Vehicle Software Updates

NASTF General Meeting will discuss J-2534

by Jacques Gordon

Uploading software into a vehicle requires communication between computers that don’t speak the same language. If the job is done at a new-car dealership, a tech can use brand-specific scan tools such as the Tech II for GM vehicles, the Consult for Nissan, Ford’s IDS, etc. That tool acts as the interface between the vehicle’s on-board computers and the workshop computer that uploads the software.

Since software updates are often part of a repair that affects tailpipe emissions, EPA regulations require the car manufacturers to make it possible for aftermarket shops to upload software too. However, few aftermarket shops can afford to invest in every OEM-specific scan tool, and the government cannot require shops to purchase them. So a new communication protocol was defined: SAE Recommended Practice J-2534.

This communication protocol, later revised to J-2534-1, is a translator that allows a personal computer running the Microsoft Windows operating system to communicate with the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) on all 2004 and newer vehicles. The translation software is contained in a separate piece of hardware that connects to a PC and to the vehicle’s Data Link Connector (DLC), often called the scan tool connector. It is not a computer or scan tool; it’s a pass-through device that enables a PC to interrogate and install software into the PCM’s permanent memory.

Ten years into this concept, J-2534 is still evolving, and it’s one of the most important topics being addressed by the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF). That group is a cooperative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry and the automobile manufacturers to ensure that professional techs working in aftermarket service shops have the information, training and tools they need to properly diagnose and repair today’s vehicles.

On March 20, 2014, a representative from an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), a technician and an independent tool manufacturer will assemble in Seattle, Washington to discuss the highly complex and technical topic of J-2534 pass-thru devices in a special session during the NASTF Spring 2014 General Meeting.

Mark Saxonberg, Manager of Alternative Fuel Vehicles & Environment for Toyota Motor Sales USA, will bring the OEM perspective to the J-2534 Discussion Panel. Among the many questions Saxonberg will be asked is, why is there a difference between OEMs on their own corporate commitment to J-2534.

Bob Augustine is Technical Training Manager for Christian Brothers Automotive, an auto repair franchise with 125 shops operating in 16 states. Augustine is involved daily in vehicle computer reprogramming support for the group’s hundreds of technicians and is anxious to discuss the problems created because of a lack of standardization in the J-2534 process across the many OEMs.

Brian Herron, Vice President of Drew Technologies, will represent independent tool-makers in the J-2534 issue discussion. Drew Technologies specializes in the manufacture and support of these pass-thru devices and will provide insight for NASTF as the J-device evolves from programming use into diagnostic applications as well.

All sessions in the entire three-hour NASTF Spring 2014 General Meeting will be streamed live from the association’s website for those who cannot attend the event in-person at the DoubleTree Hotel adjacent to the SeaTac Airport near Seattle, Washington. In addition, the event will be recorded and available for viewing on the NASTF YouTube channel after April 1. Additional details can be found at


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When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.

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About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues.
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