Vehicle Programming – Automotive Reprogramming

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We are currently offering programming services on asian and domestic vehicles only and do not service all ECM’s. Please call for more details.

Vehicle Programming is now an essential skill needed when replacing a vehicle’s electronic control module (ECM). Car manufacturers will design ECMs to be compatible with multiple vehicle configurations. This is why a specific calibration file must be selected based on the vehicle’s configuration.

Some new ECMs may come loaded with the software and only require a setup or VIN number write. Every manufacturer does things a bit differently and will not make it easy. This is why it’s important to read service information and related technical service bulletins (TSB) first.

Reprogramming an ECM is used to update to the latest calibration file. These updates can be found in TSBs and are usually performed to fix certain conditions. Most of these fixes will be related to the check engine light in some type of form. Emission-related modules can usually be reprogrammed, but not all can depending on the manufacturer, year, and model.   

Tools Used for vehicle programming or automotive reprogramming:

  • Enhanced Scan tool
  • Digital Multimeter Meter
  • Repair information
  • Battery tester
  • Battery Power Supply
  • J2534 Device
  • Laptop
  • Manufacturer Software

Flash, reflash, reprogram and software updates.

Here are most of the terms used for programming: flash, reflash, program, reprogram, and software updates. These terms are all used to install or update the software in a control module. “Flash” and “reflash” are sometimes used but we will usually refer to the job as a “programming” or “reprogramming”.  Communication is important when explaining the job details to the customer. Flash or reflash doesn’t translate for most vehicle owners.

Programming and Reprogramming

It is easier to achieve understanding when the customer can relate to the procedure being performed. Programming, reprogramming, and software updates are much more familiar because people already have experience with those processes on their desktops, laptop, and smartphones.

Programming VS. ReProgramming

There is a difference between programming and reprogramming. Typically, to program is the process of installing software into a control module after that module has been replaced. A reprogram is when the current operating software in a module has changed to correct a problem.

Programming a module is usually required when the module is replaced. At times the module will come loaded with the software and only require a setup. After the programming and setup are complete, the vehicle’s ignition keys may also need to be programmed for the immobilizer system to function properly. Without this, the vehicle will not start and may show the security light flashing.

The control units are built to fit many different applications and variations that require the correct calibration files to be selected. Information needed for this can be found in TSBs and factory service information.

Reprogramming control units is accomplished by updating to the latest software. This is done to correct emission-related issues or resolve issues with a specific system. Similar to programming, you may also need to select the correct calibration file.

Will replacing and programming my car's computer fix the problem?

Extensive testing will be the only way to determine this. We have seen a lot of misdiagnosed vehicles that did not need control module replacement leading to expensive and unwanted repairs. Some customers may opt-out to the less expensive choice of purchasing a rebuilt control unit from a rebuilder. We do not recommend this because of the high probability of failure seen with most of these companies.

Reprogramming is recommended only when a related TSB is found for the issue. If no TSB is found for the issue, then most likely it will not fix anything. Updated parts may also be required before reprogramming for the system to operate properly. This will ensure your vehicle is fixed.

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