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Time for an Update

I probably have mentioned this way too often but here it goes again. If your vehicle was built in the last ten years it is packed full of electronics. There are a series of little computers distributed throughout the vehicle and each one of them can talk (send and receive digital communication signals) to at least one other computer in the bunch. This is a semi layman’s description of a computer network.

Many of you work within operations or offices that are filled with computers, printers, scanners, modems, and cameras all networked together. You probably have at least one employee who is called the IT(Information Technology) person. Yep, the guy/girl who comes to your aid when you can’t get your electronics to do what you want them to do.

Your mechanic has always been a Jack/Jill of all trades for vehicles but one more hat he/she now wears is that of your vehicle IT person. I don’t know of a vehicle that comes with a built in printer but cameras, scanners, video displays and computers are part of most newer vehicles.

Working IT on a modern vehicle is challenging. Just like your home computer your vehicle computer system requires maintenance sometimes. And again just like your home computer that maintenance sometimes comes in the form of updates.

I have yet to work on a vehicle that updates itself but I know that is probably coming soon. As it is I need special tools to do this job; typically a laptop, an interface (a computer of sorts that speaks the language of the vehicle’s network) and a subscription to the vehicle manufacturer's software and website.

Updates are usually made to fix specific problems. A check engine light that comes on for no good reason comes to mind. Sometimes the original software that runs your engine was just a little too picky. With permission the manufacturer will adjust the pickiness.

Just as with your home computer an update may be needed to fix a very specific problem but since that update is being written it is also a chance to maybe fix some other problems. The same is true for your vehicle. Updates usually address more than just one issue.

You might be the type of person that avoids updates. You are happy with your vehicle’s performance and you do not want anyone monkeying with it. That is your choice.

Updates no longer only address improvements in engine performance or keep that pesky check engine light off. Updates can make your transmission shift better. They can make your airconditioning system work better. They can make the touch screen climate controls more understandable. You might even just want to update the built in navigation system so it stops sending you on the wrong road to Cabela’s in the Valley.

Thus, there is one more step your mechanic will take when presented with a persistent problem on a customer’s car. Put on his or her IT hat and check for updates.

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