Why Won't a Homemade CD Play in My Car?

by Contributor

It happens all the time: A CD plays just fine in your computer or in your home stereo, but you pop it into your car CD player and nothing happens. Sometimes it’s worse than nothing—the CD gets stuck in the player, and you have to work to remove it. There are numerous reasons a CD might not work in your car audio system, and ways to make sure they will.

CD Checklist

Use CD-R (Compact Disc Recordable) discs, rather than CD-RW (Compact Disc Rewriteable). CD-RW discs are designed to be erased and re-recorded and, while they can record music files, they are usually meant for data other than music, such as Word documents or spreadsheets. Not all CD players can play CD-RW discs. Be sure you burn the CD in CD-DA format (rather than CD-ROM format). According to Sony's storage support website, CD-DA (Compact Disc-Digital Audio) is "the official designation for the audio-only format on CD. An audio CD may contain up to 74 minutes and 30 seconds of hi-fi stereo or quadraphonic sound. Sound is converted into binary code by sampling the sound waves at 44.1KHz and storing each sample as a 16 bit number." Stick to 74-minute CDs. Some CD drives are unable to play CDs longer than this. According to oggfrog.com, 74-minute, 650 MB media is best to ensure compatibility. Oggfrog.com also recommends burning CDs at the lowest speed possible (4X), to ensure the audio data will be reliably written to the disc. While 4x is approximately four times faster than the audio CD will spin while playing, this is significantly slower than many CD burners or CDs are able to burn. The slower speed will, according to Oggfrog, "give you some safety margin to guard against failure due to manufacturing defects in your burner or the disc." Don’t use inkjet labels. Not only can they interfere with “playability,” some car audio players run hot enough to cause problems with the glue on the label.

Troubleshooting

If you have done all of the above and your CDs still won’t play, you can try the following: Try a different brand of CD. Test the CD in a newer-model car audio system. Newer models are made to be compatible with MP3 files. If your player is an older model, it could be that your car simply can't play burned CDs.

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