Wow, the AM reception in my car really sucks!

I got the A/C fixed in my old beater, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I have my old-ass Aiwa deck in there, still cranking out tunes via my iPod and one of those Griffin iPod-radio transmitter doohickeys. Good times, right?

…Not exactly. I like to occasionally listen to talk radio on AM, especially during the commute. But the reception in my car is pants. I don’t have an antenna that works, thanks to a drunken buddy who broke the power antenna back in the day. The rubber substitute I used wasn’t much better than nothing. So now there’s no antenna at all!

But I have an 1/8" plug that I can play another radio on… but even using my Radio Shack radio, it’s still shit reception. The station I’m trying to tune in is in the city!

So does anybody have a suggestion for a small, hopefully inexpensive radio that gets good reception on the AM band without the need for a dorky antenna attachment that makes it impossible to drive safely?

Why not just visit your local auto parts store and buy a replacement antenna. They’re not very difficult to install, plug the lead into your current radio and you’re back in business.

How is it on the PM?

The body of most cars provides such an effective barrier to transmission, that I have never encountered a portable radio that would work inside a car unless one found a way to extend an/the antenna outside the car.

Since you have no antenna, that is your problem. Also, iPod transmitters can interfere with radio signals. Try unplugging that and see if it helps.


Depending on the age of your AM radio, it may have been equipped with an adjustable capacitor called a trimmer. Setting it correctly involves tuning to a station around 1400 kHz and then adjusting the trimmer for maximum volume. On some old radios, this could only be done with the unit hanging out of the dash, but electrically connected. Later units allowed it to be adjusted through the 8-track or cassette tape slot.

Wouldn’t the car’s external whip antenna be irrelevant in this case since he’s trying to pick up AM signals. Most AM/FM radios have a separate, internal antenna for AM reception.

But, now that I think about it maybe the AM antenna is grounded through the FM antenna. Try putting a new antenna on the car.

I don’t know what you’re talking about but my commercial and amateur portable two-way radios receive without any problems whatsoever inside a vehicle. Perhaps you mean only walkman-type radios? And the signal is much weaker with two-way radios, since they don’t have the luxury of a transmitter at 5000’ AGL blasting out 50kW of power. Yes, a two-way radio’s receiver is more sensitive than your standard AM/FM radio, but then again the difference in transmitter ERP is so massive that a few microvolts of signal will be negligible. The only other big factor here is whether the AM/FM radio is experiencing desense because of high power on nearby or spurious frequencies. Of course an antenna will only magnify the desense problem by absorbing that much more radiation. Alas, I digress…

FWIW, I have also had two-way mobile radios receive signals with full quieting without any antenna attached whatsoever. But there was a clear of line of sight between me and the transmitter about 10 miles away and 2000’ AGL so it is not surprising to me.

Disclaimer: I sell and service two-way radios for a living.

Ya know there was a reason the car maker put an antenna on the car in the first place. It wasn’t because it made the car look better.

Basically you have one of three possibilities –

Your old-ass Aiwa deck is giving up the ghost on the AM side

Your deck is good, but poorly grounded. For whatever reason, this is a bigger problem with AM reception than FM.

Your deck is good and well grounded, but you don’t have enough antenna left to pick up a signal.

Is there any stub left at all on your old power antenna? If so, you can get a replacement antenna mast really cheap. If not, you may have to go for a whole replacement antenna. Either way, it isn’t a big deal.

Another possibility are poorly shielded spark plug wires.

Trouser gnomes, too.

Without an antenna, even with the best shielded plug wires in the world, the reception will be close to non-existent.