2003 Honda Accord with a possessed radio


I have a 2003 Honda Accord LX with 96K miles on it. As the weather has gotten colder, my car radio is turning itself on. I walked out last week to a frigid 19 degrees here in KY to the blaring sound of my radio on in the car. There was no one in the car and no key in the ignition, rather the key was in my hand. This has continued to be a problem and occurs sporadically during the day. I have tried turning the radio on/off, keeping the volume down, but regardless, even the clock face panel turns itself on. Has anyone else heard of this problem and what can I do about it? Any thoughts appreciated.

Spooked in KY,

Radios usually have two power connections: accessory 12V and constant 12V. The accessory line is only tuned on when the key is inserted and is controlled by a relay. This way the radio and other accessories turn off when you take the key out.
There’s a good chance that the relay contact is sticky and intermittently makes contact, powering the radio. It also controls the power to the cigarette lighter. On the older Accords it is located near the pedal cluster. I’d replace it and see whether it goes away.

Yeah that sounds like a possibility…but this is troubling because I dont think any of us “like” things turning themselves on without us doing it…No? Is this the factory radio? If so…does this vehicle have the feature of when you shut the car off with the key…completely shut off key position ZERO…will the radio continue to play? Does it stop playing then when you take the key OUT of the ignition in this instance? Or does it finally shut down when a door is opened? There are several ways I see modern vehicles behave in reference to this…the first is radio stays on till key removed…the other is it will stay on with key recently shut off AND removed…radio shutdown finally occurs when any door is opened…

Need to find the relay that is responsible for that “extended power on” feature…and make sure it is behaving…sounds like it is so cold the little circuit breaker is so cold that the parts are deforming inside and allowing the contacts to touch… Find that relay for “extended power on” and see if you can swap it with another or better replace it…


@HondaBlackbird. Thanks for your response. To answer some of your questions:

  1. Yes Factory Radio, never been replaced.
  2. When the key is at the ZERO position, the radio/clock face plate turn off.
  3. When the key is OUT of the ignition, the radio/clock face will try to flash on/off.
  4. If I get out of the car and lock the doors, the radio/clock face will flash on/off, occasionally staying on, despite the fact the key is out and the car has been locked.

As an example, I got home today around 3 pm, the radio turned off when I pulled the key out of the ignition, stayed off when I locked the doors. Went to get my laundry and walked by the car 3 hours later and I could blaring music coming from my car. I hadn’t touched the car in 3 hours and the key was in my hand. I opened the car and couldn’t get it to stop. It has continued for the rest of the night.

Maybe try a different genre of music, one the radio may not like as much?
May I suggest anything with accordion in it, possibly German “Oopmpa-oompa” music, country and western or yodeling? Everyone, including very likely whatever possesses your car, hates that so that’ll likely fix it.

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If it starts playing 50’s rock you have issues. On one hand it will fix itself, on the other hand it will start to kill people. (christine)

Do you perhaps live near an Indian Burial Ground? lol… Hmmm That scenario is basically what I thought was happening…EXCEPT that you DO NOT have a delayed off feature in your vehicle…and this changes our theory

Well I did professional Stereo, Alarm and Remote Start …(Vehicle I.C.E Installations) for over 10 years…in a previous life so using that knowledge…

In THIS instance…it gets a bit more troubling…and would have to be an internal malfunction of the factory Radio or a Malfunction of the Ignition Switch. BECAUSE…that radio should be able to turn on when it has only the 12VDC SWITCHED…hooked up…and it doesn’t care whether you have the 12v constant… That’s why sometimes people say when I shut my car off I lose my radio presets…that is when you pop the cigarette lighter fuse…or the clock fuse or something like that…point being it can operate with only one of the two connections…BUT CANNOT function with ONLY THE 12V CONSTANT power wire alone…so this power would HAVE to be coming from the switched source.

Which is why I asked about that power on delay feature…If when this car did this again…I would get in it and pull out the radio and probe the radio power plug to see if the 12v switched power wire was “hot” or “not”…that would then lead to other areas to look…but if your your 12V SWITCHED power wire was Hot when the car was sitting idle like you describe…that power could only be coming from one source…The ignition switch…but I know how ignition switches work…and that would be some feat let me tell you…

Which is WHY I keep thinking about that delayed power on feature or some feature that would give the radio power outside of key activity…Are you SURE the radio will not continue playing as soon as you shut the car off? Have you ever tried it? Play the radio…with car running…shut ignition down to the zero position…does it continue to play till you either remove the key, or open a door…or does it shut down completely upon KEY ZERO position?


Hey Blackbird,

No Indian Burial Ground that I know of. I’ve taken a while to respond to pay more attention to when this issue is occurring. To answer your question, occasionally he radio WILL stay on after the car has been shut down with key in the zero position with no change or pause in what was going on before. Most times it turns off after the key gets to the zero position, but then will turn on again before I open the door or occasionally after I get out of the car and lock the door. I have been observing it for a while and today I went out to a dead car. The battery died. I just replaced it 13 months ago. Frustrating.

Honda Blackbird makes a very good point with the delayed power control as a possible cause of the trouble. I would also recommend you check the ignition switch. It may be making intermittent connection to the accessory position with the cold weather.

I liked the theory Blackbird posited earlier about the contact arm in the relay being warped by the cold, almost acting as a thermocouple switch.

You could always pull the fuse until the weather warms up enough to work on it. I know what it’s like to work on things like this in subfreezing weather, and it ain’t fun…and the plastic parts break when you try to remove them.

This same situation is happening to me and I have a Honda but accord 2005, so what did you do to fix the issue??

Did you read the responses in the 4 year-old thread? The answers might be there.

If your vehicle has a delay power module to supply power to accessories for a little while after the ignition is turned off then check the operation of that module. If your car doesn’t have that feature then check the ignition switch contacts for a problem. The switch may be faulty or just need adjustment.

This is happening with our son’s 2007 Honda Accord. He’d go to start it & have a dead battery. This has happened about 3x the last month or so. Battery, alternator, starter all checked. He is in college and brought the car home to us last night and we have an appt on Mon with our mechanic. Well, this morning I went out to get the paper & walked by his car & his radio is on! No key, nothing. Thus the reason for the draining of the battery & car not starting for him! Called Honda Dealership, they want $125 for a diagnostic test, they’ve never heard of this. Or they said we could pull the fuse. So if he just turns the radio off every time, would that work or could he still end up w/ a dead battery?Thank god I read this that we weren’t the only ones this has happened too!

Turn off the radio power and if it no longer drains the battery then you will have your answer.
Any good auto stereo shop can solve this if turning off power does not work. And yes , the diagnostic fee is normal because people don’t work for free.