In Front of the Flywheel - June - 2020

Programming: Part IV – FCA

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In this installment, Programming Part IV, we will take a stab at Chrysler vehicles. The FCA programming process is not as forgiving as Ford or GM as described in the articles leading up to this one. The basics covered in Programming Part I, such as doing all of the reading and connecting a battery maintainer, still apply. Just like other manufacturers, FCA allows a few different options for programming their vehicles. Some options are better than others but we will cover them all.

FCA J2534 Options

Historically, Chrysler has had some issues with their J2534 application. I have personally had multiple reprogramming failures on both CAN and non-CAN equipped vehicles. In all of these cases, an OE tool was used, the module was recovered and successfully programmed. OE tools will be covered later in this article. Using aftermarket J2534 tooling, FCA’s coverage includes only emissions-related controllers on some 1995 – present vehicles. Other modules, such as ABS or BCM, are not programmable without OE tooling. Anti-theft functions are also not included in the J2534 application. In addition, as of January 2020, the previous FCA J2534 programming application has been discontinued. The functionality of the old application has been added to the wiTECH 2.0 J2534 application. In order to program, a subscription to wiTECH 2.0 J2534 and TechAuthority (Fig. 1) are required.

There are only a few interfaces that have been validated by FCA (Fig. 2) and, unlike some other manufacturers, attempting to program with an unvalidated device could quite likely result in failure. The interfaces range in price from $500 to over $2000. Be sure to follow the list closely. For example, notice that the Drew Technologies listing specifically calls out the CarDAQ-M with Mega-CAN. This does not mean that all interfaces made by Drew Technologies will work. As a matter of fact, a quote directly from the Drew Technologies tool box reads as follows: “The wiTECH 2.0 application does not support the following tools made by Drew Technologies: CarDAQ Plus, Snap On Pass Thru Pro 2, Bosch Flasher Pro, AE Tools AEZ Flasher, Launch J-Box and Ease Universal Reprogrammer 2.” Although these are perfectly good tools for most vehicle applications, be sure that your device is verified by Chrysler before spending money on a subscription.

Another thing to be aware of, when programming non-CAN vehicles, the technician will need to locate the correct file on the TechAuthority website and download it to their PC. This means, that if not careful, the wrong file for the vehicle can be selected and may result in incorrect vehicle operation upon flash completion. Also, the technician may be responsible for moving the downloaded file to the appropriate file folder on their hard drive for the flash process to begin. For reference, the folder that the flash files belong in is: C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Temp\Low.

Many programming functions can be performed with J2534 on Chrysler vehicles. However, due to spotty coverage, specific tooling requirements, not all modules supported and occasional programming failures (Fig. 3), my opinion is that OE tooling is the better option when programming FCA vehicles.

FCA OE Tooling Options

For many years the OE scan tool and programming interface for non-CAN Chrysler vehicles was the DRB-III. The DRB-III, although it is still a very capable tool, is no longer available new. If you have the opportunity to purchase a used one I would recommend it if you still see enough non-CAN vehicles to justify the expense. In order to program with the DRB-III you will need two things: a null modem cable that can be obtained pretty cheap from a variety of on-line vendors and a subscription to TechAuthority. A subscription to wiTECH 2.0 is not required.

Another option, the one that has taken the place of the original DRB-III, is the DRB-III Emulator (Fig. 5) made by Controller Technologies Corporation and will cost around $2500. Just like the DRB-III a subscription to TechAuthority will be required for programming.

For CAN equipped FCA vehicles the current OE scan tool is the wiTECH 2.0. It is a cloud-based tool that requires a PC, a Wi-Fi connection, applicable subscriptions and a MicroPod 2. None of the actual scan tool software resides on the PC because it is all accessed through the internet. There is also an authentication app that generates a rolling code that will need to be entered to gain access to the wiTECH 2.0 application. Also, the MicroPod 2 (Fig. 4) is linked to an actual IP address. This means that if you drive out of Wi-Fi range the tool will stop working. Some technicians resolve this issue by linking to a hotspot or tethering to a cellular phone. There is some set-up involved and some hoops to jump through but once it is up and running it works very well.

One of my favorite opening scan tool screens (Fig. 6) belongs to the wiTECH 2.0. There is a lot of information here. In this case, we can see that the vehicle has been automatically identified by the VIN number. There are tabs that are organized and will get us in whatever direction we need to go quickly. The topology screen is extremely valuable. First, it displays all of the modules that could be on the vehicle.Any module that is color-coded blue is communicating on the network and has no DTC’s stored. Yellow indicates a communicating module with DTC’s stored. A grey module is one that could have been installed on this vehicle but, based on the VIN number and a check with FCA records, was not an option during the vehicle build. A red module, not seen in this image, indicates a module that is supposed to be there but is not communicating on the network.

For our purposes today, the most important thing to note are the green circles with the lightning bolts. These indicate modules that have flash updates available. The tool can alert us to these updates because, by this point. It has already polled all of the modules to determine their calibration numbers and compared them to the current FCA calibration database. This particular Charger has five modules that have calibration updates available.

To proceed with programming a module click on the module and then click the Flash tab. In this case we will do so with the PCM. Once we are on the PCM flash screen (Fig. 7) we can see the current calibration number and the newest calibration available. Note there are 3 TSB’s that pertain to these updates. They should all be read before performing the flash to confirm that there are not any parts that need to be replaced first or special procedures that need to be adhered to. When you are ready to reprogram, click on the new calibration number and follow the directions that appear on the screen.

After following all of the programming instructions on the screen, logging in when asked, providing any additional information requested by the tool and cycling the key as directed, the programming procedure should complete successfully. When complete a verification screen (Fig. 8) will display “Successfully flashed” along with the previous and new calibration number.

Do not forget to follow any additional directions outlined in the service information and applicable TSB’s. In this case the PCM was actually replaced and the following needed to be performed: the odometer needed to be corrected in the PCM, the VIN number needed to be entered in the PCM, a SKIM reset (anti-theft) was completed, the Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) learn (Fig. 9) was performed and the Cam Crank Relearn procedure was completed. All DTC’s were cleared and the vehicle was test driven to confirm the repair.

To summarize, FCA programming is not as nice to the aftermarket as Ford or General Motors. OE tooling options function better, cover all modules and perform many functions that J2534 counterparts may not. The OE tooling does come with a higher price tag, but if you need complete FCA coverage you will need to calculate your return on investment before pulling the trigger.