OnStar RemoteLink codes 200, 210, 216, 900 for Chevrolet Volt

The basic explanation seems to have something to do with “corrupted” data on the car.  Given the breadth of time the problem has been reported, this sounds like a toughie!  Or something.

The search engines are full, chock full, of references to this problem across models (Camaro, Equinox, Traverse, Volt) and across at least years 2011, 2012, and now of course 2013.  They haven’t been able to characterize it or solve it across a wide range of vehicle builds, onboard software releases or consumer premises equipment.

Symptoms

  • Then OnStar RemoteLink App is very slow; 30-60-90 seconds of whirly-wheel followed by intermittent or constant failure depending upon the feature.
  • Error codes (actualities below)
    • 200
    • 210
    • 216
    • 900
    • unnumbered generic “system error”
    • unnumbered generic “Wifi connectivity”
  • Reports across
  • Sporadic ability to operate the Dashboard subscreen to recover the  (the charge info) => feels like 30% failure rate
  • Sporadic ability operate the Remote subscreen to lock, unlock, remote start, remote cancel the vehicle => feels like 80% failure rate
  • Total inability to move navigation data to the car from the Nav subscreen => 100% failure rate; has never worked.
  • Total inability to set the alert preferences from the Alert subscreen => 100% failure rate; has never worked.

Folklore

Based on folklore and myth, as related by others.  Note the dates.  Nothing seems to have changed in two years (Does Not Work). The failure mode is claimed to be:

  • Theory A
    • After each drive cycle, a data blob is prepped on the car for later extraction.
    • This blob becomes “corrupted” resulting in an “unavailable” error code upon query.
  • Theory B
    • As the car travels across cellular coverage areas, or cellular coverage strength varies as the car is stationary.
    • The “login data” becomes corrupted in the OnStar subsystem on the car
    • The system “normally fixes itself”, but sometimes it does not.
  • Theory C
    • It’s some sort of rate limiting issue wherein if the car is accessed too frequently by the app then a lockout occurs for a period
    • Too frequently within 3 hours
    • Account lockout for 12 hours.

The customer interface to this is “call OnStar”; there are no meaningful customer intervention points.

  • OnStar tier 1 support (the first voice on the phone) doesn’t know anything about it.
  • OnStar tier 2 support, tech support knows about it but can’t fix it.
  • OnStar tier 2 support may be able to temporarily clear the problem, or maybe not.

Even lower quality rumor and tales; preceed every statement with “There may or may not be …” or “Someone has reported inconclusively with no followup that …”

  • Some ‘new software’ is required (in the car, not the phone).
  • There is an end user “reset” incantation involving simulating a drive cycle.
  • A difference in behavior depending on whether the car is already “on” or not. (this is, of course pointless, for a ‘remote’ feature of any kind).
  • The 2012 Volt does not support RemoteLink App at all.
  • The OnStar subsystem shuts down after four days of inactivity; this effect is similar by that.
  • The OnStar’s subsystem shuts down or hangs spontaneously; making an outgoing call from the car through the OnStar phone may “unhang” it.

Archaeological order, youngest on top, older material below

  • Dave O’Connor; ERROR CODE 216 followed by 210 followed by….; In GM Volt Forum; conversation spans 2012-12-14 -> 2012-12-19.
    Summary:

    • Claim: Long story into failure with 210 and 216 codes
      • Installed the OS remote monitor on [his] android phone and iPad.
      • The app on the phone worked the first night,
      • Failed the next morning.
      • Symptoms are “the whirly” and message with 216.
      • A message advised to drive the car and try again.
      • More failure throughout his day.
      • He called OnStar,
      • A 7-digit number is given.
      • Return to the car, call OnStar from the car phone.
      • They accept the 7-digit number and “do something.”
      • Incantation
        • stop the motor
        • open a door
        • shut that door
        • re-start the motor
      • Try the remote link again; got  210.
      • Advisor escalates
      • A few minutes later “it works”
      • Later in the day, the Pad app won’t recognize either his user name or password so later today
    • Claim: Based on [another user's] experience with the exact same issue, OnStar led him to believe that there is a limit on the number of connections allowed in a specific period. When that is exceeded you will get a 216 & 210 error. It could be 3 per hour and then locked out for 12 hours sort of thing. It could also be the number of different devices trying to connect as well.
    • Someone entitled “Corbin, OnStar Advisor, Social Media Team” chimes in to give kind words of care.
    • Resolution: none really; “they are working on it”; conversation ends with RemoteLink feature Does Not Work
  • outlanderbz; RemoteLink Alerts? Anyone get this to work?; In GM Volt Forum; conversation spans 2012-07-23 -> 2012-10-15.
    Summary:

    • Usual symptoms
    • Messages cited
      • 108 (Unable to send your alert settings, Unable to retrieve alert settings)
      • 210
      • 216
      • 900
    • iOS 6
    • The RemoteLink app won’t work on Nexus 7
    • Someone was able to get RemoteLink running in an Android emulator
  • ChrisC; OnStar account corrupted; breaks mobile, web, and VoltStats access; In GM Volt Forum; conversation spans 2012-04-27-> 2012-04-28.
    Summary:

    • Claim: The OnStar tech support rep. reported that if the car goes into an area of poor cell coverage (or not the right kind of data coverage) the account can get corrupted. Something about the login data getting messed up. The system normally fixes itself when that happens but in this case they had to give it the manual nudge.
    • Resolution: none; conversation ends with RemoteLink feature Does Not Work
      The conversation shifts to VoltStats and LinkedIn spamming the user’s contact list.
  • daninoah; No contact with My Volt, one week and counting; In GM Volt Forum; conversation spans 2012-03-04-> 2012-05-06.
    Summary:

    • Claim: The OnStar telematics are programmed to automatically shut off after around four days of the car being off to protect the battery.  This shutdown causes symptoms similar to those reported.
    • Claim: OnStar’s computer can get “stuck.” Making an outgoing call via your Volt through OnStar can fix it.
    • Resolution: none; conversation ends with RemoteLink feature Does Not Work
  • gt4fore; MyVolt Website Unable to Update Charging Information / Status; In GM Volt Forum; conversation spans 2011-11-16 -> 2012-10-08.
    Summary:

    • Claim: 2012 Volt apps were disabled; source: OnStar tech support.
    • Claim: apparently the data packet in the Volt can get corrupted and On Star can’t access it.
    • Resolution: none; conversation ends with RemoteLink feature Does Not Work
  • Joule Thief; Onstar MyVolt.com and iPhone RemoteLink 216 Error – Unable to establish communication; In GM Volt Forum; conversation spans 2011-02-11 -> 2011-12-09.
    Summary:

    • After each drive cycle, a data blob is prepped on the car for later extraction.
    • This blob becomes “corrupted” resulting in an “unavailable” error code upon query.
    • Remediation & InterventionIincantation
      • Call OnStar from the car
      • Get a transfer into Tech Support
      • Tech Support sends a “reset” (vague on what this is) to the car
      • User completes a drive cycle by acting through
        1. Turn off the engine
        2. Open the driver door for 20-30 seconds
        3. Close the door
        4. Turn on the engine for 1-2 min.
    • Resolution: inconclusive; the problem may or may not have gone away.

References

Running Estimate

The running estimate from before

Engineering Estimate

Whereas the car is for the tech in it, right?

Car culture design & engineering Computer culture & devops
great-to-excellent, very happy Needs work unto Does Not Work

OnStar Estimate

Whereas there are 34 months left to decide if this is worth a steep monthly fee.
The significant (only?) value here is in OnStar RemoteLink App

Current Estimate Tending & Aspiring Towards
Needs Work, You Pay Me for My Time Helping You Debug Good Enough To Be Free

Actualities & Experiences

Exhibits to illustrate the error codes.  Across various dates & times.

OnStar Service Benefits & Values | Initial Estimate & Framing the Problem

Whereas I joined the club, now I get to comment as part of the experience.

Some framing:

  • As a happy owner (because that is the case … and why not?)
  • Constructive (no point in just bitching, and hopefully it’ll help someone else)
  • Exploring the way through the product (the literature and folklore is unclear; and um, there’s a lot that has changed with GM since 2002, right?)

Also:

  • I just spent a $50,000 to acquire a piece of technology that is reputed to have cost $90,000 to have made (How Cool Is That?)
  • There are no other cars like it from any manufacturer; think about that (HCIT?)
  • Very few people have these; one looks for that in a vehicle (HCIT?)
  • The national project right now is to figure out how to do electric cars; I’m now part of that (HCIT?)
  • I bought this car for the same reason why I might have bought this car, an instance of which was sitting on the showroom floor not 30 feet from where I bought my Volt; i.e. because I can, because it’s fun. Enjoy the journey.

However

  • OnStar is independent of the Volt and the EV program at GM.
  • You can get a post-deployment OnStar device for your vehicle as OnStar FMV
  • OnStar service is substantially orthogonal to the EV functionality.
  • My OnStar experience on my Volt is at issue here so there’s a little bit of Volt-specifics in this.

Onward.  This won’t be the last outburst on this subject because I’ll have the car for the next decade.

Background

Problem Statement

  • What is it?
  • What’s the vision/value prop. of the service/product?
  • What does it do for me?
  • Is it worth it? (will it be worth it if/when I pay for it)?

Basics

Framed as a marketing guy would think …

OnStar-as-insurance. Whereas you can die in a car.  OnStar can help stop that.  You and yours will die less.  There’s value in that.

OnStar-as-bookkeeper.  Cars are mechanical objects that require maintenance to operate.  Maintenance must be delivered on schedule and as appropriate.  OnStar replaces diligence and that “little book” one keeps to record & remind.  There’s value there.  Also, the factory and dealer would like direct access to your vehicle; there’s value there for you and for them.

OnStar-as-integration.  There’s even a promotional slide of this on the OnStar web site.  Integrating all the gadgets that you’d have to buy to replicate the service: phone, GPS, tablet (they cite five devices, unclear what the five are).  Phone and GPS are clear; the black lumps in the picture are not.

OnStar-is-modern.  Hectic lifestyles on-the-go.  A car being “web enabled” and “accessible remotely” “from your phone” and “from the cloud.”  Manage & maintain in the computer age. Into the networked age. Everything is going ambient accessible these days.  It’s the place to be: head in the clouds.  Sweet.

OnStar-as-concierge.  And maybe there’s actual people from your culture, speaking your language, up there that are watching over you and helping you receive “transportation service value” out of your purchase.  Sounds great.  These things are so complicated, can’t someone be on call to just help me own it?  I’m just renting the “experience” of transportation anyway.  Like at a hotel.

Counterpoint (unto cynical)

Not dying or dying less frequently is good. In fact, that’s priceless, right?  Especially if it’s your young wife or teenage daughter cite.  They probably think this way too and respect you more for considering their needs.

But you pay for cloud services, you don’t “own” them.  There’s a constant charge for receiving value.  The drain never ends.  And everyone is draining from us now, little bitty charges everwhere and always.

You have to own a phone anyway.  This is yet “another phone” and a limited & expensive one at that.  No voicemail, no call forwarding blah blah.  And another phone endpoint to tell everyone where you can be reached.  It’s like a wireline phone: it exists at a fixed location where you rarely reside.

If you’re a privacy/policy wonk tangentially with the privacy & security concerns.  How soon before we read about [Chinese] hackers taking over OnStar and programming and/or disabling the national fleet of GM vehicles?  “Can’t happen here” you say.  Until such day as it does. One more headache to worry about.  Others worry here too.

The service has been out “forever” and you hear it in the news from time to time, saving someone’s life (“priceless”, as they say, right?). Yet I declined OnStar in 2002 with the Avalanche out of concern for the monthly fees.  To say they are very steep for the value provided is still valid (rate sheet: rounding, think circa $1/day; $30/month, $350/year; are there FCC, FAA (sic), FDA (sic), FDIC (sic) taxes in or out of that?).

Most of what OnStar provides is in the “supplemental” class, as in it stands in after your primary service has been exceeded.  You still have to provision the primary service to receive any benefit.  Or it’s something you didn’t need anyway and were living without just fine before.

Integrated components are often not “best of breed” or even “at par” with the current generation.  The consumer electronics components cited that OnStar replaces turn over generations every eighteen months.  A car takes eight years to design & build and then lasts for five to ten years.  The builtin integrated components are and will always be substandard unto unuseful and unuseable after a few years.  c.f. CD players, CD changers in vehicles.  You’re going to be using discrete components “wired to the cigarett lighter and located in your lap” in a year or so anyway.

The concierge concept seems, um vapid.  Surely one can look up one’s own driving directions on one’s own phone.  Before the drive, or my gosh man! … pull over and get your life in order!  This feels like a place that’s rife for stories about bumbling oldster couples crabbing at each other and needing a neutral third party to tell them how to find a gas station with an unlocked potty as they travel to the grandkids house for the 60 year high school reunion. I can’t see my teen using this (or be seen using concierge help), ever [let The Focus Group prove me wrong].

Estimate

I have 35 months left to figure this out.  So far we’re trending with On Star as:

Service/Product Status Now Could Become
On Star Cloud Service Good Enough To Be Free Good Enough To Pay For
On Star Remote App Needs Work, You Pay Me for My Time Helping You Debug Good Enough To Be Free

The deets on “here’s why” … is upcoming: