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    Thread: FM radio reception quality (antenna issues?)

    1. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      10-04-2006 09:28 AM #1
      I have found FM reception to be very poor, all other cars I have had (I still have the C5 and that is very good) can receive the stations in question (Radio 4 et al) with out as much of a hint of distortions, but in the Phaeton it struggles even to receive the station clearly, do I have a problem or is this the norm?

      AM is fine, no it is very good in fact, much better than the C5, so I think it is just FM that is trouble some.

      The 'Scan' function gives me mostly static to choose from, which I thought was a bit strange...

      Regards

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    2. 10-04-2006 11:10 AM #2
      I have also found the radio to be very poor at picking up what should normally be strong FM stations. I have started using the cd player more than the radio.

    3. 10-04-2006 11:52 AM #3
      my experience has been the opposite. FM is good, but AM is brutally bad.

      I went to satelite radio.


    4. Junior Member vhs's Avatar
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      10-04-2006 12:48 PM #4
      I agree, FM is limited in rural areas although strong in suburban / city. Luckily I have a narrow taste and the major channels are generally reachable.

      Can't be bothered with th eCD player since the 6 disc selection always seems to either be the same or just wrong for the mood. Yes, I know I could just swap some discs but that requires planning!

      However, most of the time I listen to the iPod on shuffle and that works pretty well.

      Viv


    5. 10-04-2006 01:26 PM #5
      From a guy who spends most of his time in London and to the west, I have to say I haven't had any trouble with FM reception. Re-scanning when changing location (by more than 50 miles) always pulls up a new full screen of stations.

      Get it checked out, your symptoms do not sound normal


    6. 10-04-2006 01:57 PM #6
      Agree with bad fm reception. Agree that I use mostly cd player as a result. anything we can do? I had heard of an FM booster, but I don't know if it still exists or if it actually works. I have XM in a different car, and it sounds great, but there are only a few stations I like, I'll call them top 40/pop/lite rock/classic rock, and after a few days, you just hear the same songs again and again.

    7. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-04-2006 04:16 PM #7
      Quote, originally posted by M1LUM »
      Re-scanning when changing location (by more than 50 miles) always pulls up a new full screen of stations.

      Terry:

      I'm not sure if you are aware of it, but the Phaeton is always re-scanning to find out what FM stations are within reach.

      In other words, if you 'autostore' a set of stations at your home location, then you drive 100 miles away and look at the list of stations, you will probably find that none of your 'presets' are visible on the screen anymore. This is because they are no longer within reception range, so, the vehicle does not display them. If you were to drive back home, they would all appear again, showing as presets, as each one came into reception range. So, at any given time, the radio station list on the J523 screen will only show you what is actually available to listen to.

      If you choose to do an 'autostore' when you are away from home, that will cause the strongest 6 stations to be stored into the presets. This can certainly be useful for identifying the strongest 6 - in other words, by doing an autostore and then pressing the preset hard-buttons 1 through 6, you can avoid the nuisance of scanning through stations that offer only marginal reception. But, it is not necessary to do an auto-store to refresh the displayed list of what is available, because the car is continually refreshing the list as you drive.

      Personally, I have always had excellent FM reception on my Phaeton radio. I think the only variables (from car to car) would be how snugly the radio connectors are plugged into the antenna controller at the back end of the car, and the J523 at the front end of the car. I suppose one last variable might be how well the little 'fingers' on the antenna controllers make contact with the metal strips on the glass that actually comprise the antenna. This may be a concern, but that is pure speculation on my part.

      It's quite easy to remove and re-seat the two antenna connectors at the J523 - see these two posts for more info:

      J523 Front Information Display and Control Head – Removal Instructions
      J523 Front Information Display and Control Head – how to replace (contains useful tips for routing the cables)

      As for the antenna controller - it's a bit more difficult to get access to it, because it hides behind the headliner, at the very top of the rear window glass on the left side of the vehicle. To get a perspective on where this thing is, open the left rear door of the car (LHD or RHD, doesn't matter), put one hand on the top of the rear window glass on the outside of the car, and one hand on the top of the rear window glass on the inside of the car. You will note that there is about 4 inches of rear window glass that is not visible from inside the car... that is where all the antennas are!

      It is a major nuisance (translation - massive interior trim dis-assembly) to get access to the antenna controller for the purpose of making sure that it is making good contact with the metal film on the glass, and to make sure that the two antenna connections (many more if the car has TV) are properly seated. I will eventually have to replace my antenna controller when I hook up my TV tuner, and when I do this, I'll take lots of pictures and post a 'how to'. In the meantime, I have posted a few illustrations and pictures below to give you all a general idea of where all these hidden components are.

      However - having said all that, I wonder if the FM stations in the UK transmit at a lower wattage than those in North America? Most of the folks reporting problems are from the UK, and most of us who have no problems are in NAR.

      Michael

      Antenna Components on Rear Window of Phaeton

      >

      The actual Antenna Module that fits against the glass

      Here you can see where the tangs (shown below) on the antenna controller touch the contacts leading to the antenna wires embedded in the rear window glass

      These are the 'tangs' that touch the contact squares shown above.

      Last edited by PanEuropean; 10-07-2012 at 03:51 AM.

    8. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      10-04-2006 04:50 PM #8
      Quote, originally posted by PanEuropean »

      However - having said all that, I wonder if the FM stations in the UK transmit at a lower wattage than those in North America? Most of the folks reporting problems are from the UK, and most of us who have no problems are in NAR.


      That is probably true to some degree, the FM spectrum is pretty crowded in the UK, but I only use my BMW and the C5 as a comparison, and I would like the Phaeton to be as good, at least.

      And by the sounds of it, I think our car probably has some room for improvement..

      I will take this up with the Dealership, the car is almost new so I don't fancy taking it apart just yet...

      Regards

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    9. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-04-2006 05:13 PM #9
      Another key issue might be that FM stations in North America are spaced .2 MHz apart (91.1, 91.3, 91.5, etc.), but in Europe, they are only spaced .1 MHz apart. The extra spacing probably allows the North American broadcasters to pump out a more powerful signal (and a slightly 'looser' signal) without having to worry about interfering with their neighbor on the dial.

      Michael


    10. 10-05-2006 04:54 AM #10
      I have a radio snag. The symptoms are, Radio is on AM, turn off ignition and park up. Return to car , switch on ignition and the car, of course, remembers what station you were listening to and plays that, but the sound is very muffled. Press the AM/FM button and listen to an FM channel for a moment. Press the AM/FM button to return to the AM channel and all is well...

      I've had this for a while and put up with it as I rarely listen to AM. The fitter just shook his head in disbelief; he can only take one fault at a time and at present is working on a TPMS fault I can't seem to shake off. I might post about that as I saw that our Phateon owner from Surrey mentioned TPMS in another post

      Guy


    11. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-05-2006 07:39 AM #11
      Hello Guy:

      Welcome to the forum - I can't recall seeing you post here before.

      There's a simple fix to both of your problems, and that is software updates for the controllers.

      Get the J523 Front Information Display and Control Head flash-updated to at least 0223 (and the J401 Navigation Controller updated to at least 0168), and get the Tire Pressure Monitoring Controller updated to at least 025. I'm not sure if there is a flash update or not for the TPMS controller, you may have to obtain a new controller. While you are at it, ensure that the Instrument Cluster is at software x21 or higher.

      There have been a few campaigns published by VW over the years to address the problems you mentioned (that happen in very early production cars - like MY 2003 cars) - have your VW tech check the service history of your car against the VW database to make sure that all the appropriate campaigns have been carried out. It doesn't sound to me like they have been. In particular, pay attention to the following campaign numbers: 97J9, 66C4, S279, S281, 10C1, 44E1, 48F5. 97J4, 97J5.

      Not all of those will apply to your car, and not all the actions mentioned in any one document will apply to your car, but someone needs to go through the paperwork and make sure that the appropriate actions have been carried out. This should solve your problems.

      Michael


    12. 10-05-2006 04:05 PM #12
      Thanks Michael I'll do what you advise. The TPMS has been reporting a fault. The fitter says the car reports a sensor failure so he has ordered one. In the workshop though they have had a W12 with the same problem anh he was sceptical about whether it was really a sensor fault. He has been fed up with putting fuel in the W12 to try and solve the problem so was getting someone from VW to come and and help. I don't know what they found, I'll have to chase them up. If he comes up with anything interesting I'll post it.

      While I'm on I'll mention that I had front brake disc warning light come on intermittently, just in case it might be related to the campaigns you mention. The garage cheecked the wirng, cleaned the terminlas, then later replaced the pads in desperation. Still the warning light came on so we switched it off (It'll take me ages to wear them down at 7K miles a year and there's nothing wrong with the brakes...)

      What the hell...I also was able to open the boot by pressing the VW badge when the car was locked. Can you see the fitter in the yard with his head in his hands? I can. He went for the 'Let's fit new parts and hope for the best '( a new boot lock mechanisim). It's OK now.

      One more then, for now, the myrtle has split above the glove box. I might not be able to get that done under warranty, never mind.


    13. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      10-07-2006 08:01 AM #13
      Another strange artefact is that reception is much better with ignition off, it drops off dramatically once ignition is on. Why would that be I wonder?

      rgds

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    14. 10-07-2006 11:57 AM #14
      Sounds like the AGC (Automatic gain control) is being effected by the fields from the wiring in the car when current is flowing. This could be by a break in the shielding of the antenna.

      I think that you could be experiencing a true defect.

      A trip to the dealer with your findings and possible comparison to another Phaeton they may have or at least a Tourage will all serve to define the problem.


    15. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-07-2006 02:30 PM #15
      Quote, originally posted by Realist42 »
      Another strange artifact is that reception is much better with ignition off, it drops off dramatically once ignition is on. Why would that be I wonder?

      Hmmmm... I don't know, but that sounds significant. I'll ask the tech guys in Dresden.

      Thanks for mentioning that, I think it might be an important observation for troubleshooting purposes.

      Michael


    16. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-08-2006 03:33 PM #16
      Archival Note: Related post with more detailed discussion of antenna amplifiers - Retrofitting a Television Tuner.

      Michael


    17. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      10-08-2006 06:17 PM #17
      Quote, originally posted by PanEuropean »

      Hmmmm... I don't know, but that sounds significant. I'll ask the tech guys in Dresden.

      Thanks for mentioning that, I think it might be an important observation for troubleshooting purposes.

      Michael

      Thanks, any help is appreciated!


      rgds

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    18. 10-09-2006 09:25 AM #18
      My FM seems to work ok most of the time. Sometimes it will not list a station that comes in very strong, but that is rare.

      My problem is the AM is TERRIBLE. I very rarely listent to AM, but just yesterday I was trying to get the Cardinals playoff game. I have a total of two stations that come in at all on AM and one is so bad you can't hear anything. There has got to be something wrong with this? Any ideas?


    19. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-09-2006 02:23 PM #19
      Hi Jeff:

      The usual 'first question' when troubleshooting any kind of radio reception issues: Do you have aftermarket tint applied to the rear glass?

      Michael


    20. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      10-19-2006 04:10 AM #20
      OK, so the car is booked in to have it all looked at, but I think this is a bigger problem than just the FM side, sat in the car waiting the other night, watching a film on the TV, and as soon as I 'turned on' bits of the car, the there would be a brief drop-out. (things like turning on the the residual heat' function), most odd... Hopefully the will be able to cure it.

      Regards,

      Johan

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      10-19-2006 05:49 AM #21
      Quote, originally posted by Realist42 »
      OK, so the car is booked in to have it all looked at, but I think this is a bigger problem than just the FM side, sat in the car waiting the other night, watching a film on the TV, and as soon as I 'turned on' bits of the car, the there would be a brief drop-out. (things like turning on the the residual heat' function), most odd... Hopefully the will be able to cure it.

      The residual heat system turns on a coolant circulation pump as well as the HVAC fans. I'm sure this creates quite a draw from the battery especially when they start up (going from rest to operating speed). This probably causes a voltage drop and accounts for the brief drop-out.


      Modified by car_guy at 5:53 AM 10-19-2006

    22. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      10-19-2006 10:26 AM #22
      Quote, originally posted by car_guy »
      The residual heat system turns on a coolant circulation pump as well as the HVAC fans. I'm sure this creates quite a draw from the battery especially when they start up (going from rest to operating speed). This probably causes a voltage drop and accounts for the brief drop-out.


      Modified by car_guy at 5:53 AM 10-19-2006

      True, and I did consider that, but as it is only a signal drop and not a drop in picture birghtness. Basically you get a breif loss of data sync on the digital reception, so picture becomes pixelated and there is a momentary loss of picture...

      regards,

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    23. 10-19-2006 01:44 PM #23
      Does that make a huge difference? I didn't put it on myself, but it looks as if I have some tint on my car because it is my understanding that factory tint is between the two panes and mine is on the inside right? If I do, is there anything that can be done to make it better without taking off the tint?

    24. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-19-2006 04:34 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by jlindy »
      Does that (tint) make a huge difference? I didn't put it on myself, but it looks as if I have some tint on my car because it is my understanding that factory tint is between the two panes and mine is on the inside right? If I do, is there anything that can be done to make it better without taking off the tint?

      It depends on what the tint is made of. If it is a metallic film, it will really, really screw up the antennas. If it is not metallic, it is possible that it will have no effect whatsoever.

      Michael


    25. 10-20-2006 10:02 AM #25
      I looked at it closer and it looks like it is not covering a few of the lines. I can take a picture to show you what I am talking about, but will do it later today when I get back. How do you know if it is metallic from looking at it and having no knowledge of its installation? FM works just fine by the way.

    26. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      12-15-2006 09:04 AM #26
      Quote, originally posted by Realist42 »
      I have found FM reception to be very poor, all other cars I have had (I still have the C5 and that is very good) can receive the stations in question (Radio 4 et al) with out as much of a hint of distortions, but in the Phaeton it struggles even to receive the station clearly, do I have a problem or is this the norm?

      AM is fine, no it is very good in fact, much better than the C5, so I think it is just FM that is trouble some.

      The 'Scan' function gives me mostly static to choose from, which I thought was a bit strange...

      Regards

      Johan

      Right, this has now been resolved, resiting the 'tracking' unit fixed the problem, it is worth noting that the location in the euipment bay underneath the parcel shelf was their default location...

      If anyone else has one fitted to that location, or one close by, I suggest moving to get the FM reception that the car should really have.

      I for one is very please that this could be fixed in the end.

      Best regards

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    27. 12-16-2006 04:42 AM #27
      Hi Johan,

      can you please explain that in more detail.

      What do you mean with "tracking unit"?


      Thanks!
      Guenni


    28. 12-17-2006 10:05 PM #28
      Indeed JoHan, can you please re-state that, in more detail. It sounds like a potential (easy) fix for my bad fm reception.
      Thanks, Mike

    29. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      12-18-2006 09:56 AM #29
      Ok,

      I suspect that my problem is a bit more UK specific as I had a Tracking unit fitted to the car, the unit allows the company to find the car and inform the Police of its location. This works if the car is stolen with keys or car jacked as well. My unit has a GSM modem in it for talking to the company, and this was also in the same equipment bay. Now that it has been moved to a new location, FM reception is now pretty much as good as a Phaeton without.

      Not sure how much help this is...

      Best regards

      Johan

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    30. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      12-18-2006 04:12 PM #30
      Ah, that explains a lot, and makes everything much more clear.

      Tracking units such as the one you described are normally only found in the UK and South Africa, they are virtually unheard of in North America or Continental Europe - hence the confusion expressed by others.

      Michael


    31. Member Realist42's Avatar
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      12-19-2006 11:20 AM #31
      Quote, originally posted by PanEuropean »
      Ah, that explains a lot, and makes everything much more clear.

      Tracking units such as the one you described are normally only found in the UK and South Africa, they are virtually unheard of in North America or Continental Europe - hence the confusion expressed by others.

      Michael

      To be honest, it took quite some time and dedication by the tracking company to figure out was going on, VW pretty much said that unless the box is removed, we will not diagnose the vehicle...

      There was a lot of swapping of parts and taking the unit out to get a reference reading (I never had the car without it) etc, you know the drill.

      It worked out in the end, I am happy that I can just call a number and they will let me know if the car has moved. (As I am currently working in Sweden - I like that feature). Or if it is an unauthorised move, they will call me and ask if I know that the car is moving.

      But I guess that is a UK need more than other countries

      rgds

      Johan

      Member of Le Club 2P

    32. 11-25-2009 09:50 AM #32
      I've owned my Phaeton for almost a year now, enough time to sort through its strengths and weaknesses. One weakness that I am not sure how to address is its substandard FM radio reception. I wouldn't care so much, since most FM progamming is awful, but I've grown to enjoy a somewhat distant college station that I can pick up well in my Saab, fairly well in my M-B and rarely in the Phaeton.

      Searching the forum, I can't find any suggestions for improving the reception. Has anyone tried to do this? I presume the problem has to do with poor signal reception, perhaps warranting amplification of some sort.

      Adam


    33. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      11-25-2009 03:55 PM #33
      Hi Adam:

      Window tint on the rear window usually has a bad effect on FM reception, because the antenna is embedded in the rear window glass. Also, window tinters frequently damage the antenna connections when they apply the tint.

      Michael


    34. 11-30-2009 09:50 AM #34
      thanks very much Michael. This car in fact had tint on the windows, which I removed. Perhaps that's the problem.

    35. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-07-2012 03:58 AM #35
      Archival Note:

      See also this discussion - FM Radio Reception Problems - discussion of cracked antenna amplifier.

      But - keep in mind that if you have aftermarket tint applied to your rear window, 99% of the time, that is the cause of the AM or FM radio reception problems. See this discussion about tint: TintDude - Phaeton Windows. It's at an external site, however, I wrote the post for them.

      Michael.
      Please don't send me technical questions via IM - instead, post your questions onto the end of the most appropriate thread in the FAQ, so that everyone can benefit from the answer, and everyone can assist in providing the answer. Thanks, Michael

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