CAN Technology Coming Soon to a Service Bay Near You

Onboard vehicle data used to be the domain of the system from where it originated. It didn’t take long, though, before engineers figured out that sharing data from one system could be useful in another.

Class C networks have high-speed data transfer requirements (ranging from 125,000 bits/second to 1 million bits/second) and are used for real-time applications such as engine and transmission control. The most common protocol for Class C networks is CAN 2.0.

Devised by Bosch of Germany in the early ’80s, the CAN 2.0 protocol was first used in a 1991 Mercedes-Benz S-class. To no surprise, CAN 2.0 has found a home with other European manufacturers including BMW, Volvo and VW. Here in the U.S., CAN 2.0 is being similarly adopted.


As you have seen, vehicles have different data speed requirements on the same vehicle.

Consequently, when looked at from a networking perspective, it’s becoming quite common for a vehicle to have a Class A CAN, a Class B CAN, and a Class C CAN. This gives manufacturers the flexibility to implement CAN speeds appropriate for the systems they’re controlling, without the expense of overkill or suffering from poor performance in a given application.

Though the various CANs may operate at different speeds, they are still linked together through a common gateway for the purpose of sharing diagnostic information.


First of all, understand that CAN is a technology not reserved exclusively to exotic vehicles. Some common applications include the 2004 and up Ford F-150, the 2005 and up Toyota Avalon and the 2005 and up Chevrolet Cobalt.

Controlled applications of CAN systems also go beyond the reach of high-technology areas like engine and transmission control.

Even common circuits like lighting and accessories have been integrated with onboard networking control.

As more vehicles incorporate CAN, you will need to understand how it works on various makes and models and how to troubleshoot it when a problem occurs.

Your scan tool will need to be CAN-capable as well as any PC-based diagnostic tool.

Check with your equipment rep on the state of CAN-readiness for your equipment.

From here on out, CAN will impact everything you do in the service bay.

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