How to Reprogram a Locked Car Radio

By Mark Slingo

Car radios can be protected against theft.
i autoradio 2 image by Nathalie P from

Factory-issue car stereos sometimes come with an anti-theft device that renders the radio unusable unless you enter a code to unlock it. The code can be activated by disconnection of the car battery --- for example, when the vehicle is being repaired --- or if the stereo has been disconnected from the vehicle wiring. Reactivating the radio requires entering the unlock code, which you will have in the vehicle paperwork or will have to obtain from a dealer.

Consult your vehicle's paperwork. The unlock code for the radio will be printed on one or two business card-sized inserts. You have these if you are the vehicle's original owner or they were contained in the paperwork when you acquired the car. Consult the vehicle's User's Manual for the correct procedure to enter the four-digit unlock code. If you do not find the code you will have to obtain it from a dealer.

Locate the serial number of the radio. This is normally written on the metal casing of the body of the head unit. Remove the radio from the dashboard housing to view the serial number. Write down the serial number.

Call or visit the dealer for your vehicle. Ask for the service department. Provide a service technician with the serial number of the radio. Normally, he can access a database, which will provide the unlock code for this specific radio. You might be required to provide the car's registration details and a photo ID. Radio's can also be unlocked through online paid-for sources in the same way.

Consult the vehicle's User's Manual and follow the correct procedure to enter the four-digit unlock code and unlock your radio.