How to enhance your IDS skills

March 1, 2019
Own an IDS Ford scan tool? Learn how to get the most out of this popular platform!

In 2015, I wrote an article (“Inside the IDS,” June) and I detailed some of the other tests IDS can do besides pulling codes and looking at data PIDs to enhance your analysis of that Ford that is in your bay. Ford is constantly making changes in the software in their vehicles and adding tests of that software into IDS. They release how-to information on their Motorcraft/PTS website in General Service Bulletins (GSB). In this article I’m going to tell you how to access these bulletins along with some examples of using IDS as these bulletins explain.

Ford publishes three types of service information that isn’t in their Service Manuals. The first is the typical Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) detailing issues that are found in the field and often apply to multiple vehicles. The next Special Service Messages (SSM), are messages that apply for temporary concerns on Ford’s part, may at some point become a TSB, or may just disappear. They also publish GSB that typically apply to procedures across multiple car lines.

Figure 1 - Motorcraft – PTS login webpage

My disclaimer right up front so that we are all on the same starting point. I am going to make a few assumptions about your skills and access to information. First, I am going to describe things as if you’re familiar with the IDS and somewhat familiar with Ford’s Motorcraft — PTS (Professional Technician Society) webpage (Figure 1). On that page if you access service information by VIN you get an OASIS report along with service publications, if you access by year and model you don’t get an OASIS and you will get a message offering all TSBs and SSMs. This will also give you GSBs.

These GSBs may be downloaded PDF files and stored on your shops computer system, or even printed and kept in binders at your shop for future reference.

Let's get started!

As we start, I have input the VIN to my 2015 Expedition and I put in a concern about the audio system so the OASIS report comes up first and has listings for any TSBs and SSMs that may apply to my listed concern. After viewing those I can move to the TSB SSM GSB tab and view all of them that are pertinent to my vehicle (Figures 2, 3). Let’s take a look at few.

Figure 2 - PTS vehicle Identification page, use a previous VIN, by Year and Model, or use IDS to read VIN and DTCs Figure 3 - OASIS Report that shows when using VIN or Read VIN selections

GSB 0000156 details Passive Anti-Theft Key Fob reprogramming. As you may know, programming Ford key fobs can be very easy, if you already have two programmed fobs. It is a challenge and you’ll want to have an IDS to program a Fob when you only have one. This GSB shows the fobs and the unique methods of programming each style.

Figure 4 - SSM which describes that the climate seat function has been removed from the SYNCH touch screen.

Another — GSB 0000106 — discusses accessing and using Historical Powertrain Diagnostic Codes. These are codes that are not currently confirmed or pending but have set since the last clearing of DTCs. OBD II regulations prohibit scan tools, or disconnecting the battery, from being able to erase emission DTCs from the PCM. They can be cleared and depending on the scan tool, not show up when scanning for codes, but regulations require the PCM to actually clear the codes. This typically takes 80 or more key cycles without a fault (Figure 4).

Figure 5 - As Built navigation drop down

This is a feature that can be used for concerns that are intermittent and may or may not have progressed to MIL but are not currently present. It is also not available on every Ford. There is a special icon that appears on the left side margin of the IDS screen at the conclusion of the test for PCM CMDTCs, Continuous Memory Diagnostic Codes (Figure 5).

For those of you who’ve read my postings, been to training classes that I’ve done, or have interacted with me over the past few years you know that I maintain that there are five steps that should be done to every vehicle that comes through the door of your shop and into your bay:

1. Confirm the concern exists as described on the RO.

2. Good visual inspection

3. Check service publications and TSBs.

4. Initial non-intrusive tests

5. Network tests

Steps 4 and 5 are typically confirmed by connecting a scan tool and pulling codes. Generally speaking, if the scan tool communicates with the vehicle you will get codes if there are network concerns along with the codes that are a result of module self-testing. When the scan tool doesn’t communicate with the vehicle or you have Uxxxx codes you may wish to use GSB 0000043.

Figure 6 - As Built data for a specific 2015 Expedition Figure 7 - TSB/GSB/SSM screen showing documents that may apply to this vehicle

In my previous article, I spent time discussing how to use IDS and PTS together to do network testing. GSB 0000043 is the one that details how to connect to a vehicle using PTS and IDS to do a live network test on the vehicle. By connecting the IDS to the vehicle, and then logging into PTS, you can do a live network test and monitor whether or not the modules in the vehicle respond when the website pings them and you can do the Ford Wiggle test to see if modules stop or start responding on the network. It’s very cool. You can read about it in more detail in my previous article and the GSB describing this (Figures 6, 7).

Analysis best practices

The starting point for analysis of any vehicle is service publications; I prefer OE access. Ford sells access by the year, the month, or for $21.95 for 72 hours of access. With this access you can get to everything Ford provides their dealer techs to analyze the vehicle, including the ability to connect IDS to your vehicle via the web using Ford’s servers and connecting to PTS. The other access you get is to As Built Data which may be needed during reprogramming modules.

Some boilerplate “this is how you’re expected to do things.” Whenever testing, programming, reprogramming, making calibration changes, best practices are:

  • On your IDS laptop make sure that Windows is set to Never go into screen saver or to sleep or to turn off the hard drive(s). It is also a good idea to turn off Automatic Updates, you want to control when that happens.
  • Set the Ford websites in Internet Explorer to trusted and allow data access across domains
  • Use the USB cable to connect the VCM-VCM II to the laptop
  • Use an ethernet cable to connect the laptop to the shop’s Internet
  • To really be safe have your IDS laptop connected to power
  • Connect a clean power source to the vehicle to maintain sufficient voltage to keep modules awake
  • Always run a network test to make sure modules can communicate with each other. A new module that has not be programmed should be able to pass a network test and communicate with IDS
  • When having problems with network communication, it worked before and now doesn’t, try disconnecting the VCM from the DLC and reconnect.

When you log into PTS and input a VIN or use the self-identity method, you will first get an OASIS report. This report details the history of the vehicle and includes warranty repairs, service actions, and possible TSBs or SSMs that may apply to the vehicle based on DTCs or symptoms you have input (Figure 8).

Figure 8 - The Adaptive Fuel Viewer GSB Listing

As you can see in this image there are multiple articles, TSBs, SSMs and GSBs available for this Expedition. And, no, I don’t expect that you’ll take the time to read every one of them while the customer’s car is on your bay. I do expect you to review those that are listed that may be related to the customer’s concern. I also expect that you will note the GSBs that you may wish to download and use.

Figure 9 - The Adaptive Fuel GSB

I have input my 2015 Expedition and look at this interesting SSM that has popped up. In the most recent SYNCH update Ford as removed the ability to control the climate seats from the touchscreen. There’s a change which I’m sure has caused Ford dealer techs some heartburn dealing with customers who upgraded the systems and their control is gone. Made me wonder (Figure 9).

I’ve already mentioned a number of GSBs, let’s be a little more detailed with two more GSBs today.

GSB 0000017 2013 And Newer Vehicles — Gasoline Engine — Adaptive Fuel Viewer GSB

Figure 10 - The Historical DTC Icon that may or may not be available

The first is GSB 0000017, posted in 2015, Adaptive Fuel Viewer. I was very excited when I first saw this as I’m thinking, “Wow, I can finally see LTFT in the different operating blocks without driving the car and recording them, how cool is that?” (Figure 10)

This GSB explains that starting with “certain” 2013 vehicles there will be a navigation button and Datalogger screen for viewing historical LTFT. Unfortunately, the key here is the word “certain”. I owned a 2013 Flex with the 3.5 Ecoboost. It didn’t have the option. When I traded the Flex for a 2015 Expedition, 3.5 Ecoboost, I figured I would find it on that vehicle, no such luck. Which vehicles have this option seems to be a closely guarded secret, which may explain why it took until 2015 for Ford to produce a GSB on something that started with the 2013MY. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a Ford with the Adaptive Fuel Viewer option for use in this article (Figure 11).

Figure 11 - The Mode $09 screen showing data PIDs with Ignition Counts and monitor completions since last KAM reset or PCM reprogram

If you’re working on a Ford that doesn’t have this option, you will need to view adaptive fuel the way we’ve done it for the past 22 years, by doing a road test. Set IDS to take a two-minute recording and then starting from a stop accelerate up to about a 20-30mph cruise, then accelerate up to about 50-60 mph cruise. Review LTFT in those different operating conditions.

For those of you who are new to drivability analysis using Fuel Trims, look up this GSB on PTS and you can read the whole article. Ford has been training their dealer techs to use adaptive fuel trims, LTFT, to search for patterns as a quick way to analyze the likely cause of drivability concerns for 20+ years now.

There are examples of the most common patterns, for common concerns. For example, if LTFT is negative at idle, comes to a more normal reading off idle, and then goes positive at cruise, we’re looking at the most likely symptoms of a contaminated MAF.

GSB 0000150: Various Vehicles — Module Programming and Reprogramming Procedures

This GSB details the process for recalibrating and programming new modules. It is 21 pages long so let me pull a couple of points that you’re likely to use.

GSB 150: Recalibration of Existing Modules: Tire size – Axle ratio

I had a 2013 Flex and it was equipped with 20” factory rims. The tires that were on the car when I bought it used, were great tires for dry and wet pavement but nearly worthless on snow. After some initial research I found that most tire manufacturers don’t make snow tires to fit a 20” rim. I ended up buying a second set of wheels which were 18” diameter to fit the snow tires. This was and is the recommended practice by even the aftermarket tire sites.

Different diameter rims, different tire diameters, and of course new TPMS sensors. 20+ years ago it was a swap without concern, maybe the speedometer was a little off, and TPMS didn’t exist, but hey, it’s just for a few months don’t worry about the speedo. In today’s world how many issues might come up due to different tires? Will fuel economy be affected? How about ABS? Transmission shift patterns? Maybe no problems, maybe some?

Figure 12 - Typical CMDTC test results screen Figure 13 - Navigation panel showing Module Programming access point

Those of you with tire experience are already thinking that if they did it right by changing the tire profile the new ones, everything will be pretty close and you’re right, they did. The 20” rims had a 45 profile and the 18” rims had tires with a 65 profile. But… this vehicle has the option of recalibrating for different diameter wheels and tires. I went in and changed tire size to the 18” set that I installed. When I put the 20-inch rims back on I went back in and set it back to the 20” numbers. Let’s look at a few screen shots from my Expedition on how that was done.

Figure 14 - Module Programming sub-menu to do specific tasks Figure 15 - Programmable Parameters selecting Tire Size / Axle Ratio will get you to the screen where you can reset tire size to keep speedo and other modules that use vehicle speed getting accurate information.

Once IDS is connected go to the main menu and select MODULE PROGRAMMING. This brings the next submenu, and there are four options. To get to the tire menu you select: PROGRAMMABLE PARAMETERS. This brings up the submenu with your available options, why Tire Size – Axle Ratio is listed twice… I don’t know (Figures 12, 13, 14, 15).

Figure 16 - Warning screen that IDS may ask questions and you may have several screens go by once you implement the changes.

My Flex only had the option of changing tire diameter, on my Expedition I can set tire diameter but as you can see, I also have the option of four different axle ratios. The current ratio has the “*” alongside it and to change the ratio you simply highlight the new ratio, press the blue checkmark icon in the lower right, and you’ve changed the ratio (Figure 16). You may be asked to confirm your choice and may also be reminded to clear codes. It is typical to get multiple Uxxxx codes when recalibrating, reprogramming, or replacing modules. IDS will shut the module off during reprogramming and those modules that are expecting data will not see it on the network… the result? Uxxxx codes.

Why you want to follow best practices

While working on my Expedition for this article I ran across an interesting thing the vehicle did. Look at the screen shot and notice that I have a screen full of Uxxxx codes. As I was working on the vehicle trying to scan data, which I had done doing successfully, as I tried to connect to get to KOEO, my vehicle has the push button ignition, I started getting message after message that various modules were being shut down. As they did U codes started popping up. My best guess as to what happened is that after working on the vehicle KOEO, the system voltage dropped too low and, in an effort, to maintain enough power to start the vehicle, it began to shut off modules to save energy (Figure 17).

Figure 17 - Next Screen confirming VIN

I came to that conclusion because I forgot one of the Best Practices cardinal rules about working on a vehicle when doing module testing, connecting a clean power charger to the battery positive and a known good body ground point. I did that and the modules stopped shutting down. I had many codes to clear but after clearing and using the charger, the system worked as it is designed.

GSB 150: Using MODE $09 to check for aftermarket programming and monitor completion

An interesting section in this GSB is the information about what is visible when checking Mode $09. While this may be more valuable to a Ford Dealer Tech this screen and information is a back door into possible tuning modifications that have been done by the vehicle owner. The PID is IGNCNTR, which is telling you how many times the ignition has been turned on since the last PCM reprogram or KAM reset (Figure 18). Techs can find if the vehicle had performance chips or other PCM modifications done by aftermarket shops or the owners. Looking at my Expedition you can see that it has been a long time since KAM was reset with 5189 starts since last reset.

Figure 18 - Axle ratio change screen

The other PIDs indicate the number of times that OBD II monitors have completed. You will notice that the numbers are different for different monitors. It is true that all monitors are enabled to complete every time you start and drive the vehicle. What is also true, enabling to run does not equal completion. For the non-continuous monitors in addition to being enabled at engine running and temperature above 160 degrees, there are specific driving conditions that need to happen as well. I was testing that to see what qualified as an OBD II drive-cycle, I got everything ready and jumped on an expressway, I drove for an hour at 70mph and not a single non-continuous monitor completed. I got off the expressway and drove in an urban area and all of them completed within 2 miles.

GSB 150: Programmable Module Installation

What is the process for replacing a module? After analysis has determined the need for a new module the replacement process goes like this:

  1. Initiate an IDS session
  2. From the main menu select Module Programming
  3. From the next menu select Programmable Module
  4. Follow the prompts to the module you’re replacing
  5. When it tells you to do so replace the module

When you initially connect IDS to a vehicle it does a network test and inhales data from each module on the network that responds to it. It does this every time you connect to vehicle. When you’re done working on the vehicle you are given three options for closing the session. HOLD Session which keeps vehicle information including any recordings in a folder on the laptop. COMPLETE Session, this keeps the basic information about the vehicle but deletes any recordings you may have made. DELETE Session is the third option.

Figure 19 - The result of the vehicle shutting down systems to save battery power

I recommend that you only HOLD or COMPLETE sessions until such time as you’re sure you won’t see the vehicle again for the current concern. Selecting HOLD or COMPLETE also allows you to log off while you do any R&R or other work on the vehicle and frees IDS to be used on other vehicles during that time (Figure 19).

This is important for doing network and module work because what IDS did was to inhale the information from the original modules and store it in memory. When you replace the module, it exhales that programming into the new module. In some cases, the software in the old module is lost or corrupt, that is when you need to use AS BUILT data to reprogram the module.

It has been my experience that replacing a module or flashing the PCM is a very straightforward process when using IDS and doing so with a subscription to Motorcraft-PTS. You follow the prompts on IDS and it does everything for you except clearing codes, although I have experienced it doing that after a programming event. I did have one experience when I was asked for As Built data to complete replacement of a module.

Figure 20 - IDS session logout screen with the choices

To get AS BUILT you go back into PTS and OASIS and select AS BUILT data and it will walk you through the process by either giving you a file to download and then upload into IDS which will install it for you, or you may be asked by IDS to input the data as printed (Figure 20).

One more quick comment, and this detailed in the GSB and that is when flashing or programming fails. I have blown out the programming of a number of modules over the years. Ride Height on a Navigator, the ABS on a Hybrid Escape, as the GSB describes and what I did in these various instances was to simply start over, make sure the vehicle had good clean power and start the process over. Often that includes removing the IDS and VCM from the vehicle and then reinstalling and reconnecting.

I am well over the expected number of words for an article and I could still go on for several more pages, perhaps MotorAge will have me do a Part Two in a coming issue. Let me wrap this up with a suggestion. The only way you become familiar with and an expert at running IDS is to use it and play with it. The only, or perhaps the best way to find out about these GSBs is to use the Ford website and explore it.

Most of these GSBs appear on any Ford that you input into PTS even if only by year and model. You can review them and download them for use at a later time and to use as practice guides. Find a Ford you can spend some time with, follow their instructions, and when you have a customer that need a key programmed, an intermittent concern currently without codes, the need to replace a module, or need to change tire size when you swap snow-summer wheels and tires you can do so quickly and you too, will be an Enhanced IDS User.

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