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Me? A Flasher?

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Me? A Flasher?


Ok, ya got me… I’m a Flasher… or more to the point a Re-flasher. With today’s cars and components it’s not uncommon to have to flash some drivability controller or theft system. As an independent shop most of the re-flashing you can do will be for drivability situations or theft systems. Right now, the federal laws (Clean Air Act) only requires the manufacturer to give access to the “emission” related systems which means, an after-market scanner may only be able to provide you with part of a download vs. the entire download. Those “extras” are left to the manufacturer/dealership shops. Some of those extras could be HVAC, 4WD, wiper systems, just about any system deemed not necessary for drivability, however if a system is part of the PCM and it will effect drivability (ABS on most GM’s for instance) then it is shown as part of the downloadable software. However, if you can get a dealer level scanner and dealer level software… then it’s no problem. But, for the most part I’m not going to get into the reprogramming with a tech 2, WDS, or any other dealer level scanner, I’ll stick with the re-flashing that is available for the independent market that we will all have in our tool inventory sooner or later.




The reason for re-flashing can be many, sometimes it’s an update to the transmission for better shift quality or to installing a new PCM. Each manufacturer has their own specific way of handling the procedure to obtain/process/and download the needed software. There are a lot of useable aftermarket scanners that can aide in the process and some are better than others. The one thing they all have in common is “J2534” which is the needed software/cable setup to perform re-flashing by an independent.


One of the first things you’ll need to start the re-flashing is a subscription to that particular manufacturer’s website. Costs vary and the length of subscriptions will also vary. Here is a list of the websites that I use:


GM – www.gmtechinfo.com


Ford – www.motorcraft.com


Chrysler – www.techauthority.com


Honda – www.serviceexpress.honda.com


Toyota – www.techinfo.toyota.com


Nissan – www.nissan-techinfo.com


These are the most common ones that I will use from time to time, if you don’t have these websites saved somewhere, you should…. Write these down and keep them handy.


After you purchase the needed subscription there will be some information that you will need to obtain either from the car or from the website to start the process. Follow the information given on that particular manufacturer’s website.


Toyota requires you to not only gain access to their website but also you will have to obtain a CD from them before you can do any re-flashing. So if you are planning on doing any re-flashing on a Toyota you’ll need to have the CD ahead of time.


I can’t stress enough that you need to follow every word and follow every command while doing the re-flash… be careful… take your time. If you run into a questionable area check the home page of the website for any 800 numbers you can call and talk directly to someone. I’ve had to do that on many occasions… and there is no doubt that talking with someone can speed up the process when you’re stuck. On most of the import cars I’ve found that you will need to obtain the original controller ID from the module you are re-flashing before starting the re-flash. This can be obtained thru mode 9 of your scanner. These calibration numbers will indicate whether or not there is a re-flash even available or which is the latest calibration for that model. On some of the individual screens you may have followed all the information correctly and there is no “next” soft key to click on… the only soft key says “exit” don’t worry it’s not going to take you out of the program… it will only advance you to the next screen.


Generally, the re-flash can take up to 30 minutes in some cases so give yourself plenty of time to complete the process without any major interruptions. Be sure to have the vehicles battery fully charged and or on a suitable charging unit for the duration of the re-flash.


As of this day and age, I can’t say that re-flashing is all that profitable…. Yet…it’s necessary but it just doesn’t come around often enough to make the big investment for all the different makes and models out there. Personally, I think the PCM units are far superior to the first years of the computer age cars. But, I’m very confident that it will be profitable in the near future. As the computer driven car becomes older more and more re-flashing information will be released to the independent side of the industry. (Wish we had complete access now)


There’s one common factor when it comes to software, obtainable scanners, and electronic information, it not only changes rapidly, it probably has already changed by the time this article is in print. So don’t be surprised if the information and data has changed by the time you take your first attempt at reprogramming… take it slow, read carefully, and follow all the directions.


Remember it only seems difficult when you first try it… then it starts getting easier each and every time after that. Go for it… ! !





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Ok, here's the answers to your questions.

GM's I use the factory machine... TECH 2... although from 05 and newer you'll need to get a subscription and download the software. Prior to 04 you only need a subscription/CD software for TIS 2000 --- 04 and older is on the disc and no need to log into GM to get the info for those cars.

FORD's I use the J2534 cable (Mongoose Cable) my laptop and the software to load the Mongoose cable onto my laptop along with a subscription to Motorcraft.

On the Import cars... you'll have to check on the website for their paticular cable, software, and liscence requirements.


Any questions you have for ReFlashing can be answered on the respective websites. Although the cost of some of the required cables and software for the cables to download onto your laptop ... may surprise you... But it's the price of the game these days.


Like I said in the article... "it's hard to justify the cost vs. the actual amount of vehicles that you will be servicing. Right now most dealerships are taking care of the flash programs for most of their cars. However, as these cars age the less likely they'll want to deal with them... and that's when the cost and the operating instructions will get better and better.


One more note: This reflashing is easy... the hard part is understanding all their crazy methods... It's freakin' nuts the amount hoops ya gotta jump thru.


Hope this helps... Gonzo



I echo ARMandP's question and would also add:


1. What kind of scanner do you use for the flashing?

2. Do you use more than one scan tool for the flashing?

3. How do you recommend we go about getting into flashing?


I direct this to Gonzo, Joe, and anyone else with knowledge and experience.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
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      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
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