When OnStar was developed, it became a lifesaver for many people. Roadside assistance, theft recovery, and contacting emergency personnel after an accident became much simpler. If you forgot to renew your subscription, you might wonder if OnStar can still track your car if it is not activated.
OnStar was founded in 1996 as one of the first subscription-based, in-vehicle communications systems. It had many functions, such as acting as the vehicle’s anti-theft system, emergency services contact, turn-by-turn navigation, and hands-free phone device.
It could also conduct diagnostics of the vehicle’s key systems to help keep the car up-to-date on maintenance issues.
OnStar had a lot of features that would not be standard in cars and trucks for years. It had hands-free calling before Bluetooth was developed. And it was at the forefront of GPS technology before on-dash navigators were popular.
The OnStar system has many of the same features as a modern smartphone. It combines the communication of a cellular network with the global tracking available through GPS.
Using a button in your car, you can instantly connect to an OnStar advisor who can see real-time updates on your position anywhere in the world.
The features provided by OnStar help drivers with directions to their destination or contacting police and rescue in case of an accident. It also automatically calls for help if your vehicle’s airbags deploy and locates your car if stolen.
These features have helped OnStar retain many users even after Smartphones became widely popular.
Many cars come with OnStar systems installed from the factory. Therefore, you have to maintain a subscription to have all of the functions it provides available to you.
However, if you have let your subscription lapse, OnStar still might be able to help you if your car is missing or stolen.
As long as the equipment has remained installed in the vehicle, OnStar should be able to track your vehicle’s location using the onboard GPS.
However, if you do not have an active subscription, you may have to let them work through the police to get the information.
Once they have your vehicle’s make, model, and license plate number, OnStar can track its location.
If you are unsure if you have paid your OnStar subscription, there are a few ways you can find out quickly.
- Look at the information displayed on the dashboard. If you have a current account, there will be an OnStar logo.
- Go to your OnStar account on their website using your computer, or open the OnStar app and check that your subscription is active.
- Tap the OnStar button in your vehicle to connect with the advisor who can tell you whether or not your subscription is current.
As long as OnStar was not removed from your vehicle, you can activate your subscription at any time.
Once you sign up for Owner Center, you can activate OnStar, access your vehicle’s service history, and receive notifications of maintenance and theft alarms.
Using your phone’s app store, you can download the app to get roadside assistance, activate theft alarm notifications, and get turn-by-turn directions.
Most manufacturers give a free trial on OnStar as part of a new car package. You must go to the app or website within 15 days to provide payment information to keep your service. After that, you cannot connect to OnStar advisors from your car, but emergency personnel can if you are involved in an accident.
The OnStar system in your car is connected to your car’s battery. If the vehicle is off, it can still connect and provide services. That helps if you are in an accident where the engine is disabled as long as the battery is intact.
If your battery is dead or disconnected, OnStar may not work. GM started installing battery backups in some of its models in 2005. However, if your vehicle is not one of them, your battery must be connected and powered for OnStar to work properly.
There are a lot of questions about OnStar systems. Here are a few of the ones asked the most to help you make the right decision.
Yes. One of OnStar’s biggest features is the onboard GPS. OnStar was one of the first companies to utilize GPS technology for driving directions.
If your vehicle is stolen, OnStar can work with police to disable its systems. That will make it unusable until police find it and, hopefully, the people who stole it.
Unfortunately, thieves who have studied the technology can disable an OnStar system. However, not all thieves are as capable as the ones that do that much homework. If you have an OnStar system, you should report your vehicle stolen as soon as possible. That will give police extra time to find it before they have a chance to remove it.
OnStar respects your privacy and has designed its system to reflect that. The only times OnStar can hear what is said in your vehicle is when you press the button to connect with one of their advisors or when the advisor contacts you after an airbag deployment. Other than that, they have no way of hearing what you are saying.
OnStar is working as much as it ever has. They have adapted to changes in technology very quickly and easily over the years. In February of 2022, OnStar decided to discontinue its hands-free calling feature. With the advent of Bluetooth, it was a feature not used as often. The money saved by dropping it can be spent on making the others better.