Why Is My Amp Overheating and Cutting Out?

My son was listening to music on his Camaro 2008 in the summer last year and he noticed that his amp is getting too hot, and cutting out. He calls me to asks me about it and I advise him by phone some tips he can do to stop it from overheating before the unit going so bad and completely be dead. I did some recommendations and I will layout out this article for you too.

So, why is my amp overheating? An amp can overheat if it’s not getting enough airflow, if the amp is too small for the speakers, or if it’s not properly grounded. When there isn’t enough airflow the heat can’t escape, when the amp is too small for the speakers it will draw a lot of power and cause it to get really hot.

Whether you want to know how to stop your amp from overheating, how hot is too hot for an amp, whether an amp can catch fire, or how to install a fan for your amp. This article will cover everything you need to know about why your amp is overheating and cutting out.

How Do I Stop My Amp From Overheating?

When your amp overheats it poses a potential fire risk, and in extreme cases can melt the plastic in your amp. Your amp will also shut off to protect itself. So keeping it cool is very important, here’s how to stop your amp from overheating…

To stop your amp from overheating you want to make sure that you’re using the right sized amp for your speakers, make sure it has enough airflow by not keeping it enclosed or attached on the underside of something, make sure it’s grounded properly. And you can also install a fan.

I’ll explain each of these factors and how to set up your amp correctly so that it doesn’t overheat.

1. Right sized amp for the speakers

When your amp is too small for your speakers, it will need to draw more power and this will cause it to overheat. 

According to Sweetwater.com, there is a general rule of thumb for sizing an amp for your speakers. Which is to choose an amp that will deliver 2 times the speaker’s continuous operating power.

A 30-inch subwoofer which is really huge draws a maximum of around 500W. And a basic car amplifier will produce anywhere from 1000W to 4000W. The more speakers you have in your system the more power your amp will need to produce.

So, it’s a good idea to check what the power output of your amp is, and see if it’s enough for your speaker setup. 

The max power of your speaker is typically listed on the side of the speaker. But, you can look up a similar sized speaker online to give you a good idea of how much power it draws.

Then you can add up the total power all of your speakers need and see if your amp is powerful enough. 

The important thing to remember is that you’ll want an amp with 2 times the maximum output of your speakers. Therefore, if you add up the max power output of all your speakers and it comes to 1000W, then you’ll want an amp that produces 2000W.

This will ensure your amp can produce enough power without overheating.

The good news is that an amp that produces more than enough power – around 4000W costs about $150 on the low end. So you can always get a bigger amp if the one you have doesn’t produce enough sound.

2. Make sure it has enough airflow

You don’t want to enclose your amplifier by keeping it under the carpet, but you also don’t want to attach it from the top. Hot air rises, and the heat will get trapped on the top of the amp where it’s attached and cause it to overheat.

When it’s enclosed, it won’t get any airflow, and it will quickly overheat. If it’s a hot day, and you come back to your car, and it’s really hot inside. It can be a good idea to wait for the inside of your car to cool down a bit before listening to your stereo on high volume. 

For safety, it’s often not a good idea to have your amp visible from the outside, because it may attract thieves. So, keeping your amp enclosed may be a better option. 

But, if you do choose this route you’ll want to install an external fan. Below, is a video that shows how to create a fan for your amp:

However, you can always cover your amp with a towel or something similar, before leaving your car unattended for a long period of time.

3. Ground is properly

If your amp isn’t grounded well, it can cause your amp to overheat. Screwing it with one bolt will typically secure it properly enough, and the grounding wire will detach from the metal from time to time. 

Also, sometimes you might have attached the ground to a painted surface. This won’t give it good contact with the metal to properly ground it.

The best way to attach the grounding wire to a metal surface is to use a screw with a washer. You can also use a factory bolt that can be located in the boot of your car.

Here’s a video that shows how to properly ground your amp, and some common mistakes people make when grounding their amp:

Can A Car Amp Catch Fire?

A car amp can get really hot, but can it get hot enough to catch fire? Here’s the rub…

A car amp can catch fire if it gets too hot. Car amps can contain plastic, and plastic begins to melt at 165 °F (73 °C). When the plastic melts it can catch fire. However, carpet or fabric won’t catch fire because these materials don’t begin to burn until they reach 482 °F (250 °C).

Car amps can run well at a temperature that’s too hot to touch. And this is about 185 °F (85 °C) for non-metallic surfaces and 140 °F (60 °C) for metallic surfaces, according to Safety Action.

Therefore, the temperature of a car amp can approach the temperature that plastic melts and can catch fire. 

How Hot Is Too Hot For An Amplifier?

Your amp can get quite hot without causing any issues. But, when it gets too hot you can run into a range of issues. So, how hot is too hot for an amplifier…

Your amp is too hot if it causes your amp to shut off. However, amps can run well even when they get too hot to touch. Anecdotal evidence from a range of people online who run their car amp hot suggests that running your amp at about 176 °F (80 °C) is perfectly fine.

However, around that temperature is where plastic starts to melt. So, I wouldn’t recommend running it that hot, as amps often have plastic parts. Here’s a table that shows what temperature different materials will melt or burn:

MaterialThe temperature where it burns or melts
Fabric and carpet482 °F (250 °C)
Plastic165 °F (73 °C) to 212 °F (100 °C) 
Steel (stainless or carbon)2750 °F (1500 °C) 
Aluminum1220 °F (660 °C) 
Copper1800 °F (1000 °C) 

Therefore, the carpet around your amp, and any metal that’s around it will be perfectly fine. But, plastic parts in your amp, and any plastic you have around can begin to melt if you run your amp really hot. 

So if it does it’s a good idea to follow the step above so that it doesn’t get too hot.


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