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Radio Mystery for Some Seattle Mazda Owners

Older Mazda infotainment systems freezing on 94.9 MHz

A peculiar thing is happening to drivers of some Mazda’s operating in and around the Seattle area, and it could be caused by images displayed on dashboard screens.

Car owners are reporting their car radios are locking on 94.9 MHz leaving them unable to change the tuner. The only models affected are 2014–2017 Mazdas equipped with factory-installed HD Radios.

KUOW(FM) in Seattle, the NPR station that operates on 94.9 MHz, says it is hoping Mazda or Xperi can help. The radio station confirmed Tuesday on its website it is aware of the issue and has received complaints.

Mazda drivers have been complaining of the issue for several weeks, according to reviews of Reddit threads.

Some commenters on the discussion forum say the infotainment systems are “either locked up or constantly rebooting” and inevitably locking up on 94.9 MHz. Some drivers also have complained on the discussion board about not being able to make calls using the infotainment systems while driving.

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KUOW shared with Radio World a statement provided by Mazda after its dealerships in the Seattle area began receiving complaints from frustrated drivers about the problem.

“Between 1/24–1/31, 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. Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has distributed service alerts advising dealers of the issue.”

Mazda continued: “While dealers are currently experiencing parts delays due to shipping constraints, MNAO will support impacted customers with replacement parts. These customers should contact their local Mazda 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.”

A KUOW spokesperson said the HD Radio system in the vehicles “pulls images from an NPR tool and uses the KUOW logo when there is nothing from NPR to use.” It’s unclear how widespread the problem is, according to the radio station.

Xperi, the developer of HD Radio, said its “assessment is that there was a formatting issue with the transmitted data.”

The company’s statement continued: “We have worked with the station to address it, and we do not believe there are any ongoing issues with car radios in the market.”

Some Mazda owners posting on Reddit theorize the images with no extensions likely corrupted lines of code in Mazda infotainment systems. “We have not received any information from Mazda on which specific file they believe triggered the issue,” the radio station spokesperson said.

Here is the statement KUOW posted on its website earlier this week:

“KUOW is aware of an apparent issue between our signal and some Mazda infotainment systems, causing radios to reboot when they connect to KUOW’s 94.9 FM signal. We have been in contact with Xperi, the company who owns the technology behind HD Radio, and have given them complete access to our transmitters to investigate what is causing this issue.

“Our operations team is doing everything they can to support them in finding a quick resolution. We also appreciate the assistance of listeners who helped alert KUOW to this issue and have provided additional information to aid the investigation.”