How to Disable OnStar on the Chevy Bolt to Protect Your Privacy

How to Disable OnStar on the Chevy Bolt to Protect Your Privacy

Last year I purchased my first modern connected vehicle. As Mozilla has previously reported, modern vehicles capture (and sell) data about your behavior (how you drive, where you live, where you drive to, what your sexual orientation is). As such, I decided to look into the process of disabling OnStar.

Thanks to Imgur I found a way to (reversibly, not permanently) disable OnStar. In short, because OnStar will still report data back to General Motors and their data brokers even if you don't pay for OnStar (as best I can tell), the only way to truly protect your privacy is to either live in California where you can request to opt out of data collectin via the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) or disable the OnStar hardware. Given that I don't live in California, I opted for the latter approach.

My thanks to BiggRanger on Imgur for originally documenting this process. I followed their instructions but still ran into some difficulty so I am re-documenting this with more information about the process.

Step 1

Purchase a FAKRA Z Jack Female to SMA Female adapter and an SMA male 50 ohm terminator. This is what will isolate the OnStar modem from the world. Screw the terminator onto the SMA plug. Ensure that it tightened fully to isolate the Bolt from the cellular radio signals.

FAKRA Z Jack adapter with terminator installed.
FAKRA Z Jack adapter with terminator installed.

Step 2

Gain access to the rear of the center console by removing the glove box. Pop open the glove box and remove the damper from the right side. This required pliers to pinch the clip so that it could slide off and took more sliding force than I expected.

The glove box damper and clip. The glove box is opened.
The glove box damper and clip.

Squeeze the sides of the glove box inward so that the plastic stops on each side no longer catch, and the glove box cavity opens up completely.

The glove box catch/stopper.
The glove box catch/stopper.
The glove box cavity. There is a white felt heat/noise isolation material on the back of the outside of the glove box.
The glove box cavity.

Step 3

Identify the connector. Shine a flash light into the console and find the purple/violet connector. This is the cellular antenna connector (although this guide is for the Bolt, according the FAKRA chart, Purple/Violet is the industry color code for cellular/GSM so this could work in other vehicles too).

The FAKRA Connector Color Code Chart
The FAKRA Connector Color Code Chart
The inside of the dash behind the center console.
The inside of the dash behind the center console from outside the glove box opening.
The Purple/Violet FAKRA cellular connector, photo taken with the camera touching the silver bar in the previous photo.
A closer look at the Purple/Violet FAKRA cellular connector.

The cellular connector was closest to the glove box and pretty easy to spot. I had to reach my hand in pretty far to grab it though.

The author's hand reaching back into the cavity behind the console.
Reach in there, nothing will bite.

Step 4

Unlock the connector and slide it out. This was the hardest part for me. The original Imgur post made it sound like you "just" take a "small" screwdriver and slide out red locking tab so that you can squeeze the connector and pull it off, but sliding the locking tab out of the way took me over an hour. What is small?

Turns out "small" means less than 18cm (5 inches) tall, with a very thin flat edge, 4mm (1/8th inch) wide. The electronics screwdriver set I have pictured below was just a little bit too tall to be effective, so I ended up using some "screwdriver pen" thing my wife had laying around.

A screw driver set with two screw drivers lined up next to a ruler for scale.
This is what "small" means. The screwdriver on the right worked for me.

The other issue that gave me trouble was figuring out how far to slide the lock out. I would move it a little and think it had slid out enough, but realize it wasn't and have to try to slide it out more. The screwdrive slips on the plastic tab a lot, making this challenging. Finally I noticed that there is a "locked" and an "unlocked" indicator dot on the side of the FAKRA jack. Don't try to pull the connect off until you see the dot all the way into the unlocked position.

The FAKRA connector with the tab in the locked position
Locked position.
The FAKRA connector with the tab in the unlocked position
Unlocked position.

Step 5

Slide the isolated/terminated connector on. This was super fast and easy to seat and slide on. I felt it lock into place with a subtle click. I left the original connector to the actual cellular antenna handing off to the side. If you ever want to re-enable OnStar, you slide (no need to unlock!) the isolated connector off and slide the original one back on.

The blue isolated cellular modem plugged in, with the original violet connector hanging off to the side.
Isolated cellular modem, original connector hanging off to the side.

Step 6

Turn on the car and check for the red light. If you see that it's red you succeeded. You can test that it actually is isolated by attempting to place a call to OnStar. The system "dials" for me but never connected.

The red OnStar light on the OnStar control panel above the mirror indicating OnStar has been disabled.
Disabled OnStar


OnStar and My Chevrolet are nice for checking the state of charge and charge rates of your Bolt. I discovered that an OBD2 dongle and a reader/writer app can tell you much of the same info. Most of the apps I tried are geared towards gas/diesel cars and required me to import the PIDs for the Bolt and build a custom dashboard. This is not ideal, so I think I might actually build an iOS app to replace the things in My Chevrolet that I care about.

In order to warm or cool the car without having to get in it, you can use the key fob to remote start it by pressing the lock button briefly and then holding the circle arrow icon button for about 5 seconds. This won't work from miles away, but then the trade-off is that someone miles away can't violate your privacy or disable your car.

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