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The Need for Clean Power During a Programming Event

Digital Car-650

A few years ago, we posted an article about the need for clean power during diagnosis and on-vehicle maintenance and repair. This includes diagnosing electrical system components, such as fuses, relays and more. It also includes repairs to electronic systems, such as electronic brake jobs, which would be severely disrupted if there was a loss of system voltage. Today, we address the need for clean power during vehicle reprogramming.

Vehicle reprogramming is becoming a dominant application need for mechanical repair operations and collision repair facilities alike. As the module count on today’s vehicles continues to skyrocket, a greater number of repair tickets involve reprogramming. According to a study cited on the Drew Technologies website, 7 out of 10 vehicles on the road require a calibration of one kind or another. Reprogramming is often necessary on vehicles of all ages, whether in warranty or not. Many of the Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) issued by automobile manufacturers require reprogramming with the latest software updates to repair problems that are occurring on vehicles even after their warranties have expired.

Reprogramming can involve all types of equipment, from OE scan tools to aftermarket scan tools to J2534 pass through devices combined with a PC. The approach taken by a given shop will depend on a variety of factors. But, the one common piece of equipment needed for successful reprogramming is a stable power supply to maintain system voltage throughout the programming event. A stable power supply is specified by almost every automotive OE around the globe while reprogramming their vehicles.

Just like scan tools and pass through devices, there are many different options when it comes to stable power supplies. So, what should you be looking for when searching for one to add to your shop’s arsenal? We suggest looking for the following five factors:

  1. Power
  2. Control
  3. Stability
  4. Responsiveness
  5. Charging capability

Before we address how to choose a stable power supply based on power requirements, we first want to outline how a stable power supply works. Because system voltage is the ultimate goal, a quality power supply will provide power to the vehicle, as needed, to maintain the designated voltage, up to the maximum output of the power supply. If system demand is low, the power supply’s output current would be low as well. If system demand spikes, the power supply will increase its output to maintain the desired system voltage. It is essentially power on demand.

There are many power supplies in the market today. Rather than choosing among the power ranges offered by the many options available, we suggest working backwards from the OE spec for the vehicles you are likely to work on to be sure that you choose a power supply that meets the relevant OE requirements. OE power requirements for reprogramming vary significantly by nameplate, from as low as 55A to 100A and higher. We suggest that you choose a power supply that meets or exceeds the highest power requirement among the different nameplates you expect to service. This often means choosing a high power (100A) stable power supply.

Just like the OE spec for power requirement, the recommended system voltage to be maintained throughout the reprogramming event varies by OE. Some OEs specify system voltage during reprogramming in the 13.4-13.7V range, while others require that system voltage be maintained above 14V. If you are performing service for all (or many) different nameplates, it is best to choose a stable power supply that features adjustable voltage output. This allows the service operation to exactly match the system voltage required by each of the OEs.

As the name of the product (stable power supply) suggests, another key consideration is whether the product under consideration performs its task in the most stable and beneficial manner possible, which ultimately results in more successful reprogramming events. The lower the voltage ripple of the incoming charging flow, the less likely the stable power supply is to interfere with the reprogramming event. Conversely, if the incoming charging flow has high voltage ripple, it could send voltage spikes through the system that could interrupt or completely derail a reprogramming event in progress.

Load Responsiveness
During the programming event, system demand is going to vary as the vehicle software activates and deactivates modules and other components. When system demand spikes, the battery will begin to lose voltage. This is when the stable power supply must react to the increased load to stabilize system voltage at the specified level. It is important that, when this happens, the stable power supply responds quickly and decisively. Corresponding to this need for quick responsiveness, it is critical that system voltage drops due to load increases are minimized. So responsiveness really comes down to both the duration of the dip and the depth of the dip that occurs when demand spikes.

Charging Capabilities
Prior to starting a reprogramming event, it is critical to ensure that the vehicle’s battery is fully charged. If the technician finds that the battery is in a discharged state, they should first charge the battery fully and only then connect their power supply for reprogramming support. Obviously, this is a much simpler process when the power supply also has charging capabilities. Plus, in order to ensure that you choose a product that is as versatile as possible, you are going to want your stable power supply to have professional battery charging capabilities. The product should be able to charge the many different battery types and sizes encountered by today’s busy shops. In this day and age, that means that it must have a smart charging approach that utilizes a multi-step charging routine, allowing it to service AGM batteries as well as more traditional constructions.

Introducing a Stable Power Supply
That Addresses All Shop Needs
A great stable power supply for mechanical repair shops and collision centers is the new PRO-LOGIX PL6100 12V 100A Power Supply and 60/40/10A Battery Charger, from SOLAR. It incorporates the features needed for trouble free reprogramming support and superior battery management.

In power supply mode, the PL6100 provides stable power on demand, up to 100A, to maintain system voltage during reprogramming. It can be programmed to maintain system voltage in a range from 13.1-14.9V, adjustable in 0.1V increments, allowing the operator to dial it in exactly as specified by the OE supplier of the vehicle under service. It features fast load responsiveness for ultra-quick recovery from spikes in system demand. It also delivers its massive power with minimal voltage ripple, providing a clean flow of power to the vehicle without risk of programming interference.

In charging mode, the PL6100 incorporates all the advanced charging capabilities found in PRO-LOGIX battery chargers, including fully automatic operation, an advanced, multi-stage charging process, the ability to charge a wide variety of lead acid battery types and the ability to charge even totally discharged batteries. In addition, it features a battery repair mode to properly manage sulfated batteries and soft start mode for beneficial charging of deeply discharged batteries.

The PL6100 features extra-long 13’ cable leads, enabling it to reach the starting points of any vehicle, our PowerJawTM clamps with angled jaws for improved access in tight engine compartments and a small footprint for compact installation within a diagnostic work station. Its leads are detachable via welding connectors, allowing easy field replacement in the event of damage. The unit features a 1-Year Limited Warranty and is repairable via our North American Service Network.

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