Aaron Widmar
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What to Do If Your Car’s Digital Screen Isn’t Working

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Car Infotainment Touch Screen Display View Backup Reverse Camera
Photo: The News Wheel

Here’s a problem more and more drivers will encounter as their vehicles age: What do you do when your car’s digital screen freezes, goes black, or stops working in some other manner? You rely on that screen for the backup camera, music/entertainment controls, navigation system, and smartphone pairing, so you need to fix the problem ASAP. But how do you troubleshoot your malfunctioning stereo head unit?

How Does Your Car’s Touch Screen Technology Work? Learn the science behind the screen!

Troubleshooting issues with your vehicle’s malfunctioning screens

The most common issues that vehicle owners have with the digital screens on the dashboard include:

  • Frozen display
  • Screen goes blank
  • System does not respond to user inputs (via touch and/or buttons)
  • Display is pixelated, blurry, or otherwise distorted
  • Display is suddenly, noticeably dimmer than before

If any of these happen to your car’s infotainment screens, start by answering these questions:

  • Do you still hear audio responses from your inputs, such as beeps or clicks? This can help you determine if the issue is the screen alone or the entire operating system.
  • Is there visible damage to the screen, like cracks or discoloration? Sometimes even tiny breaks can render a touch screen unresponsive.
  • Did you do something new to the infotainment system recently? Try narrowing down possible culprits, such as a recent software update or a newly paired smartphone.
  • Is the car still safely drivable? This can help you determine the urgency of the issue, such as if the digital speedometer doesn’t display your actual mph.
Car fuse box board replacement directions blown
Photo: The News Wheel

Quick fixes for your car’s infotainment, dashboard, or HUD systems

Solution 1: Reboot the system

Like any computer problem, the first solution should always be turning it off and back on. Most stereo/infotainment systems will force a soft reboot if you press a power button or a rotary knob like the audio volume knob. Hold the button for at least 20 seconds (sometimes longer) until the system powers down. Wait a few minutes, and then relaunch the system. This quick restart is basically like force-quitting a computer program.

Solution 2: Turn off your car

If the digital screen doesn’t go black and then reappear with a soft reboot while driving, try turning off the car. Pull over somewhere safe and shut the engine off. Open the doors, close them again, and lock the doors. This should force everything in your car to shut everything off, including the dome lights, headlights, and infotainment display. Wait a few minutes before restarting the engine.

Solution 3: Clean the screen

This probably won’t solve the issue, but there is no harm in trying! Spray and wipe the digital screen with a safe digital screen cleaner and a soft microfiber cloth, digging into the corners especially. Perhaps a greasy smudge was causing the touch screen to fritz out.

Solution 4: Disconnect your phone

Many drivers have reported issues with their infotainment display that stemmed from incompatibility between external devices (like smartphones) and the vehicle system. Unpair all phones from the vehicle interface and stored Bluetooth devices; do the same from your phone. Unplug your device if it’s connected via USB cable. If you have your vehicle paired to an automaker-brand smartphone app like MyHyundai, uninstall that from your phone and restart your device.

Which Automaker First Introduced Digital Infotainment Screens? Learn the answer here!

Solution 5: Perform a factory reset

Check the owner’s manual or search online for instructions on how to force a factory reset of your specific model’s infotainment system. There may be a tiny reset button that you need to press with a paperclip or a certain combination of buttons and pedals to press. This will revert the system to its original state, deleting your data and settings in the process — but hopefully solving the problem.

Solution 6: Get a software update

Outdated firmware can cause bugs in the system performance, so make sure your vehicle is on the current software. You may need to do this via manual connection or at a certified service center if over-the-air updates are unfeasible. That’s why OEM service bulletins are released recommending software updates for issues like “intermittent screen freezing.”

Solution 7: Disconnect the car battery

Remove power entirely from your vehicle by loosening and disconnecting the cables from the battery terminals under the hood. Let your car sit for at least 30 minutes, ideally overnight. While you’re at it, make sure that the battery voltage is still high and providing enough power to the electronics.

Solution 8: Investigate the wiring and fuses

If you feel confident poking around in your car’s electrical system, check the fuse box and unplug the fuse connected to the infotainment system. Make sure that it’s in good working condition. Check the connections that are sending power to the head unit to find any impediments.

Solution 9: Take the car to a mechanic

Do none of these other steps solve the problem? It’s time to call a professional. If the problem is a hardware issue, your software-oriented approaches won’t fix the problem. A service technician can troubleshoot the issue and figure out a solution, which may involve having the whole heat unit replaced.

The infotainment hardware may still be under warranty if you’re driving a newer model. Such malfunctions could qualify as a defect that’s covered by the bumper-to-bumper limited warranty.

Digital screens are a useful advancement technology for our convenience, but they also pose new problems that can plague our modern automobiles. Know what you can do to fix a glitching display screen in your car.