Theft deterrent or just a pain in the... knee

My '96 Geo Prizm is going on 15 years old this year with almost 130000 miles. I purchased her used in 2001 just before a long road trip to Austin, TX, for an internship with IBM. She has been a great car. I have had very few problems (and this post will likely jinx that). I finally noticed that her clutch was starting to slip. Yesterday I got her back from the mechanic to find that the radio was locked. Theft deterrent is what Delco (the radio manufacturer) calls it. I call it a pain in the butt. I call up my local Chevy dealer and they tell me they will get the code for me for $51. Gee, thanks. I just paid $1000 for new belts and a clutch. Sure, I would love to spend even more money to FIX THE PROBLEM MY MECHANIC CAUSED. I started to call the mechanic, to give him a piece of my mind, but all I got was the answering machine (I picked up the car just before closing). Tomorrow, I tell myself. Then I start poking around on google. I start searching for "geo prizm radio code" and come up with a question answer page with answers from real mechanics telling how to get the radio code for a Geo Prizm. Here is the answer they gave:

Here is a procedure if you lose power or remove the radio while the secuirty is activated.

If the security function is activated and the radio is disconnected from battery power, the radio will display "LOC." The radio will not operate until the correct code is entered. If the customer code is lost or unavailable, use the following procedures to determine the factory backup code. This procedure requires a tone dialing telephone.

  • Turn the ignition switch to "ACC" or "ON" position.
  • Press and hold the "2" and "3" buttons until a four-digit number appears on the display. This is the radio display code; record this number.
  • Using a tone dialing telephone, call 1-800-537-5140 (USA and Canada).
  • When the computer advises, enter the appropriate dealer code using the telephone keypad:
    Chevrolet/Geo Dealer Parts Code: Enter a "1" and the last five digits of your Chevrolet/Geo dealer parts code, then press "*" (star key).

  • When advised, enter the four-digit radio display code obtained in Step 2, then press "*" (star key). The computer will respond with the factory backup code; record this number.

To unlock the secured radio, refer to "Unlocking System After Power Loss" earlier in this section.

Armed with this information, I went to my car and got the "radio display code". I have no idea where to find a dealer/parts code. I figured that it MUST be a secret number that dealers have so that thieves cannot just call up the 800 number and ask for the unlock code. Not being a thief, I figured it was okay for me to call the number and guess a number for the dealer code. I did just this. The first number I guessed was not valid. But the second number was. Then it asked for the display code and it gave me my unlock code. Just like that. If it was this easy for me to obtain the code, this really does fall into the "pain in the butt category" rather than the "theft deterrent" category. I wrote my code down and filed it away. Thanks to Google and the fine mechanic that posted the answer, I didn't have to pay my local dealership $51 and I have a working radio again.

That is so lame. Definite

That is so lame. Definite pain.