Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE
L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
What do I mean by that question? Let's see. Most of us use an electronic system like Alldata or Mitchell to access service bulletins and service manual repair information. You have to admit, it really is the fastest way to get information to the technician in the service bay. Nothing was worse than pulling out those old heavy repair manuals. Then you had to search the index to see what page the information was on. After all that work you might find that the page was to greasy to read or the information was missing or incorrect. Then there was the flipping through of reams of service bulletins. Don't even get me going on the paper service bulletin issue. I can't begin tell you how much time I wasted doing that. In one way, access is easier now, yet in another way, its getting worse. After years of dealing with service manuals and service bulletins we have only recently begun to realize that a lot of the information we needed was never released to the aftermarket. A huge effort was made by the government, and automotive parts, service, and trade organizations, to get the automotive manufacturers to release this information. The National Automotive Service Task Force, (NASTF), has been instrumental in coordinating a web site in which we can get this specific manufacturer information. That, in itself, is really good news. The bad news is that this information and tools are costly, too costly.
Recently, I turned several Mercury Sables owners away because their vehicles needed a PCM reprogramming. I check of the NASTF web site gave me the link to the Ford site, (motorcraftservice.com). Upon entering the Ford site, I clicked on "Ford Module Programming."
The programming page listed the minimum computer requirements needed to download car specific PCM reprogramming, (flash), information. The computer requirements themselves were reasonable. The site took me to a link in which I could order programming information in 3 ways: 24.95 for short term (72 hours of access). The next option was one month of access for 59.95. The final option was a year of access for 599.95.
Keep in mind these are the prices just to access PCM reflash software information. A footnote on the page kindly reminded me of that: "Note: You may be required to access Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) when programming a module. A TSB subscription is not included, but can be purchased separately". Now I went to the TSB subscription page for those prices:
Sort term (3 day) was 9.95, one month was 19.95 and the full year of TSB's was 89.95. Then they posted a procedure to perform the actual reprogramming which mentioned that I will need to purchase a SAE J2534 pass through device. This is needed to connect your desk top (or lap top) computer to the vehicle's computer. Ford offered a link to the manufacturer's web site so I checked it out. The cost of the tool is 1,595.00. Perhaps thats not bad "if" it can be used on other vehicle brands. I decided to look up some other Ford subscriptions while I was on the site. Ford offers their web site data in several configurations. I have listed them below.
"Single Vehicle Single Model Year" (includes Ford, Lincoln and Mercury service information for a specifically selected vehicle and model year. Includes model-year-specific Workshop Manual, Wiring Diagram and PC/ED Manual), at 9.95 3-day, 16.95 1 month, 99.95 1 year.
"Single Vehicle Multiple Model Years" (includes Ford, Lincoln and Mercury service information for all model years of a specifically selected vehicle. Includes the Workshop Manuals, Wiring Diagrams and PC/ED Manuals)., at 12.95, 24.95, 249.95.
"All Vehicles All Model Years" (includes Ford, Lincoln and Mercury service information for all model years of all vehicles. Includes the Workshop Manuals, Wiring Diagrams, PC/ED Manuals, TSB's, VECI Labels, DTC Search, and Field Service Actions. at 19.95, 299.95, 2,499.95.
"Vehicle Specific Information Access" to Vehicle Specific Information (available for last 10 model years). Access to all TSBs('88-Present). Access to Vehicle Specific Field Service Action (Recall) Information. ('88-Present) These bulletins may be specific to a vehicle's VIN and are targeted for U.S. Dealers and fleets having Ford in-house warranty. Some or all of the provisions specified in these bulletins may not apply to non-U.S. markets. Pricing was 19.95, 199.95, 599.95.
Diagnostics (Access to As Built, Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) Search, PC/ED Manual, Diesel Engine Diagnostic Guide and OBD II Theory & Operation Information) was 14.95, 149.95, 1,499.95.
Body Repair Manuals (collision repairs on select 2002/2003 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicle lines) at 12.95, 24.95, 249.95.
Lastly was the online training in all different automotive subsystems. The pricing and amount of different classes is to numerous to mention here. You'll have to go to the site and see it for yourself.
The NASTF web site also had a matrix table of approximate access charges to each of the vehicle manufacturers web sites. The list varies from a high of 5,200 for Porsche to a low of 350.00 for Toyota and Lexus. Hyundai web site access is the only manufacturer that does not charge for information.
On that same NASTF list I found 18 manufacturers web sites whose cars we work on regularly. I calculated that if we were to purchase a complete year of all those sites we would pay approximately 27,696 per year. (Remember, on some sites this does not include PCM reflash, Body manuals or Training information). Wow, 27,000 per year for information! Imagine, I used to think paying our technical hot-line service 3.50 per minute was expensive!
Due to these high costs I don't think we'll be doing a lot of subscribing to these web sites. If I can not find the needed information in our Alldata I guess I'll still be sending some customers back to the dealer.