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The head unit (OEM Navi) was left on a normal volume playing songs off of a disc before I turned it on.

I started the customer's car, and the audio system started screeching like crazy, especially when I was pressing the volume down button. It was so loud it gave me an instant headache.

I cycled the power in the car a few times to no avail.

Just for grins, I pulled the negative battery terminal and turned the car back on. Viola - no more screeching. On the downside, there doesn't seem to be any audio output at all.

Also - I did notice an electrical type of smell.

What the hell is wrong with this thing? Should I start checking fuses? If so, which?
 

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The problem might be with the volume button or loose connector. If found damaged, then replace it by a new one. Before removing the negative terminal of the battery, you should thoroughly check all the wiring circuits whether it is assembled well or loose and damaged. Yes you should check out the entire fuse box.
 
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