Whoops: Some Seattle-Area Mazdas Are Stuck Listening to NPR

whoops some seattle area mazdas are stuck listening to npr

There’s a gaggle of Mazda owners in Seattle, Washington, that have reportedly been stuck listening to National Public Radio (NPR) over the last few weeks. The manufacturer has addressed the problem, saying the local affiliate had broadcast images files with no extension causing an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older HD radio software. This effectively bricked the infotainment system on some vehicles, locking them into listening to NPR and out of literally everything else.

KUOW-FM has issued a response, saying they’ve been getting letters from drivers living in the Puget Sound region about their cars. While it only cited a single 2016 Mazda CX-5, the outlet was aware that it had become a widespread annoyance for locals. It also reported that three nearby Mazda dealerships have been getting angry calls about the problem for the last three weeks.

Michaela Gianotti, a spokesperson for the station, said that the company had contacted Xperi (the company responsible for HD radio) and given it complete access to its transmitters in an effort to determine what happened. The NPR affiliate also noted that it had swapped from 3G to 5G within the last few weeks.

With the United States shutting down 3G cellular networks this year to make more room for 5G, there has been loads of speculation about how it might impact the infotainment systems of various automakers. Like other brands, Mazda has previously acknowledged that some models would be losing features (e.g. Mazda Mobile Start) sometime between late 2021 and early 2022.

There’s presently a thread on Reddit where owners are sharing stories about corrupted displays being stuck on 94.9 FM. While standard radio frequencies were not supposed to be impacted by the end of 3G, several commenters have suggested it could have still done something to Mazda’s infotainment. As evidence, they cited that the impacted vehicles all fall within the model years Mazda previously said could lose some features. Ditto for the relevant timeframe.

The Seattle Times likewise reported that a data packet sent from the station appears to have been the culprit and provided some additional firsthand accounts. Most impacted drivers stated that the center screen was flickering and constantly trying to reboot itself, creating a strobing effect comprised of garbled image data and the Mazda logo. While the radio volume could always be adjusted, every other feature became totally inaccessible.

“The lower right field of my vision was seeing like a TV screen going on and off,” explained Dave Welding, adding that he ultimately had to cover the screen in his Mazda because of how distracting it was.

From The Seattle Times:

Welding says that when he contacted Lee Johnson Mazda of Seattle, “They told me that there’s nothing they can do about it, that I needed a new CMU unit, that it cost $1,500 and that they didn’t have the part.”

The Mazda dealer referred calls for comment to Mazda corporate headquarters.

Lorenzo Pieruccioni, service manager at Mazda of Olympia, says he’s had seven to 10 customers with the rebooting problems. He tells them their CMU is corrupted.

That stands for “Connectivity Master Unit,” and it controls the video and audio signals to that infotainment system. That’s the $1,500 gizmo that is not available and who knows when it will be.

His assessment: “It’s just weird.”

With Car Talk having ended in 2012 and most affiliates dropping The Best of Car Talk since then, I’m not sure why anybody would intentionally listen to NPR anymore. But, even if you were an ardent supporter with the branded bags and coffee mug as proof, you’ll probably want to adjust the tuner in your car occasionally. It also might be nice to use the other features you paid for and to have an infotainment system that won’t give you a seizure.

Mazda has confirmed it issued service alerts to dealers this week. Affected customers should contact their local dealer “who can submit a goodwill request to the Mazda Warranty department on their behalf, order the parts, and schedule a free repair when the parts arrive.”

[Image: Colin Hui/Shutterstock]

Join the conversation
4 of 44 comments
  • Zerofoo Zerofoo on Feb 10, 2022

    Programmers not bounds checking their inputs results in Mazda owners being forced to listen to government propaganda. That's enough for me to cross Mazda off the potential car list forever.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Feb 10, 2022

    Those responsible should be given televisions that only receive CNN.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.