Follow-Up To Heavy-Duty Right To Repair - John Deere

Chris Diagnostician Lansdale, Pennsylvania Posted   Latest   Edited  

This is a follow up post to an older one posted by Scott Brown with some updated info. See original thread here . I figured I would start a new one to see if we can get a little more debate and discussion going on. I sincerely apologize if this is way too long. I attempted to cover as many points as I could as briefly as possible. 

There has been some discussion about John Deere outright denying farmers and others access to their software and repair information. I believe this is one of the primary articles everyone has seen. Then there is this video. A simple search of right to repair & John Deere brings up an abundance of information. As is the case with most discussions, there are multiple sides to anything. 

The core tenants of the argument against John Deere are:

  • Access to technical information/parts catalogs
  • Access to software
  • Access to programming/activation
  • Access to training
  • Discontinued support of older technology

There is some truth to all of this:

  • Technical Information - technical manuals can be purchased (paper or dvd format), more on this below
  • Parts Catalog - available freely online to any customer of any division. Actually a decently set-up program
  • Access to training - limited, but more can be accessed by working with your local dealer.
  • Discontinued support of older technology - true for any manufacturer, problem is there isn't a huge aftermarket calling for John Deere systems, partially due to access one could argue. One I am familiar with is Ag Express. There is no Dorman product line for John Deere, yet.

The big one: Software - which will be the bulk of the discussion.

John Deere does allow customer access to the diagnostic/programming software (Service Advisor 5.2), which is currently an online based system that incorporates technical manuals, diagnostics, and reprogramming all into one combined platform. This had been available for Construction & Forestry for some time and has been ported over into Agriculture & Turf in the past few years.

Customer has ability to:

  • Access Technical Manuals/Owner's Manuals
  • Look Up DTC's and troubleshooting charts - theory of operation etc. (see above)
  • Machine diagnostic connectivity with EDL (electronic data link)
  • Perform Machine Calibrations with EDL

Customer does not have the ability to:

  • Reprogram machine controllers
  • View DTAC solutions/submit cases (Dealer Technical Assistance Center) - This is somewhat changed now, will describe further below
  • Utilize Service Advisor Remote - Allows for remote diagnostics on machines equipped with cellular systems.
  • Submit technical change requests to manuals/software

This is where I believe the biggest discussion comes in. Many of these articles paint John Deere as outright denying any access to their informational systems and maintaining an outright monopoly on repair of their equipment. This is not true; John Deere is far from the most open with their product though.

It is actually left up to a dealer by dealer basis to even advertise the fact that customers can purchase the OEM Diagnostic Software & EDL. It is also left up to the dealer as to whether or not they sell them to customers. There is a formal sheet that must be submitted before customer can gain access to the software, it must be approved by John Deere Corporate and generally takes 10 days. I have not heard of anyone being denied access after the form is filed though.

The customer, after going through all this legwork, assuming that the dealer even chooses to sell to them, still does not have access to reprogram/initialize modules/injectors/add-ons etc... This is where I agree that right to repair legislation needs to come in and help out. 

One of the biggest things I personally see as a problem however is the continued use of the word "hacking" (gaining of unauthorized access to data in a computer or system). Why they would choose to associate themselves with a word that has rather negative connotations is a debate for a different time. There are valid arguments being made that a customer does need to have access at a level to at least initialize a new ECU, install a software update (I've seen software updates needed just to allow a control unit to send out signals to a 7 pin trailer plug), and perform other tasks.

There is another side to the argument though, that I strongly disagree with. Farmers and others desiring to be able to modify the software of the machines at their own discretion. Modify to me means to outright change, I do not consider a reprogramming event as a software "modification". There is also this belief that dealers have an ability to through in higher horsepower "tunes" at their own whim. Not the case, all their software is 100% EIN (equipment identification number, think VIN) or ESN (engine serial number specific). There is only one software option displayed for any given controller on a machine, and it will always force you to the newest update. If one wishes to roll back then there is a special request that must be made, similar to the VCI setup in GM SPS.

There is discussion about having the ability to eliminate emissions components, etc. Much the same as automotive. There is a whole slew of liability issues here, as any manufacturer has to prove that their equipment/vehicle/engine meets the emissions standards for wherever they are being sold. If a customer then "owns" that software, modifies it and now invalidates the emissions controls, who gets the fine for that? The software in equipment/automobiles being equated to the software in your computer/cell phone/fancy thinking box of choice seems to be rather simplistic. The other interesting thing is that John Deere often sources modules/components from other manufacturers and at that point JD is quite literally licensing that system/software from another manufacturer and so they then have no ability to "give" you that software as part of the purchase because they do not own it either. That tangles things up a bit more.

They are not the same, there is a reason why the emissions delete kits for diesel vehicles are illegal to varying degrees, why aftermarket programmers have run into issues (both gas and diesel). 

I personally believe that the whole of the off-road equipment industry needs to be brought up to speed with the current automotive right to repair laws, in the sense that there needs to be mandated access to reprogram and diagnose/repair with the same hardware/software as a dealer. I also believe that until everyone actually sits down, agrees on terminology and what they are exactly looking for, that we will get nowhere. You make anyone out to be a villain long enough and they will eventually turn into one.

Please comment, discuss, add your opinions, ask questions, draw funny stick figure pictures.... whatever floats your boat

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Dean Owner
Albany, New York
Dean
 

Wow. Great post Chris. This issue is very complex. It also is going to get more so in the near future. I did hear that Ukraine is at the fore front of reverse engineering this JD software. I also understand that JD attempted to being legal action against some of these people in Ukraine. I also understand some of these people from the Eastern block countries have developed remote set ups for

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Chris Diagnostician
Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Chris
 

Dean, That's correct. Ukraine is up there. I've had direct experiences with that. A little research will lead you to their forums, and it's amazing what they are capable of doing, once you get past the language barrier. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Cuba, where you do what you need to do with what you have. It's just a shame they are pushed into that, though there are a multitude of factors

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony
 

Hi Chris: Let's open it up a bit instead of focusing on JD. Don't get me wrong, there are issues to be resolved though Woody Guthrie illustrated the biggest issue in the 30s. youtube​.​com/watch?v=46mO7j… I'll throw this out there and will follow the comments. federalregister​.​gov/documents/2018… Don't flat rate it as a couple of sections apply (in my mind). Oh…

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Chris Diagnostician
Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Chris
   

Anthony I agree 100% and I really appreciate you adding that documentation. [Side note: excellent choice with Guthrie, time to pull out the vinyl tonight] I just focused on JD as I knew my facts were right there. I just wanted it as a springboard to start a discussion. Reading through that link (read the most relevant sections first, the rest will have to wait until I'm back home tonight) one

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Christopher Technician
San Antonio, Texas
Christopher
 

How often is heavy equipment required to be emissions tested?

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Chris Diagnostician
Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Chris
   

In PA, never. In fact there is no equipment emissions testing done anywhere in the US that I am aware, except perhaps California. Essentially, my research and training has shown that all manufacturers need to have their engines certified to certain emissions standards based off of engine horsepower, the most recent tier being Final Tier 4 (FT4). FT4 utilizes DPF (diesel particulate filter) and

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Christopher Technician
San Antonio, Texas
Christopher
 

Without testing, the question of liability (fines) over emissions controls would seem to be moot. As far as software access goes, if JD dealers want to keep denying people the ability to service their own equipment, then it'll be their loss. As programmable microcontrollers like the arduino and Pi become more powerful, it'll be easier to use them as permanent, cheap replacements for OEM

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Chris Diagnostician
Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Chris
 

That's a valid point. Much the same way diesel pick ups dont recieve emissions testing in PA. There are situations where it does come into play, certain job sites, bids, etc. I don't know that we will see arduino or pi get to the level of some of these controllers. I'm assuming your envisioning an open source environment, much like Linux? There are definite benefits to that, and I can see some

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Allan Instructor
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Allan
 

…Hello Chris. Some of the issues you mentioned sound familiar from the automotive sector. People don’t take the time to research anything, just start ranting about how the big corporations deny them access. NASTF, the National Automotive Services Task Force fields complaints from people who say they can’t access certain information or specialty tools every day. In most cases the

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Chris Diagnostician
Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Chris
 

Allan, That's something I see alot, that these issues cross industry lines. I also tend to agree that most people see "right to repair" as "right to have it all for free". I'm curious as to what would be our cutoff point in the industry? I mean I would love to have unlimited access to everything in a vehicle/machine but would it all actually be useful to me? Not necessarily. Where would you

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Allan Instructor
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Allan
 

Give the aftermarket the same access the dealer service department has. At the same cost, dealers don’t get it for free why should anyone else? Just make it a level playing field. That way the consumer has the option to take their vehicle/equipment where they want to have it serviced. In the automotive sector some manufacturers allow access to all modules for reprogramming while others only

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony
 

Hi Chris: These issues preceded R2R. R2R just muddied the waters a bit because many people don't wish to understand or take the time to understand. I cover 4 states. (I no longer cover NYC & Long Island. I'm not complaining.) I mention this because I go into a fair number of shops and am exposed to an average of 270-300 new shops per year. Amongst the equipment that I handle are scan tools

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