Repairs have begun to address a bizarre glitch in Mazda vehicles in Seattle and around Western Washington after the cars’ radios got stuck on a Seattle public radio station earlier this month.
At least two Mazda drivers who were impacted by malfunctioning infotainment systems were having their vehicles fixed on Friday, they told GeekWire. And the car owners were facing a true “don’t touch that dial” test in regard to whether they’d give KUOW 94.9 a second chance.
Tony Meyer of Tumwater, Wash., spoke with GeekWire from the service waiting area at Olympia Mazda as his 2016 Mazda6 was having a $1,500 connectivity master unit installed, courtesy of the automaker.
Meyer was one of a number of people whose Mazdas malfunctioned in a mysterious way several weeks ago, after the cars’ radios had been tuned to KUOW.
Mazda North American Operations told GeekWire on Feb. 7 that sometime between Jan. 24 and 31, “a radio station in the Seattle area sent image files with no extension, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software.” The automaker promised at the time to fix impacted vehicles at no charge to owners.
“I couldn’t believe it, I got a call from these guys the other day and they said, ‘Bring it on in, we’ll get it fixed,’” Meyer said of his communication this week with his local dealership. “My mind is so blown. I thought months, if at all, they’re not going to do anything. I’m just blown away.”
Meyer, who is retired after 35 years as a communications manager with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said his car system “started acting wonky” during a drive when he had been listening to KUOW. Like others who experienced the same problem, Meyer’s car dashboard display just acted like it was constantly trying to reboot. Some people lost all radio function, navigation, Bluetooth for phones, back-up camera, etc.
Service managers at dealerships in Seattle and elsewhere were flooded with calls. KUOW reported on its own role in the viral story, and waved off misguided theories about how the station had switched to a 5G signal. The station even had fun on social media, doing a call-out for ideas for a bumper sticker to recognize those who were “stuck on KUOW.”
Meyer was unstuck long enough in early February to get the station changed. So he’s been listening to KZOK’s classic rock for three weeks.
“I got away from public radio,” Meyer said. “I’m a little afraid to listen to them again,” he added, laughing.
Meyer, who has no plans to ditch his 6-year-old vehicle, praised the dealership’s service manager for getting the part in such rapid fashion, and said the fix on his car took about an hour and a half on Friday. And he wasn’t alone.
Stephanie Marquis of Olympia texted to say her car was in the same shop. Marquis, who had been listening to KUOW last month in her 2015 Mazda3 hatchback, was the initiator of a thread on the Reddit sub-group r/mazda3, in which she asked, “Anyone else have their radio corrupted by a signal from 94.9?”
On Friday afternoon we asked if she’d be nervous about tuning to KUOW again, for fear of another glitch in the Mazda matrix.
“I’m confident it will work,” Marquis said. “And I’m looking forward to expanding my listening choices.”