
Car speaker Car speaker.
We all enjoy a nice clear sound in a car. If your car's speaker is rattling, it's likely due to a few common reasons. First off, don't worry—it's a fixable issue. Here are three possible causes:
  • Loose Fasteners or Panel Near the Speaker:
    Check if the screws holding the speaker in place are tight. Vibrations from the music and the road can cause them to loosen over time. Tap on the panel covering the speaker and see if anything rattles inside. Often, it's a loose part near the speaker or the covering panel that actually rattles.
  • Torn or Damaged Speaker Cone:
  • A torn or damaged cone or other part of the speaker can lead to rattling sounds. Inspect the speaker for any visible issues, like cracks, tears or separations.
  • Distorted Audio Signals: Sometimes, a poor-quality audio signal can cause distortion. Check your source, whether it's a radio station, streaming service, or a connected device. Try a different audio source.
If you can't spot an obvious issue, it might be time for a closer look. Now, let's dive into the details.

Troubleshooting Car Speaker Rattles

A rattling speaker can be more than just an annoyance—it can impact your overall audio experience. Here's a closer look at the three common reasons and potential solutions:

Loose Fasteners or Panel Near the Speaker:
Over time, the constant vibrations in a car can cause screws to loosen. Check the screws securing the speaker in place if they are tight. Tighten any that seem loose. Additionally, ensure that the speaker is securely mounted in its bracket or housing.

Tap on the panel that covers the speaker. Does it rattle? It could be that some part under the panel (i.e. door cover) is loose and rattles when the volume is high.

The solution is to secure parts that are loose. If you want to go even further, get some sound dampening material (sound deadener) and apply around the speaker and around parts that can rattle. Here is a good video explaining the process. This helps not only reduce the rattles, but to minimize the road noise inside the car. If you want to get sound deadening treatment to be done professionally to your car, check with a local audio installer shop.

Cost: minimal cost if it's just a matter of tightening screws or applying some sound deadener to a few hundred dollars if you want to get it done professionally.

Torn or Damaged Speaker Cone:
Rattling car speaker Rattling car speaker.
A torn or damaged cone compromises the integrity of the speaker, leading to rattling sounds. Carefully inspect the speaker cone for any visible tears, cracks, or damage. If you spot issues, you might need to replace the speaker or have it professionally repaired.

For example, we found that the rattle in this Bose speaker in the photo was caused by a diaphragm at the back of the speaker (a.k.a. spider) separated from the frame. Once we replaced the speaker the rattle disappeared.

In some cases, speakers can be repaired. We found these videos explaining how to repair car speakers

Cost: Replacement speakers can range from $20 to $500 per speaker, depending on the brand and quality. If the original speaker is too expensive, there is always an option to install an aftermarket speaker that fits.

Distorted Audio Signals:
Sometimes, the issue isn't with the speaker itself but with the audio signal. Check different sources—switch between radio stations, use different music apps, or connect another device. If the distortion persists across sources, it might be an issue with the head unit or amplifier.

Another way to test if it's the speaker or a distorted signal is to switch left and right speakers and see if the rattle stays at the same side or moves with the speaker. If the rattle stays at the same side, it's a possible issue with the amp or head unit.

If the rattling starts after listening the music at a high volume for a while, it can be caused by overheating of the main transistors (chips) inside the amp. Check if the amplifier air vents are not blocked reducing the air flow and causing the amp to overheat.

Distorted sound could also be caused by poor connection at one of the amp wires or by the quality of the amp itself.

Cost: Repair or replacement costs for a head unit or amplifier can vary widely, ranging from $100 to $500 or more.
If the audio system need replacing and an original unit is too expensive, visit a local audio installer for cheaper aftermarket options.