I did my usual Saturday thing today, and while I was at my mother's, I mentioned that Book's car battery had finally officially conked out. We'd known for a while he was going to need it replaced, and of course, last week, he tried to start it and it wouldn't go. We charged it up and got it working, but still, it was going to need replacing, especially in an Ohio winter.
When I took my car in to have the tires changed (finally) and oil changed and new wipers put on and all that fun winter prep stuff, they tested my battery and told me that it would need to be replaced soon too.
Well, mom offered to keep Book, Munch and Gin at her house while Pooh and I went to AutoZone for new batteries, so I took her up on it. It's a cold day, and the tech wasn't too happy about changing the batteries, but we got it all done.
Then..... little problem.
I started my car - a '99 Honda CRV - and got a message on my radio display saying, "Code."
So that's what that little anti-theft light means.
I thought, maybe there's a default, and it was never changed. So I tried "12345." Result: CodeErr1. I try "11111," and get "CodeErr2." Uh oh. That means I've got a limited number of tries at this. How do I get the code?
I got back to Mom's house and dug through the glove compartment. The owner's manual tells me there's a five-digit random code to unlock the radio. It was supplied on a plastic card when the car was new. Well, whoopee. I got the car used, and there was no card anywhere to be found with the paperwork. It also said if that number was lost, I could use the audio system serial number and retrieve the code by calling a Honda service center. Problem: the serial number is ON the radio and getting at it requires pulling the dash. There's gotta be an easier way.
So, naturally, I went online for help. I went to Google and typed in Honda CRV radio anti-theft code. That led me to a blog post with about 50 comments full of horror stories on this system. I tried all the advice I found. Check the manuals to see if the code stickers are there. Nope. Look under the ashtray or in the fuse box cover for the stickers. Nope. Pay a service center $125 to pull the dash to get the serial number. Not gonna happen. Press 1 and 6 then turn on the radio to get the serial number. Nope - apparently that's only for cars newer than 2003.
I got lucky, to a point. I looked inside my glove compartment and found a white sticker stuck to the top with an 8-digit serial number. No explanation as to what it was. I was hoping.
I wrote it down, along with the VIN number and came in to call Honda customer service (800-999-1009, if you ever need it). No good. They're closed until Monday morning. Then I thought, "Ok, this is all numbers and codes and such. There's got to be a way in this day and age to retrieve it online."
I searched the Honda Web site. They don't make it easy, but I found it here at Honda's radio and navigation system theft protection page (there's no direct link to it anywhere I could find that made it clear that's what it was). I needed my VIN, the radio serial number, along with the registered phone number and ZIP code on file to prove ownership.
The car's registered in my name, so I tried my phone number and ZIP code. It didn't work. I tried my old phone number. Also didn't work. Three tries and you're locked out, so I was nervous at this point. I thought, "My mother originally bought the car - used - at a dealer. Maybe it's got her info." But, her phone number's changed since she bought it. I didn't know if it might have the old info. I took a chance and tried her current info.
My radio code popped up on the screen. I went out and entered it into the radio, and LO AND BEHOLD I've got a functional stereo in my car! (I was very nervous reading all those horror stories of "I haven't had a radio in 3/5/8 months!")
Turns out since my mom's taken the car up to the dealer for service, they've got her current info in the computer system, and it's in Honda's mainframe, even though I'm the registered owner of the car.
Believe it or not, the whole fiasco took me only about a half hour to resolve once I got home and started investigating. I called my mom and gave her the head's up since she's also got a CRV. Her serial number and radio code were both in the glove compartment, so she's set when the time comes to change her battery.
If you've got a Honda and find yourself facing the radio anti-theft beast, now you know what to do. It wasn't easy for me, so I thought I'd make it a little easier for you.