How to Clean a Car CD Player

It is important to understand how to clean a car CD player to keep it working as it was designed. Even though the openings on most car CD players are very narrow, dirt, dust, and debris will eventually work their way into the player. Although this build-up may take some time, when the build-up happens the player will stop functioning properly. CD tracks may jump and skip or not even play at all. You may insert a CD only to have the player immediately eject it as non-playable. Let’s take a look at how to clean a car CD player. This process will include cleaning the exterior as well as the interior of the player. We will start with cleaning the player’s exterior.

Cleaning the Exterior of a Car’s CD Player

Step #1: The Soft Bristle Brush

The first step in cleaning the exterior will be to use a soft bristle brush to brush away the dust and dirt that has accumulated around the control buttons and face plate of the player. You don’t have to use a special detailing brush, but the best detailing brushes are made of carbon fiber and are anti-static. The anti-static property is important because static electricity acts like a dust magnet, it will attract dust. Never use any type of liquid cleaner near the CD opening or any of the control buttons, the liquid could enter the player through the button openings and result in an electrical short. If that happens cleaning will become a non-issue, replacement of the player will be your only option.

Step #2: Compressed Air

Auto detailing specialists depend on compressed air to remove fine dust and debris. Don’t rush out to your air compressor and drag the hose over to your car. That air is too powerful. You need a gentle steam of air like the kind that you can get with a can of compressed air. You can purchase cans of compressed air for less than $5 that are gentle and won’t force any debris deeper into the unit you are cleaning. Blow the air at an angle so that the dust and debris will blow off to the side rather than into the CD slot.

Step #3: Microfiber Towel and Interior Cleaner

Use an automotive interior cleaner on a microfiber cloth. Spray a small amount of the cleaner onto the cloth and carefully wipe the player’s front panel and the top of the buttons. Don’t over-wet the cloth and be gentle. You should opt for an automotive interior cleaner like Adam’s Total Interior Cleaner or Meguiar’s Quik Interior Detailer. Many common household cleaners contain chemicals that are overly harsh and could harm the finishes on the panel or the buttons.

Cleaning the Interior of a Car’s CD Player

Option #1: Use a Cleaner Disc

For about $10-$15 dollars, you can purchase a cleaning disc for your CD player. A cleaning disc will clean the laser lens inside the player. As long as the CD you have is in good condition, a dirty laser lens is often the cause of your CD player malfunctions. Before using a cleaner disc, it’s recommended that you try out a few different audio discs to verify that it is not just a faulty or damaged CD that is causing the problem. The cleaner disc has a small brush attached to it.  Simply insert the cleaner disc, brush side down, into the player. Press the play button, this causes the cleaner disc to rotate very fast. Allow the cleaner disc to “play” for a couple of minutes and it will brush away any dust that has accumulated on the optical reader lens.

Some cleaner discs come with a liquid cleaner to be applied to the brush before you insert it into the player. Only a few drops of this liquid are required to do the job, don’t use too much.

Option #2: Create Your Own Cleaner Disc

Using a blank CD, apply a line of strong glue to the underside of the disc in a straight line from the inside edge to the outside edge. Place a non-scratch wipe to the glue, allowing to cover the entire width of the CD from its inside edge to its outside. Allow the glue to dry for at least 10 minutes to make sure that the wipe is firmly attached to the CD. Once dry, trim the wipe so that only about 1/8 of an inch extends beyond the outside edge of the CD.

Before inserting your homemade cleaning disc into your player, add a few drops of a lens cleaner product. Insert the cleaner disc, press play, and let it spin at speed for a couple of minutes before ejecting it.

Option #3: Disassemble the Player

The last option is to remove the player completely and service it outside the vehicle. This is a time-consuming process best left to the professional and should be used only as a last resort. A dirty lens may not be the real source of your problem, cables could have come loose, or the belts that drive the CD could be dirty or faulty.

YouTube Videos That Could Be Helpful

Using a cleaner disc:

How to create a lens cleaning disc:

Cleaning Should be the 1st Thing to Try

When the music stops in your car’s CD player or starts jumping around from track to track, a dirty player may be the problem. The simplest and least expensive thing to try is to clean the optical lens of the player. It may not work for all players, but it is a safe option to try and is better than having to purchase and install a new player.