Some Mazda car radios stuck on KUOW

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Owners of Mazdas made between 2014 and 2017 find that they cannot turn off their radios from KUOW once they have switched to the station.

SEATTLE — Some Mazda owners are experiencing a mysterious problem with their car stereos that’s preventing them from turning off Seattle NPR’s KUOW station.

Customers are increasingly reporting online that their car stereos will not change from 94.9.

“My screen keeps rebooting and the radio is stuck on KUOW,” said Seattle’s Jay Janette. He drives a 2016 CX-5. “At least it’s 94.9 and not classic country or anything.”

A Mazda dealer told Janette that it could be a few weeks before they could find a solution. When he took his car in for service and told the staff that his audio system kept rebooting, the provider said “You need to listen to KUOW, you’re not the only one.”

In a statement, Mazda of North America said the issue affected cars made by the company between 2014 and 2017.

“A Seattle-area radio station sent image files with no extensions, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software. Mazda North American Operations distributed service alerts notifying dealers of the problem,” the company said in a statement to KING 5.

The company said it would provide spare parts to affected customers. Customers are encouraged to contact their local Mazda Dealer who can submit a goodwill claim to Mazda Warranty Service on their behalf, order parts and schedule a free repair when parts arrive.

Félix Banel is a local historian who also works in news radio. Her 2016 Mazda is virtually the same model as Janette’s but was unaffected by the glitch. Banel said he has avoided listening to 94.9 in his car since he heard about the problem.

“Everything I’ve read says it’ll just lock up and I can’t use my radio and it will kill me!” said Banelle.

It still connects to KUOW, but only through a small portable radio.

“I love radio and I certainly listen to public radio, but I don’t want to risk my whole system being locked and stuck on KUOW,” he said.

Jason Shackelford is the owner of Stingray Auto Repair in Seattle and says he regularly services Mazdas, but has no explanation for the cause or potential fix.

“A magic 8 ball or a Ouija board?” I’m not sure, it’s crazy. I’ve never heard of anything like it,” Shackelford said.

It seems that the problem does not affect all Mazda cars manufactured between 2014 and 2017. For comparison, Shackelford started a 2015 Mazda and tempted fate by logging into KUOW. Then he changed to another station with no problem.

KUOW staff say they are also eager to resolve the issue and have contacted Xperi, the company that owns the technology behind HD Radio, and granted them access to their transmitters to aid in the investigation.

In a statement sent to KING 5, KUOW said: “We know this is an incredibly frustrating issue for Mazda drivers, and we are doing everything we can to support the investigation into what happened.”

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