What to Do When the Stereo Receiver Suddenly Switches Off

A typical home theater setup with connected TV, stereo receiver, speaker, gaming console, and components.
Some home theater cabinets can have minimal spaces available for proper electronic ventilation.

So you’re listening to music or watching a movie, and then suddenly the stereo receiver switches off all by itself. Whether it happens just once or several times at random intervals, this is something worth investigating right away. There are several reasons why a receiver would behave this way, and it doesn't take too much time to check it all out. Follow the steps below to diagnose and correct the issue. Several items you might want to have handy are a flashlight, wire strippers, electrical tape, and a flat-head screwdriver.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 20 minutes

Here's How

  1. Turn the receiver off. It's always good practice to make sure your equipment is off before you start poking around and testing connections. Check that there are no loose strands of speaker wire touching either the back panel of the receiver or the back of all connected speakers. Even one small strand of stray speaker wire is enough to cause the receiver to switch off, due to a short circuit. Go ahead and remove loose strands, strip the affected speaker wires with the wire strippers, and then reconnect the speakers to the receiver.
  2. Check all speaker wires for damage or fraying. If you have pets (e.g. dog, cat, rabbit, etc.), check the full length of all speaker wires to make sure that none have been chewed through. Unless you have wires that are hidden or out of the way, damage can happen from appliances (e.g. vacuum), furniture, or foot traffic. If you find any damaged sections, you can splice in new speaker wire or replace the whole thing entirely. Once done, reconnect the speakers to the receiver. Make sure you have a solid speaker wire connection before turning anything back on.
  1. Check to see if the receiver is overheated. Most electronics have a built-in fail-safe to protect against overheating. These fail-safe systems are designed to automatically switch the device off before the level of heat can cause any permanent damage to the circuits. Very often, the device won't be able to turn back on until the excess heat has sufficiently dissipated. You can check to see if your receiver is overheating by placing your hand on the top and sides of the unit. If it feels uncomfortably (or irregularly) warm or hot to the touch, then overheating is likely the cause. You can also check the front panel display of the receiver since some systems have warning indicators.
  2. Low speaker impedance can cause a receiver to overheat. This means that one or more speakers are not fully compatible with the power delivered by the receiver. A speaker with an impedance of 4 ohms or less may be too low for the receiver you have. The best way to confirm this is to check the speaker and receiver product manuals to compare compatibility.
  1. Overheating can be caused by inadequate ventilation. It's very important for a stereo receiver to have enough ventilation, especially if it's located an entertainment center and/or close by other components or electronics. It's best to not have anything sitting on top of the receiver itself and/or blocking any vents or exhaust since that will trap heat and lead to overheating. Consider moving the receiver so that it's further away from other components, preferably in a cabinet that is less confined for better air flow. You can also install a small cooling fan inside of the entertainment center to help boost air circulation.
  2. Overheating can be caused by direct sunlight. Check and make sure that the receiver doesn't land in the path of light streaming through windows, especially when outside temperatures are hot. Sometimes this can be as simple as closing blinds/curtains. Otherwise, you'll want to relocate your receiver so that it's safely out of the way. Also, consider the ambient temperature in the room. If it's already hot inside, to begin with, it won't take much for the receiver to reach the point of overheating.
  1. Overheating can be caused by dust. Even a thin layer of dust can act like insulation to bring temperatures up. Try to inspect the interior of the receiver through any open vents or slots. If you can see some dust, you'll want to take a can of compressed air to blow it all out. A small hand vacuum can help suck the dust out so it doesn't just resettle elsewhere.
  2. Check that the receiver has an adequate amount of current. Underpowered circuits are at risk of damage. So if a receiver is not getting enough current, it will certainly turn itself off. Take a look at where you're plugging the receiver in. If it shares a wall outlet with another high-current appliance (e.g. refrigerator, air conditioner, heater, vacuum) the receiver may shut itself off when there is insufficient current. Or if the receiver is plugged into a power strip, it's possible that you have too many other electronics plugged into that same strip. The best thing to do in this situation is to plug the receiver into a wall outlet that isn't being used by anything else.
  1. The receiver might need service. If bad wires, overheating, or low current aren't the problems that are causing the receiver to overheat, then it's likely that the unit needs service. Let the receiver cool down for a few minutes first. Then turn it on and let it play to see if the problem persists. If the receiver switches off again, unplug it from the wall, and then contact the manufacturer for assistance or service.