In Front of the Flywheel - April - 2020

Programming: Part II – Ford

In last month’s article we covered the basics of module programming. From this point forward we will delve into individual manufacturers. Each of these OE’s have their similarities and differences. Some will be easy and others will be a bit more challenging. This installment will cover Ford vehicles.

The Background and the Basics

There are a few reasons I chose Ford for the first manufacturer to cover. First, there are a lot of Ford programming opportunities. Second, the cost to program is relatively low. Third, the programming software, thank you Ford, in most cases is just like a child’s toy… just follow the instructions push the buttons. Finally, Ford’s modules have historically been very forgiving. What I mean by this, and can be very important, is that if a module fails to program correctly it can usually be recovered. This recovery aspect cannot be said about some other manufacturers. Some modules turn into a brick, or paper weight, when a programming event fails. When a module can cost in excess of $1000 this becomes an issue.

figure 1, ford coverage chartThe J-2534 regulations required manufacturers to make programming available for emissions related controllers starting in the 2004 model year. Ford was kind enough to give the aftermarket the ability to use a J-2534 interface program almost all modules and perform most antitheft, or PATS, functions all the way back to the 1996 model year. The Ford factory scan tool (IDS or FDRS) is the preferred choice for diagnosing and programming Ford vehicles. However, Ford’s J-2534 version of the programming software (FJDS) is also available for use with a compatible J-2534 interface and has been very reliable.

As far as Ford’s subscription options are concerned, we have a few choices. These choices can be broken down into three categories: IDS is the factory scan tool and programming platform that requires an OE Ford interface and functions until the 2017 model year. FDRS is the factory scan tool and programming platform for later model vehicles and functions with either an OE Ford interface or a J-2534 device. FJDS is the J-2534 version of programming software back to the 1996 model year and programming and scan tool functions for the 2018 – present Ford vehicles. The FJDS should work with a compatible J-2534 device or an OE interface. The coverage can be seen in Fig. 1 which was captured from the Ford service website (

These subscription options are grouped into two categories when it is time to pull out your credit card. First is IDS/FDRS and is available in 2 day, 30 day and 365 day increments. The cost is $150, $300 and $900 respectively. The FJDS/FDRS is available in the same increments for $50, $200 and $899. Which option you choose depends on the interface you own and what you are trying to accomplish. Note: these prices are current as of March 12th, 2020.

figure 2, the FJDS programming options screenProgramming

Once the subscription/license is active the application should be installed on your PC and it is time to program. The software, regardless of which you subscribed to, should automatically identify the vehicle. Once this is completed you will have a tab that reads “Module Programming.” When that tab is clicked, you will be confronted with 3 choices (Fig. 2): Programmable Module Installation (PMI), Module Reprogramming and Programmable Parameters. If you are replacing a module choose PMI. If you are updating the calibration in an existing module choose Module Reprogramming. The Programmable Parameters tab is used for some special functions such as programming solenoid body ID’s in a transmission which will be covered later in this article.

Regardless of which of the first two options you choose the following screens will be almost identical. Connect your battery maintainer and follow the directions on the screen. If you are performing a calibration update everything usually goes seamlessly. If you are performing a PMI it is best to have the original module installed in the vehicle before starting the process. Ford likes to do an inhale/exhale procedure during PMI that makes the job easier. For most programming operations this works seamlessly and I won’t waste your time showing all of the programming screens because they are very self-explanatory, but there are other related issues I would like to address.

figure 3, build-as data chartIf the original module is not available, or does not communicate, there are provisions to deal with that situation as well. Again, if you follow the directions on the screen, and the basic universal procedures covered last month, all should go smoothly. Some modules, when performing a PMI, will require a PATS procedure to learn the ignition keys after the repair. In Ford’s case, two keys will most likely be needed to finish the process. Make sure your customer has two keys available or have another one made if you would like the vehicle to start.

As-Built Data

If a module is installed and information cannot be “inhaled” from the original module, for whatever reason, Ford will allow us access to “As-Built” data if necessary. Basically, this is the hexadecimal data that was stored in the particular module the day the vehicle left the factory floor. Manual entry of this data may be required under certain circumstances. This data can be found on the website under the “Free Resources” tab. Scroll down to find the “Module Built Data (As-Built)” tab. Once the vehicle’s VIN number is entered a list of hexadecimal data will be displayed. Fig. 3 is an example of the built-as data for a Fusion’s ACM and RCM from the website. This is also a great place to obtain what Ford calls a “Tear Tag” number that may be required during certain programming situations.

figure 4, build-as data applicationThe software will then ask you to manually enter (Fig. 4) the characters listed in the document. Upon completion the module should be configured and any after programming scan tool functions that may be necessary can be performed.

Anti-Theft (PATS) Functions

As mentioned before some antitheft, or Passive Anti-theft System (PATS), functions may need to be performed during certain module replacements. Ford allows us, even with aftermarket J-2534 tooling, to perform these functions in most cases. Usually there is a ten-minute security access period for timed PATS. Newer vehicles may require a locksmith identification (LSID) that can be obtained from This will allow the technician to become registered as a Vehicle Security Professional (VSP.) There are some hoops to jump through and some fees to pay but will be required to perform some repair functions. For these vehicles the user’s VSP credentials will need to be entered and records will need to be kept in order to remain legal.

figure 5, solenoid idScan Tool Functions

There are additional functions that can not necessarily be performed with aftermarket scan tools. We need to remember that all aftermarket tools have deficiencies. Even though some aftermarket tools can pull off some cool stuff, they may not be able to do something like program solenoid ID’s when a transmission is replaced. The following example is from a Ford Edge that had a transmission replaced and would not function correctly. The registration procedure was attempted with multiple aftermarket scan tools. A tip: if there are any labels or tags on a modern transmission be sure to take a picture of them before installing the unit. In the case of this Edge there was no data recorded by the installer and the side cover had to be removed in order to obtain the correct ID numbers (Fig. 5.).

figure 6, solenoid body-data with IDSOf course all of these procedures are spelled out in service information and removal of the side cover would not have been necessary if instructions were read and followed during the repair procedure. The next screen (Fig. 6) is the screen in the Ford tool that allows entry of the Solenoid Body Strategy and Solenoid Body IDN. Once the numbers have been entered a programming function follows. Most likely this is why I have yet to find an aftermarket tool to perform this function.

Ford Summary

Ford is an inexpensive make to cut your teeth on programming. There are many programming opportunities that will help when looking at return on investment. Even the tougher issues can be overcome with a little bit of patience and determination. Next month we will tackle General Motors and that will present new issues. Just wait… FCA is coming and that is a whole new story!