Dear Car Talk:
I have a '97 VW Jetta that doesn't require the key to be in the ignition for the radio and CD player to work, or for the seatbelt alarm to go off. When it was newer, nothing would turn on without the key in the ignition. Why all the laxness now?
VWs were famous for that in the old days, Lisa. They were designed so you could play the radio without having the key in the ignition. I think the head of VW's replacement-battery sales division came up with that idea.
I can't remember when they finally changed it -- it might have been prior to 1997. But in any case, your seat-belt warning chime shouldn't be coming on with the ignition off.
That tells me that the problem is your ignition switch, which is worn out. VWs also were famous for needing ignition switches.
It's not the ignition lock, where you insert your key; it's the switch behind the lock that gets turned. It's easy and relatively inexpensive to replace: It'll probably cost you $100 or less.
And then you can sit in your car for hours, contemplating the sheer beauty of the 1997 Jetta, without having to listen to that darn ding-ding-ding anymore. Good luck, Lisa.