DO NOT MESS WITH THE RADIO YOURSELF!
GM is great at separating you from your money after the sale. It's how they remain a profitable company, (no sarcasm intended). To prevent lower cost independent shops from repairing their radios, they began refusing to sell us radio service manuals after the '94 model year. That locks you into their authorized repair centers. The revoked authorizations from over a hundred shops across the country, down to six, then to two grossly over-priced repair centers. With removal, shipping two ways, repair, and reinstallation by the dealer, repairs for a radio / cassette player runs around $450.00. For just the repair of a Chrysler cd / radio or cassette radio, I charge $45.00.
Next, people got fed up with the ridiculous repair costs and had aftermarket radios installed. To combat that, the engineers built the Body Computer into the radio beginning with some 2002 models. If you remove the original radio, you won't have power windows, cruise control, chimes, etc. We never needed a computer to run all those toys years ago, but expensive, unreliable, complicated computers are needed to have something to break down and cost you more money.
Next, GM realized people could buy a used radio from a salvage yard so they designed in codes that had to be programmed into their computers before they would work. That can only be done by the dealer, and they don't do that for free. There is absolutely no valid reason for doing this except to cost you money.
The next thing the insane engineers did was to provide the "lock" option on their scanners. A mechanic has the option of pressing the "lock" selection from a drop-down menu that electronically locks all computers on the car to the Body Computer, (in the radio). Once that is done, it can not be undone, and no computer will work until it receives a turn-on signal from that Body Computer. At that point, if the radio / Body Computer fails and must be replaced, you must also replace EVERY computer on the car, AND have the software installed over the dealer's internet connection. There can be up to 47 computers on the car and replacing all of them will cost way more than the value of the car. Got'cha. Again, there is no reason to design cars like that except to cost you money. Downloading software for just one computer can take an hour. You have no way of knowing if that lock button was ever pressed as long as the radio / Body Computer keeps on working.
You will want plenty of witnesses who will verify the car is running properly and everything else is working before you let the dealer remove the radio. If the dealer comes back later and says more computers are needed and they involve things that were previously working, you can make a case that the problems were caused by their mechanics or the design of the car, and the shop must cover the additional costs.
Too many people have been stung by these miserable business practices and have said "never again". It's why they are losing repeat customers. Unfortunately, whatever General Motors dreams up to take your money, other manufacturers tend to copy a few years later, but only Volkswagen and BMW are less customer-friendly in that regard. Hyundai, Toyota, and Chrysler are the opposite. Any independent shop is allowed to program all computers except the Security System for a small fee. Hyundai allows total web site and download access to anyone for free.
Your radio is nothing for a do-it-yourselfer to monkey with. You can easily turn the cost of repair into more than the car is worth. Take your lumps at the dealer and be sure to have the warranty for the repair documented in writing. Also, in most states there is some type of law that requires the shop to provide a maximum repair estimate that they are locked into. Don't fall for the "we found this too" syndrome they are famous for.
Another trick that GM dealers love to pull is the "one hour minimum charge". Our local Chevy dealer does this; our Cadillac dealer and our GMC / Buick dealer do not. That means if a simple half-hour repair is covered under warranty, you get charged the other half hour to meet the one hour minimum charge. Smart people in my state argue their way out of that because they know it is illegal, but many people pay up and the dealer pockets that money. I have never heard of that scam being pulled by anything other than a GM dealership although I'm sure there are some that do.
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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 AT 11:13 PM