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Flash Reprogramming – Big Opportunity or Necessary Evil?


This time around, we are shining the spotlight on Flash Reprogramming, a hot topic throughout the forums and in the trade magazines. This evolving application area is complex, difficult to navigate and requires a fairly large investment in education and equipment to get started. With that said, most experts believe that it will become an increasingly important offering for service operations, one that most likely will need to be performed in-house for all but the most difficult instances. To that end, we have gathered several articles to help you organize your thoughts about how you might develop this skill set if you are new to this area or to help you hone your skills if you have been at it for some time.

What will you need to perform this service at your shop?

In the first of two articles by Andrew Markel, this one from, he addresses the basics required to perform the service. These include a stable internet connection, the time to perform these sometimes lengthy routines and several pieces of dedicated equipment. In this article, he also does a great job of identifying why this is an area that should be on your radar if it isn’t already: in the first half of 2014, there were 15 recalls and over 100 TSBs where the identified solution involved a reprogramming operation. A great illustration of the widespread nature of this service.



Why this is a Service You Can’t Afford to Ignore?

In this second article on the topic by Andrew Markel, found on, he provides numerous instances where repairs that were once handled via parts replacement and mechanical fixes now often involve a reprogramming operation as well. In other words, reprogramming is increasingly an operation that cannot be avoided. He also stresses the fact that the increase in incidence of reprogramming-related repairs is not limited to new vehicles, but also includes service to address drivability issues on vehicles in the 35,000-50,000 mile age group. His final words are a rallying cry for today’s shop: The writing is on the wall: “Reflashing is a necessary service for repairing your customers’ vehicles, and its importance is only going to increase.”



J2534 – Is it the Right Option for Your Shop?

“Some technologies are so intertwined in the entire vehicle you really need to embrace that technology before it runs you over.” That’s how Dave Hobbs started this article on flash reprogramming and J2534 pass through technology. In our observations from the forums, particularly iATN, J2534 appears to be a popular approach for aftermarket shops servicing a wide variety of makes and models. While this article is a little older (October 2012), it is very comprehensive, addressing the need for developing this skill internally, providing a brief history of the J2534 standard, outlining an ROI scenario for the equipment investment required and discussing a framework for determining when reprogramming is an appropriate service step for a given vehicle malady. If you’re just getting started, this is a great intro to the topic.



A Methodical Approach is the Key to Success.

In this more advanced article on reprogramming from, Jaime Lazarus summarizes his reprogramming framework: steps in determining that reprogramming is necessary, prepping the vehicle for a successful reflash, electrical system checks that should be done before commencing, the time investment often required to complete a successful reflash and some real world lessons learned as a mobile automotive diagnostic technician. His bottom line on reprogramming: Murphy’s Law is alive and well, so expect the unexpected when performing this service. And a corollary: eliminate as many potential problems before executing the reprogramming operation and, maybe, you can keep Murphy away that day.


We hope these resources are useful to you as you consider adding this application to your service menu or as you try to expand your knowledge and capability in this complicated service area. It is an evolving topic and we plan to report back on it periodically, as the service environment changes. How about your shop? Are you currently handling all of your own reprogramming, a portion of it or have you chosen to refrain from offering this service for now?



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