How to Disable OnStar GPS Tracking (+How to Reset OnStar)

How to Disable OnStar GPS Tracking (+How to Reset OnStar)

OnStar is a well-known brand among General Motors vehicle owners for its integration of safety, security, and convenience technologies into our vehicles. For over 20 years, OnStar has helped millions of drivers through emergencies with its automatic crash response and 24/7 live agent support. Beyond emergencies, OnStar also offers useful features like turn-by-turn navigation powered by GPS, remote diagnostics and door unlock assistance.

However, as with many modern technologies, GPS tracking has privacy implications that some drivers want more control over. While OnStar aims to use location data responsibly for emergency response, an understandably growing number of vehicle owners wish to disable constant GPS monitoring for personal reasons.

Through this in-depth guide, I hope to outline OnStar’s core functionalities as well as provide two trusted methods for subscribers to disable OnStar GPS tracking based on their preferences between contacting customer service or physically removing the tracking hardware.

Understanding How OnStar Uses GPS

At its core, OnStar leverages the Global Positioning System, or GPS, ubiquitous in cars today. GPS relies on a constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth to pinpoint a receiver’s location via triangulation of signals.

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In OnStar-equipped GM vehicles, there is a small GPS receiver installed during manufacturing, typically located discreetly in the trunk area. This receiver communicates with the GPS satellites and relays location data back to OnStar’s network operation centers via the integrated vehicle communications module.

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This constant GPS tracking enables OnStar’s emergency response capabilities. In the event of an airbag deployment or emergency button press, OnStar agents can immediately pinpoint the vehicle’s coordinates to dispatch first responders. Beyond emergencies, subscribers can opt-in to OnStar navigation which provides turn-by-turn directions and maps using real-time GPS data.

Method 1: Calling OnStar Customer Support

The simplest method to disable OnStar GPS tracking is contacting OnStar directly via phone. Subscribers can call the support number listed on OnStar.com or press the blue OnStar button in their vehicle to be connected to a live agent.

When speaking to the agent, drivers should first confirm their contact and vehicle information for authentication. Then subscribers can politely and respectfully request for GPS location services to be disabled on their account.

While agents may inquire about the reason for stopping tracking out-of-care for safety services, subscribers have a right to privacy and control over their data. Agents are trained to respect opt-outs as long as members are of sound mind.

Once the request is processed, OnStar will stop actively monitoring and recording the vehicle’s GPS coordinates. However, drivers should be aware location data may still be passively collected for around 30 days as per OnStar policy.

Limitations of Calling OnStar

While contacting OnStar support is the simplest method, it does have limitations worth noting:

  • OnStar may still passively collect vehicle location data for around 30 days after stopping active GPS tracking as part of their backend systems and data retention policies.
  • Aggregated and anonymized location data may continue to be used by OnStar and parent company General Motors for purposes like traffic monitoring and vehicle diagnostics improvement over time.
  • Reenabling location services through OnStar also allows renewed continuous tracking, so this method relies on trust that no settings are changed without consent.

For subscribers seeking the firmest control and privacy over location data collection, physically removing the GPS hardware offers a more permanent solution.

Method 2: Physically Disabling the OnStar GPS Module

For drivers wanting a more hands-on approach, it is possible to locate and disconnect the physical OnStar GPS module installed discreetly in your vehicle. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Open the trunk and locate the trunk liner, carpet, or panels covering the spare tire well area. These are usually held in place by clips or screws.
  2. Behind the trunk panels, you will find the spare tire, jacking tools, and other emergency supplies stored.
  3. Near the wheel well or tucked under the spare tire shelf, look for an inconspicuous black box roughly the size of a modern smartphone, usually bearing either the OnStar or LG logos.
  4. This is the OnStar GPS module, which receives signals from satellites and reports location to OnStar servers.
  5. Gently unplug the three wire connectors attached to the module without forcing or damaging the plugs. Two wires will be larger power cables, and the third thinner data cable.
  6. Unbolt or remove any mounting brackets securing the module, usually with simple screws or clips.
  7. Fully remove the GPS module from the vehicle. Its removal completely disables onboard GPS tracking capabilities.
  8. Replace any covers, panels, or trunk liners removed and store the GPS module in a secured location for potential future resale value or troubleshooting.
  9. Reinstall spare tires, tools, and trunk storage components.
  10. Close and securely latch the trunk. Location tracking has now been physically bypassed.

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Key Considerations for Physically Disabling GPS

While the physical removal method ensures no further GPS or location data collection, there are some factors worth bearing in mind:

  • OnStar services relying on GPS like turn-by-turn navigation will no longer function as expected post-removal.
  • If the vehicle is resold, the new owner may reenable tracking by reconnecting the module or contacting OnStar support.
  • In rare cases, the module may need to be reinstalled if servicing by GM requires remote diagnostics access.
  • OnStar and emergency services cannot track the vehicle if stolen after disabling, so alternative safety solutions should be considered.

On balance, this physical method provides the firmest control over privacy and data collection for subscribers prioritizing those factors. Calling OnStar is easier to reverse later if desired.

Comparing the Two Disable Methods

In summary, here are the key tradeoffs between contacting OnStar vs. physically removing the GPS module:

Calling OnStar Pros:

  • The simplest option, no physical work required
  • Reversible if a subscriber changes mind later
  • Still retains basic OnStar services like emergency response

Calling OnStar Cons:

  • OnStar may still passively collect some location data
  • Relies more on trusting OnStar’s policies and tech security

Physical Removal Pros:

  • Completely prevents any GPS/location data collection
  • Subscriber has full autonomous control
  • More permanent privacy solution

Physical Removal Cons:

  • Requires physically accessing trunk
  • OnStar navigation won’t work post-removal
  • Potential issues if remote diagnostics needed

Overall, physically removing the hardware provides the strongest privacy guarantees for drivers highly prioritizing location data control and autonomy. Calling OnStar maintains basic services and keeps options open.

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Answering Common OnStar & GPS Questions

Beyond disabling methods, here are answers to some frequently asked questions on OnStar’s GPS integration:

Q: Is OnStar a GPS?

A: While OnStar utilizes the Global Positioning System (GPS) for navigation, in broader terms it is General Motors’ connected vehicle platform providing safety, security, and convenience functions. GPS enables location-based aspects.

Q: Can someone track my car with OnStar without my consent?

A: No, OnStar requires owner authorization for any location tracking or sharing of vehicle data with law enforcement. However, OnStar can assist authorities in locating a vehicle if it is reported stolen using GPS.

Q: Does OnStar always actively track my location?

A: By default, OnStar continuously monitors a vehicle’s location for emergency response. However, subscribers can contact support to disable active tracking, though some limited passive data may still be anonymously collected.

Q: How accurate is OnStar for vehicle diagnostics & repairs?

A: OnStar’s remote diagnostics are very accurate at identifying issues for GM vehicles, which have integrated diagnostic systems. This helps speed repairs by relaying real-time error codes to dealerships.

Q: What are the main methods to turn off OnStar location tracking?

A: The two primary options are either contacting OnStar customer support or physically locating and disconnecting the GPS module itself for a more permanent solution.

Steps to reset the OnStar PIN by calling via Bluetooth and providing a new PIN:

  1. Ensure your vehicle is on and near your paired mobile phone. OnStar needs to detect the Bluetooth connection to your approved device.
  2. Locate the OnStar buttons, either on the rearview mirror or steering wheel controls in most GM vehicles.
  3. Press and hold the “OnStar” button for 2-3 seconds until the button light blinks and you hear a chime. This indicates OnStar is ready to accept a call.
  4. On your paired mobile phone, open the OnStar Mobile App and go to the Settings section.
  5. Select “Reset OnStar PIN” which will prompt your phone to call your vehicle’s OnStar system via Bluetooth.
  6. Once the call is connected, an OnStar agent will come online to assist. They will verify your identity by asking for personal details like your address and the last 4 of your VIN.
  7. The agent will then ask you to provide a new 4-digit PIN of your choosing to replace the current PIN.
  8. Once the new PIN is set, the OnStar agent will end the call and your system will be updated. The next time you initiate an OnStar session, you can use the new PIN for authentication.

Resetting the OnStar PIN in the Car

  1. Ensure the vehicle is completely powered off with the ignition in the off position.
  2. Locate the OnStar button, typically mounted near the rearview mirror or overhead console area.
  3. Firmly press and hold the OnStar button for 10 seconds until the indicator light flashes red and white.
  4. Release the button once flashing, then immediately press again two additional times in quick succession.
  5. The OnStar light will flash multiple colors briefly, then a single red light will turn on steadily.
  6. Start the vehicle – it will prompt you to input a new 4-digit PIN.
  7. Enter a PIN of your choosing when prompted to complete the reset.

Resetting the PIN directly in the vehicle without Bluetooth requires physically accessing the OnStar controller mounted on the dash. This allows changing the PIN locally without needing to call OnStar support.

How to Reset OnStar:

Reset OnStar Using the Phone Method

  • Contact OnStar and identify yourself (name, address, phone number)
  • Request a PIN reset if you’ve forgotten your existing PIN
  • The agent will generate a temporary PIN for you
  • Enter the temporary PIN when prompted to create a new permanent PIN

Reset OnStar Using the Button Method

  • Make sure the vehicle is off before starting this process
  • Locate the OnStar button and press/hold for 10 seconds
  • The light will flash red and white, then release and press twice more
  • The light will cycle through colors and stay red, signifying reset mode
  • Start the car – it will prompt you to set a new 4-digit PIN

Reset OnStar Using Bluetooth Pairing

  • Ensure the module is still connected with wiring intact
  • Start the car and wait for Bluetooth to power on
  • Press/hold the OnStar button until it flashes blue
  • When prompted, say “OnStar” to connect via Bluetooth
  • Follow the phone method prompts to set a new PIN