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My son works for a radio station and he and several others at the station have had numerous issue with car electronics. Are the RF waves from the transmitter to blame?

Have they had problems with their CARS’ electronics: or, problems with the radio stations electronics from cars?

The car electronics.

It’s possible, but very very unlikely. Does he work at the transmitter site, or at the studio site?

Both. One of the towers is located on the same site as the studio.

Yes, it is certainly possible. Radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic waves (the stuff that makes radio work) can cause unwanted curents and voltages in everything, especially electronic devices. However, most of the electronics in the cars has been designed with this in mind, and the designs have probably been proven immune to RF energy – to some level.

I live less than 2 miles from a 50KW AM broadcast station on 1500KHz. In the old days (before every car radio had FM) as you drove past that station the RF would completely overload the car’s AM radio. Nowadays, the radios have improved and you can drive past it and not even notice. I’d think that the cars’ various computers would have similar immunity.

Still, no matter how hard the designers and testers try to anticipate every plausible condition, there is always the possibility of something new coming up. Also, the risk increases if anything – anything! – is changed from the original design. The newer cars that I have owned have strong warnings about operating mobile radios in the cars. And even non-transmitting after-market electronic devices would add some risk, and have some risk of their own.

So, what kinds of “trouble” are they having with which “electronics”, and does the trouble go away when they are away from the radio transmiter?

The horn will blow with no one in the car, the doors will lock, the throttle hangs up occasionally and the CD player sometimes does strange things. Not sure what else, I’ll have to ask my son. I do know this occurs whether he is at the station or not and it not happen before he went to work there. This is the second radio station he has worked at (two different states) and the problems have happened at both jobs.

Anything that is operated by remote control (car remote) like the panic button (car horn), door locks, etc, I can understand picking up the second or third harmonic from the frequency broadcasted. If his car is older and doesn’t have any creature comforts, then his problems won’t be related to the rf. I’m not sure about the throttle issue, because even the drive by wire throttle pedals are hard wired and should have some kind of shielding so they won’t be suseptable to rf.

Yes, it’s possible. If you’re cranking out 50,000 watts of energy into the air, anything nearby will act as an antenna and get a dose of it.

Car electronics are supposed to be shielded—I believe there’s a ‘no man’s land’ of radio towers in NY that the major manufacturers use to test theirs due to the extreme concentration of RF energy there. But if you have sensors on the car that operate at a few millivolts to a max of 5 volts, it’s easy for stray energy being induced in the system to give erroneous readings to the engine computer and wreak all kinds of havoc.

The FM station is 100,000 watts and the AM is 10,000. Maybe the auto manufacturers are getting too dependent on electronics. I sure do miss carburetors, points and plugs.
Thanks for you response.

The big concern is that the problems persist when he is away from the transmitter. The best case there would be that the RF has confused some computer which can be reset, or maybe will reset itself if you drive long enough away from the RF. The worst case would be that the RF fried something.

In either case, the radio station’s chief engineer (if they still have such!) should know more about it than I do. Ask him/her how widespread the problem is (related to make/model??), and if there are any known genearal solutions (other than “Park two miles away and walk”).

For diagnosing, I don’t know what to recommend. As often as we suggest independent mechanics over dealers, this problem is likely so suhbtle/complicated and make/model specific that only an exceptionally good dealer tech can help. (I suspect that most will simply swap in a new computer, which will be as susceptible as the old one.) You might have to somehow get higher up in the manufacturer’s service chain. I.e., start writing polite, pleading letters to district manager or zone rep or whatever the next big gun is. Maybe a dealer will even help you make contact if you come in with the “I’m not blaming you, but I need your help” attitude.

BTW, 50 years ago my friend, who lived less than a mile from that 50KW AM transmitter, swore that in his house they could hear the station on their electric stove.

And on WBZ (50KW AM station in Boston, with transmitter in Hull, MA) during their Rock&Roll years back in the '60s, a DJ ws reading a fan letter: “I live in Hull, and I listen to WBZ all the time.” The DJ commented, “I’ll bet you do; you get WBZ on your bathtub in Hull, Massachusetts.”

Good luck, and please post back if you get any good info or – we hope – a solution.

High-power radio transmitters can most certainly fry ANY electronics that are not shielded from it. Take a 40 watt florescent tube and hold it up in the stations parking lot…Does the tube glow??

There is absolutely no reason in the world for ANY commercial transmitter to be using more than 2000 watts. They use 100,000 watts so the night watchman working in the sub-basement parking lot can still pick up the station on his $7 transistor radio receiver…

Living or working within a 1/4 mile of a commercial transmitter is like living inside a low-power micro-wave oven…Good Luck…

Thanks for you romments. I think the solution may be the 1968 Dodge truck he is restoring.