MY2015 and Older GM Vehicles Will Stop Having OnStar Active After Next Month

OnStar system in GM vehicle - pressing the button will not lead to the expected result in MY2015 or older vehicles 14 photos
Photo: General Motors
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Earlier this year, news of the big switch off for 2G and 3G networks in the U.S. made the rounds on the Internet, but the clock is ticking for the last of those networks, and it will mean bad news for owners of multiple kinds of vehicles, especially older ones.
How old, you ask? Well, in the case of GM products, those that are as old or as new as 2015 (depending on how you look at it) will be among the vehicles left without OnStar functionality in the three-button interface. If your vehicle has one of those, it will not work after January 1, 2023. Since the 3G network sunset occurred back in February 2022, many of the affected vehicles have already been left without service for these systems.

Current OnStar services that will stop working for the affected vehicles include the Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Remote Key Fob service, and everything that involved the dedicated three-button interface. The latter relied mostly on 2G connectivity, which had a better coverage than 3G back when the latter was introduced. Automakers were enticed to get it since it was also cheaper and got the job done.

We should also point out that the affected members will get a reduced cost of their monthly subscriptions and that the billing change happens on January 1, 2023. Some believe a gratuity would have been a nice thing to do, at least for the first year of use. There's no such thing, though.

The U.S. 2G network will reach its final sunset in December 2022, and that is when all the 2G and 3G providers will shut off their networks in the U.S., which will render numerous other services to the same inoperable condition. We are not writing just about automakers here, so be prepared for various older systems to become inoperable after the end of next month.

Vauxhall OnStar
Photo: Vauxhall
In other words, the affected vehicles will not be able to make that 911 emergency call if they detect a crash, and the owner will not be able to enjoy the rest of the OnStar (or comparable) services from the manufacturer of the vehicle. The same applies to non-GM vehicles that had comparable connectivity services that relied on 2G or 3G to get the job done.

With a few exceptions, there is no fix for the affected vehicles, as they rely on older modems, along with corresponding antennae and multiple other components, and that makes any retrofit difficult, if not even near impossible, in some cases. In the current chip shortage, most automakers would commit to free upgrades for technology that is at least seven years old unless it constitutes a safety hazard, which it does not per se.

General Motors has foreseen some of these potential issues, so it has already implemented many OnStar services through the OnStar Guardian app. The latter is already included in the Safety and Security part of OnStar plans, as well as on dedicated OnStar Guardian Plans, which are not just for GM vehicles but can include Location Status and Mobile Crash Response, among others, straight through the app.

Those who do not want to use the app, but are still active OnStar members can get a hold of key services if they call an OnStar Advisor from their phone at 1.888.4ONSTAR, and those services include Roadside Assistance, Crisis Assist, or Emergency Services.

Vauxhall OnStar
Photo: Vauxhall
Evidently, those calls will no longer be made automatically by the vehicle, and they cannot be made if one of the three buttons is pressed on the OnStar interface on the affected vehicles.

The affected vehicles cover former GM brands such as Saturn, Pontiac, Saab, Hummer, as well as older GM vehicles, including some that belong to the 2015 model year but come with legacy hardware connections such as 2G or 3G network connectivity only. As GM Authority notes, there is an OnStar online VIN finder that will help you figure out if your GM-made vehicle is part of the affected vehicles.

As we pointed out in the article that announced this moment, once those 2G and 3G networks go out, the vehicles that depended on their services will no longer have the respective connectivity functions active, but the buttons are still inside.

We suggest you do not press them to prevent errors from popping up, and even turning to car coding with a specialist to make those buttons inoperable for good – as well as eliminating any errors that could have appeared if you happened to touch the buttons by mistake.

GM's OnStar Guardian mobile app
Photo: General Motors
With the death of these 2G and 3G networks, we spot an interesting position for companies in the consumer electronics aftermarket sector. There are firms that could either develop a cheap and universal solution to enable third-party services for older vehicles using a dedicated or a universal dongle that gets installed in vehicles and works with a subscription and 4G connection.

Others could offer a service that lets people deactivate and eliminate all the remnants of OnStar or equivalents from their vehicles without damaging anything else. Hopefully, the old OnStar interfaces will get recycled properly.

We think that there is a market for these services, integrated as described and made simple to use. They should also be safe, so be careful what you buy online. At the same time, we cannot help but feel a bit strange to see that GM will still charge subscription fees to people who own older cars that are left without OnStar just to use a dedicated app that will never be able to do what the system could back in the day.

It is important to note that some aftermarket alarm systems and GPS trackers may offer part of the functionality of the OnStar system or of comparable ones, but they will not get the same in-vehicle integration as when the automaker first implemented the system.
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Editor's note:

For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows images of the OnStar button in cars, as well as other comparable systems from other manufacturers.

Not all MY2015 GM vehicles will lose OnStar connectivity after December 2022, as some may have 4G/LTE connectivity that will continue to enable them to have the service functional. Check your vehicles' VIN with the tool linked in the article to be sure.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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