DIY: Unlocking the VW radio SAFE mode

One year ago, my car radio went into SAFE mode (meaning it stopped working) due to battery problems. Initially driving without any music was almost intolerable and in order to get the radio to work again I had a list of things to do that I listed out in my post on September 16, 2007.

1. I need to locate the specific radio code to unlock the audio player anti-theft mechanism. I’ve looked through all the documents and manuals that the previous owner left me and no radio code. So tomorrow, I’ll have to check the trunk and look at the area around the spare tire for the 4-digit radio code. Why spare tire? Because in some of the online forums, some people found the codes there, supposedly left by the dealer.

I’ve searched everywhere, no code found.

2. If I don’t find the code anywhere, I will have to try to remove the player (following instructions that I found online), get the VW code on it somewhere, call a VW dealer and get the radio code from them. I’ve learned that some dealers will charge money just to provide the code, so I may have to call several dealership to find one that will do it for free.

I tried the credit card method but it didn’t work.

3. If I’m not able to remove the player on my own, I may have to bring it to a dealer and have them remove the player, get the VW number and then the radio code. They will probably charge me $90 for the labor, OR I could go to circuitcity and buy a new in-dash player for $99 and have them install it for free.

No. 3 seemed like a lot of work and money, and after a while I got used to driving without any music so I just let it go. No music…I can live with that.

But about 3 months ago, I decided to tackle the radio problem again. I asked Klein the mechanic to give it a go. He tried the standard “1111” or “0000” and it didn’t work. Then he tried to remove the radio but he didn’t have the right tool and couldn’t get the radio out. I think he was just not interested in spending his time on a radio of an old car. In the end, he told me to go to a VW dealer.

Undeterred, I went on ebay and searched and bought a set of radio removal tools. I made sure that I got the one that fits my car radio model.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

The “tool” arrived. I was in the midst of preparing for my trip back home, so I gave it a half-hearted try (with the flat part on the handle at the top) and the radio did not move. I put the process on hold until I came back from Malaysia.

Today, I decided to give it a try again. I tried the pushing the 2 removal tool keys (with the flat part on the handle at the bottom) into the 2 slots in the radio and pulled. The left side of the radio budged but the right side remained stuck. I kept pushing the right key harder but the right side won’t move. I decided to turn the right key around (with the flat part at the top) and …. VOILA!! the radio slid out without much effort.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow
From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

And to my wonder, the radio code is written on top of the radio (I blurred the code for security reasons), so I didn’t even need to call a VW dealer to get the radio code.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

I immediately pulled out the sound system manual so I could enter the radio code and unlock the radio. But the SAFE mode remained. I remembered that Klein the mechanic did try the “standard” codes before and according to the manual, if the radio code has been entered incorrectly twice, the radio must be left on for a whole hour before entering the radio code again.

It was getting late, so I decided to wait till tomorrow to continue on with the radio unlocking process. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening, I’ll hear music in my car again.

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