Maintaining the Computer


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How to check for the most current updates in vehicle on board computers.

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Maintaining the Computer

  1. 1. Maintaining the… Computer? PLAYING WITH FIREMaintainingthe… Computer? by Jon RodriguezW elcome to a new era of vehi- cle maintenance. Computer flashing can not only help andsometimes cure driveability issues; itcan also prevent future problems fromoccurring. Routine checks for the latestcomputer calibrations can bring in extraincome and show your customers thatyour shop is up to date. Now is your chance to get involvedwith computer programming. This cannot only provide an extra service toyour shop but also give you an edgeagainst the competition. The addedvalue of offering a reflash with everyrebuild is something that will separateyour business from the rest. Just because you don’t have theequipment to perform flashes doesn’t Figure 1mean that you can’t sell them as a ser-vice. Many general automotive shopsare equipped with flashing technol-ogy, because most updates have to dowith emissions and engine driveabilityissues. There may even be a mobile“flasher” in your area who’ll cometo you and perform the update rightin your shop. If those options aren’tavailable, check with your local dealer;they’ll probably do it for you at awholesale price. “My car runs fine! Why do I needto have the computer reprogrammed?”That’s a common question you mightget from a customer when trying to sella flash. The easiest way to sell this typeof service is to relate it to the Windowscomputer operating system. Most peo- Figure 2ple today are familiar with computersand the constant need to keep the latest mance, the computer’s software cali- formed?” No. What we’re going to talksoftware updates current for optimum brations must be kept up to date. about is how to look for a calibrationperformance. The same goes for your “Is there a maintenance timeline using the free access web sites that justcar: To keep your car in tiptop perfor- for when the flash should be per- about every manufacturer has available.20 GEARS August 2008
  2. 2. Maintaining the… Computer?With some basic information from thevehicle, and basic internet access, youcan see in a matter of minutes whetherthere’s an update available. For thesake of not taking up the whole maga-zine with step-by-step instructions forevery manufacturer, we’re going tofocus on the Big Three.Chrysler Access the Vehicle ID informationusing your scan tool’s global OBD-IIfeature (figure 1). This allows you tomake sure you have the right com-puter in the vehicle, and it hasn’t beenswapped with a different vehicle’scomputer. This is a valuable tool when diag- Figure 3nosing a problem that may be causedby a mismatched computer. An exam-ple would be a P0730 in 4T60E and4T65E transaxles. If the PCM wasswapped with a vehicle that was cali-brated for a different final drive ratio,the code would set just like if you wereto install a wrong ratio differential inthe transaxle. Using this feature of yourscan tool is the only way to accuratelydiagnose this situation. After you’ve established commu-nication with the computer, choosethe Read Vehicle Identification option.Standard OBD-II documentation callsthis function “Mode $09”, but mostscan tools don’t use this term. You’ll see three options: 1. Vehicle Identification Number Figure 4 (VIN) 2. Calibration Identification 3. Calibration Verification Number First check the vehicle’s VIN.Make sure the vehicle’s VIN matchesthe one provided by your scan tool. Ifnot, the computer’s been replaced withanother unit (most likely from a junk-yard), and will need to be replaced withthe correct computer. This informationis available on 99% of the OBD-IIvehicles and is very useful for deter-mining whether the correct computer isin the vehicle. If the VINs match, the next stepis to access the ten-digit part num-ber from the Calibration Identificationoption. This Cal ID will have eightnumbers followed by two letters. Write Figure 5it down and log onto the internet. After flashing the computer, the22 GEARS August 2008
  3. 3. Maintaining the… Computer?technician should’ve marked the latestCal ID number on a sticker somewherein the engine compartment. On thisvehicle it was located on the hood(figure 2). Go to Notice there’s nowww before the address. At the leftof the screen you’ll see J2534 FlashAvailability (figure 3). Clicking thatlink will load a 337-page file fullof vehicle applications, part numbers,Technical Service Bulletins (TSB), andrecalls. Type your part number in the findbox at the top of the PDF file page,click on the scroll arrow next to thebox, and click on Find Next in CurrentPDF (figure 4). Your part number will Figure 6show up in one of two areas. If youfind it in the Old Part Numbers section,the computer needs an update. If thepart number shows up in the New PartNumbers section, no flash is needed.No matter what section it shows up in,there will be a list of TSBs that applyto that vehicle and maybe even somerecalls. All of this should have taken youless than 15 minutes, and it providesyou with a printed copy listing infor-mation about the vehicle that you can’tget anywhere else.Ford Access the Vehicle ID using theglobal OBD-II function with your scan Figure 7tool, to make sure the computer iscorrect for the vehicle. After you’vematched the vehicle’s VIN, access thecomputer and record the seven-digitpart number from the computer. Thepart number will be an alphanumericcode with four digits, a dash, and thenthree more digits (figure 5). Take thisinformation, along with the year andengine size, and log onto the internet. Go to At the left of the screen,look for Quick Guides (figure 6).Clicking on the Quick Guides linkwill take you to a screen with 13different options (figure 7). The sev-enth option will be Latest CalibrationInformation. Clicking on Latest CalibrationInformation will take you to a screen Figure 8with some basic instructions. Go to thebottom of that page and click on Search24 GEARS August 2008
  4. 4. NEW – 3 Year/100,000 Mile Warrantywith National Coverage*• OEM Perfect Fit Every Time• No-Risk Core Return• Same or Next Day Delivery• Competitive PricesProtect the reputation of your shop –choose the powertrain that can’t be beat.See your local Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealer, callthe Powertrain Assistance Center at 1-800-392-7946(8 AM to 8 PM ET, M-F) or visit POWERTRAIN*See dealer for limited warranty details. Motorcraft ® is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. Diesel engines covered by 2 year/unlimited mileage warranty covering parts and labor.
  5. 5. Maintaining the… Computer? The advantage of General Motors’ and Chrysler’s system is the new calibration shows up on your scan tool in Mode $09. Calibration by Vehicle, Model Year and Engine (figure 8). That will take you to a screen asking for the vehicle, model year, and engine size. After fill- ing in the necessary info, click Submit (figure 9). If you entered all the vehicle information properly, you’ll see a list containing part numbers, module IDs, catchwords, and hardware types. If Figure 9 your vehicle’s computer part number isn’t on the list, there’s an update avail- able (figure 10). General Motors Use the Calibration Identification and Calibration Verification numbers located in the global OBD-II (Mode $09) area of the scan tool. Access the screen that shows the VIN, match the VIN to the vehicle, and record the Calibration ID and Calibration Verification numbers. Then access the computer and record the eight digit part number. Take this information and log onto the internet. Go to http://tis2web.service. Notice there’s no www before the address. This will take you to the Figure 10 home page where you will see two options: Enter a VIN and Get CAL ID, or enter a part number and Get CVN (figure 11). We’re concerned with the CAL ID, so enter the VIN and click on Get CAL ID. If you entered the VIN correctly, you’ll be taken to a page with five different options. Choose PCM/VCM Powertrain/Vehicle Control Module and click Next at the lower right of the page (figure 12). You’ll now be at a page with several different computer part num- bers. Click on the Complete History button at the lower left of the page (figure 13). This will provide all the calibration information available for the vehicle, including the description of the faults that the software update Figure 11 will address. Use the PCM part num- ber, Calibration ID, and Calibration26 GEARS August 2008
  6. 6. Verification Number (CVN) to findthe update pertaining to your vehicle(figure 14). If you can’t find the Calibration IDand CVN for the vehicle’s computer, itdoesn’t need a software update. If theCalibration ID and the CVN are listed,a description of the updates will be nextto the numbers. The advantage of General Motors’and Chrysler’s system is the new cali-bration shows up on your scan toolin Mode $09. In Ford, if a techniciandidn’t install the updated informationon the PCM or radiator support, theupdates may have already been per-formed, even though they don’t appearon your scan tool. Figure 12 Remember, you can’t flash thecomputer if there are any codes inmemory. If you come across a hardcode that you’ve diagnosed as a com-puter problem, a flash won’t fix it.Hard faults in the computer are hard-ware-related; you’ll need to replace thecomputer. Sometimes a flash will addressan intermittent code by widening theparameters that the computer uses toflag a code. In that case, you’ll needto clear the code, and then perform theupdate. For those situations there’llusually be a TSB detailing the codeflash part number. Keep in mind that the web sites arealways changing their formats, so thesteps we covered here could change, butthe information will always be avail- Figure 13able to you. If your shop isn’t repro-gramming, I hope this article will takeyou a step closer to implementing thisvery useful and profitable program…one that will someday be as common asa scan tool is to shops today. And youcan still use this information even ifyou don’t have the flashing equipment,to determine whether a flash will beuseful to the customer. For more information on repro-gramming, be sure to attend BillBrayton’s seminar titled, “ComputerReprogramming: Earning Good Moneywithout Getting Your Hands Dirty” atthis year’s EXPO in Las Vegas. Figure 14GEARS August 2008 27