Myth-Or truth Perhaps? Can we ever know? Software updates

Maynard Technician Elmira, Ontario Posted   Latest  

So for me I am heavily on the side of "vehicle updates generally are a good thing to do" regardless if there is currently driveability issues or not. For us it mostly happens when the vehicle is already in for MIL or emission test failure or some reason that we are repairing something electrical or a driveability complaint. In my experience coming up through the last 10 years there was a fairly heavy pushback by technicians, shop owners, and vehicle owners..... the general thwart was, "what if something screws up during updates, who then pays?" or "if the manufactures didn't get it right the first time why should I pay to get better software now, shouldn't I get it for free? or "if it gets updated the client might feel a difference in performance and not like it, and we cant go back once its done" or "what if I do the update and it still didn't have any effect on my problem"?

I feel over the years this feeling that software updates is for the birds or a money grab or a big evil lurking below the surface that might just squeeze the life out of us if we catch it on a bad day has lightened somewhat. But it felt rather disheartening and hopeless for quite a while as the growing pains were experienced and gradually learned. I know there is still risks, and heck we run into terrible binds sometimes both now and likely will into the future, during one of these failed update attempts. However, so far I have been unwilling to be on the side that tries to avoid updating at all costs, try to find a way around it if at all possible etc.

Over time, working with people and vehicles and having all parties involved feeling and observing what updates (at least sometimes) provide, it seems to me there is a little more acceptance of getting software up to date as one of the first things, or possibly right along with the first part replacement, (whether there is any potential of it making any noticeable difference to the driver or not) Part of the advice to consumer can be "it may spare you some diagnostic charges and possibly even parts replacement in the future" and, "doing a software update as a primary thing before any more diagnostic time is spent may actually be the cheapest repair you can have

So what are your thoughts?

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
   

It "Depends®", as one of our associates aptly "coined" the phrase. As a long time GM dealership technician, reprogramming in the early days of fuel injection, post-carburetor times and into post PROM replacements, performing software updates could be risky. If a vehicle performed fine as delivered new, a software update was typically not a fix for a system that was broken, that had once operated

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Robby Mobile Technician
New Market, Alabama
Robby
 

I'll also repeat what Martin quoted - It "Depends®". I worked for a Ford dealership for a number years. Their stance was not reflash unless directed by a service publication (SI, TSB, recall, etc). That is still ingrained in my head although now I do mobile programming on multiple makes. So, I have to be careful to not let one OE's position be the standard for all of the others. There have

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
   

I agree Robby. While I performed programming events in my many years as a GM dealership technician, we followed similar manufacturer guidelines. The published description in a bulletin or at the programming download list, usually identified the primary concerns that an update was designed to address. However, the listing sometimes omitted to describe other conditions that would also be

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James Technician
Plant City, Florida
James
   

As a dealership tech, I only do updates if a service bulletin supports them as a possible solution to a customer's concern. I think quite a few aftermarket shops routinely check all modules for possible updates as means of added profit on a job with questionable results.

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
 

Exactly James. Routinely re-programming modules just because there is an available update that might address a condition that a vehicle doesn't exhibit, is unwarranted. Updates really do need to be justified, not serve as a "cash cow". Performing updates on vehicles that do not exhibit any symptoms, or align with published concerns that an update is specifically engineered to address, is akin

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Bob Business Development Manager
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Bob
 

Just an FYI, see this post since we broached that topic already: diag​.​net/msg/m4jaglwgtn… Most important takeaway is checking software versions to see if there is an update and what that update addresses. Most technicians rely solely on TSBs for calibration information. TSBs on many OEMs (like GM and Honda) often do not disclose that information. Information is power when it comes

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Maynard Technician
Elmira, Ontario
Maynard
 

Thanks Bob, yes that's great dialogue. I might be a little out on my own limb here, but for me trying to see what exactly the reflash addresses.... is not so important as just doing it if it has one. I likely didn't explain that very well in my first post. So my intention with the first post was to see if anyone other than me is on board with doing the reflash when there is one available

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Bob Business Development Manager
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Bob
 

I’m kind of crazy on this topic, but yes, “depends“ is a good answer. GM, Ford and FCA I always update if available. I’ve fixed hundreds of vehicles that other techs threw parts at, especially transmission/torque converter/shifting issues. Also, if an ECU is being replaced the latest is what it will get by default. Toyota, Honda & Nissan are situational, especially Toyota, which is TSB

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