Mazda drivers in Seattle discover radio is stuck on one station

Originally published at: Mazda drivers in Seattle discover radio is stuck on one station | Boing Boing


I don’t live in Seattle, but I’ve been stuck on KEXP for years.


Frasier Crane hardest hit.


Public TV and Radio signals often carry the national time feed and sometimes emergency alert signals (outside of the audio range), I wonder if a glitch in the firmware of the radio caused it to be force-tuned for an alert but now it’s stuck?


Time for an upgrade?


Value added service.


Beats being limited to AM. I had an old truck with just an AM radio and it was awful. It’s nothing but talk and religious programming.


“Drivers of 2016 Mazdas say that their radios are permanently tuned to KUOW, a public radio station.”

I drive a 2003 Dodge Ram van and my radio is purposefully permanently tuned to KUT, a public radio station.


Wow, a little farther south and it coulda been total chaos.


Obviously they didn’t pay their monthly radio charge to Mazda.

Better check if wipers are now an optional paid extra.


My old Toyota only had AM, so I listened to the Spanish-language stations.

The announcers always seemed to be yelling-- sometimes annoying, sometimes helpful if I was falling asleep on a long drive.

1 Like

This reminds me of the curious case of 2016 Mazda audio systems crashing when playing the 99% Invisible podcast. So Reply All did a podcast about it.

It turns out that the percent sign in the title would be parsed very badly by the audio processor (it caused some escape sequence) and the radio would crash.


I wonder what station 2016 Mazdas are stuck on in Detroit? Sure hope it’s not CIMX. ::shudder::


just came here to post that link


I would guess something put them into a funky state, where it’s stuck on some debug/default frequency and the UI is no longer actually tied to anything in the radio. 94.9 MHz is a weird channel to default to, though. It’s out of the FM tuning range in Japan (and so unlikely to be a go-to debug setting for the factory), and single-frequency testing in the EU or US is normally done at 97.9 MHz, which is in the middle of the band.

They say they “rebooted”, but I bet that just means they turned off the car’s engine/accessory mode. The head unit is still receiving power from the battery. To really reboot it, you would have to disconnect the radio from the battery, most easily by pulling the fuse for the dashboard/infotainment. If the problem persists after that – and I’d be surprised – then it did something really weird that made it’s way into nonvolatile memory, like a bad OTA software update.

Also, its’ only in Seattle, which means the catalyst is probably something related to a local broadcast. Analog AM, FM, and weather band can’t screw anything up too badly, so in the US that only leaves HD radio. Maybe something to do with a badly-parsed service list. I’d be curious if they are hearing HD audio or only analog audio on that channel.

I’ve heard HD does weird things if you go “back in time” (e.g., the head unit last heard it’s Feb 2022, but now you’re playing back a recording from Oct 2021), but I’ve never heard any elaboration on what that means and never tested it myself.

Curious to eventually hear what it was.


Ooh, bluetooth media issue. That would be an interesting cause.

Ars Technica has a little more detail on the cause, according to their reporting the digital broadcast from KUOW included an image file without an extension, the older Mazda infotainment system could not use the image headers to identify the type and relied on file extensions resulting in a crash, that then resulted in another crash on reboot, endlessly looping.

On the plus side apparently they are offering to replace the $1500 broken part for free, on the downside they have no parts available so the offer is for when they have the replacement parts available.


My Mazda is a couple of years older than those . They have never updated or offered to update the software during service. In theory I could do it myself. It just leaves me questioning how Mazda views that part of the car’s infrastructure.

It will probably impact the next car I buy.

My other annoyance with the audio system is that there is no “off”. I can mute but there is no off.

1 Like

That’s a matter of honesty in UI design. None of the newer car radios ever turn “off”. If they did, they couldn’t bluetooth link to your phone when a call comes in, or display the backup cam when that becomes necessary. They just mute and optionally shut down the LCD.


Interesting theory. I was assuming a software glitch is forcing the radio to run through the entire dial and scanning it, but it stops when it gets back to the low end again… which is almost always an NPR station (most places I lived, they’re the first station you come to).

EDIT: Then I see it’s 94.9, which is unlikely to be the lowest, and my theory is shot. Welp, I’m out. Good luck, Mazda owners! Beats buying a new car and having no radio because “that model doesn’t come with one” (the dealership was wrong, and luckily figured it out before I ponied up for one myself).