This month, we’re jumping back into the world of module reprogramming, as we a look at a bunch of resources on this continually hot topic. Every week, we are talking to shops, technicians and our channel partners about this application and the equipment needed to support it. Since it is an expensive proposition to get into the programming game and keep up with the changing vehicle requirements related to it, we feel it is good to circle back on it a few times each year to keep you up to date on the latest trends and topics.
The Critical Role of the Flashing Power Supply
We decided that we’d follow the old newspaper adage and not “bury the lead.” After all, we are a manufacturer of battery chargers and flashing power supplies. So, when we read this very well presented piece, by Andrew Markel on Import-Car.com, clearly and effectively making the case for why a flashing power supply is essential to the module programming application, we were very excited. Often, articles about module reflashing skip over this aspect of the service completely, which we find depressing for us and confusing for the audience.
In this great article, Markel distinguishes between a battery charger and a power supply, noting that a battery charger is insufficient as a tool for supporting module reprogramming. This is because a battery charger will change its output based on the connected battery’s State of Charge (SoC) – as the battery reaches a high SoC, the charger will begin to reduce its current output. A flashing power supply, on the other hand, will keep (or maintain) the vehicle’s electrical system at a target voltage until it is turned off, which is exactly what’s needed. As Markel points out, reflashing/reprogramming events are getting longer in duration, which means that shops need to use a proper flashing power supply to support these extended events. Inadequate tools will not be able to support these longer sessions.
Honestly, this article is the best primer on what a flashing power supply is, how it works and why it is needed that we have seen in any publication to date. It covers all of the most critical points and does so in a logical, readable way. We can’t recommend it enough.
Which Programming Option is Best for Your Shop?
We can hear you saying, “You promised this article was going to be about programming, not power supplies!” True, so, back to regularly scheduled programming. If you are new to module reprogramming or trying to determine what approach is right for you, this article from UnderhoodService.com is a good place to start. In it, Andrew Markel identifies the different ways a shop can perform the application, breaking down the various options. From OE tooling and aftermarket scan tools to J-Boxes (J2534 pass through devices) and remote programming, he provides an overview of each and hits on some key points to keep in mind.
He also talks about all the things that are needed for this service, including software licenses, computers and (you guessed it) a quality power supply. In some places, he gets into specific detail: “Most manufacturers call for an “enterprise-grade” computer and access point (Wi-Fi router). It can be difficult to define what enterprise-grade means but in their supporting documents, most define it as hardware intended for businesses. Dell calls it a PC for work. HP calls its line “laptops for business.” The main attributes are better hardware and technical support than consumer-grade computers.” These are important considerations and it is good that he clearly lays out this aspect of the equipment needed to offer this service.
While this article will not enable you to finalize your decision as to what approach to take, it does do a great job of laying out the various paths available to a shop wanting to get into this service area. It provides a good jumping off point for deeper dives into specific solutions of interest.
From a review of the many different ways a shop can approach reprogramming, we shift to a piece focused on one specific programming option. In this article on Import-Car.com, Donny Seyfer provides the history of how J2534 came about and what means for today’s vehicle service. J2534 has certainly evolved over the years. As he notes, “The ultimate goal of J2534 for 2018 model year [forward] and, in some cases, much earlier vehicles is for shops to be able to run OEM and aftermarket scan tool software and programming applications to include vehicle security over a common standardized Vehicle Communication Interface (VCI).” He then gets down to details related to implementing J2534 in the shop, again including details about computer requirements, including the need to have a computer (or at least a partition of a computer) dedicated to each OE software you plan to load for service.
The need to set up multiple computers combined with the sense that J2534 programming can be difficult and problematic even after you have the computer(s) set up correctly leads to a lot of the fear and trepidation for shops when it comes to implementing J2534. As Seyfer puts it, “For many of us, J2534 is a nebulous term or one that brings fears of “bricked” modules and hours of frustration to perform what should be a simple firmware update on a vehicle’s module.” In the article, he tries to dispel the fears and demystify the J2534 process, encouraging shops to jump in and give it a go. For those considering this path, it is a very worthwhile article.
Don’t Be Too Quick to Condemn a Module
We have often highlighted articles that stress the interconnectedness of various vehicle systems. This article from Import-Car.com definitely falls under this header. In it, Doug Kaufman addresses many ways that a properly functioning module can look like it needs replacement. As he starts the article, “If a module like an ECM or PCM can’t communicate with the vehicle, sensor or a scan tool, it can be a challenging diagnostic problem. The source of the problem could be software, electrical or mechanical.” This lays out the main focus of the article.
He reminds the reader that a faulty sensor or various wiring issues, such as high resistance in a wiring harness or a short to ground, can cause a module to be uncommunicative and appear defective. He walks the reader through a checklist to perform before condemning a module. This is very helpful, since replacing a perfectly operational module can often fail to resolve the issue. So, saving time, effort and cost by pinpointing the true source of the issue is in the shop’s best interests. This is a good article to help a shop that’s new to programming develop the system-oriented mindset needed to successfully resolve module-related complaints correctly the first time.
When it comes to module reprogramming, PRO-LOGIX Flashing Power Supply models PL6100 and PL6800 deliver the support needed for even the most demanding reflashing events, whether that demand comes from the need for high output for an extended period of time or comes from the need for exceedingly clean power due to a sensitive system. Our models feature the ability to deliver 0-100 amps, on demand, to support system voltage from 13.1-14.9V, adjustable in 0.1V increments. This means that you can dial them in to exactly meet the OE power requirements for the specific vehicle you are working on. And, their ability to deliver 100A is not limited, so if the vehicle needs high power for 10 minutes or 50 minutes, we can meet that demand.
They deliver exceptionally clean power (less than 100mV ripple) and rapid response to changes in load demand, which together result in a very stable vehicle electrical system, which is exactly what OEs want when their modules are being reprogrammed. Both models feature extra-long 13’ cables with our PowerJawTM clamps for easy access to even difficult to reach vehicle batteries. Plus, in addition to their power supply function, they offer full service battery charging function for Flooded and AGM batteries to 60A (PL6100) or 100A (PL6800), allowing them to bring versatile service to a shop.
Has your shop jumped into programming? How long have you been offering this service? Do you tackle it with one specific approach (e.g. OE tooling) or do you take a multi-pronged approach with two or more methods? Finally, is there a specific vehicle make that causes you more issues than other makes?
We love to hear about it in the comments below.