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can Ford tell if you have flashed your car?

i was thinking about getting the track key, then thought about american muscle sct with lifetime tunes. if i flashed it with the aftermarket tunes, then had to go back to the dealer later can they tell if it has been flashed?
Thanks
 
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The ECM counts flashes. So if you put a custom tune, that's 1, back to original 2, etc., etc. so yes they can tell you did something.
 
People have made the same claim about ECU flash count for almost every modern vehicle. There was also the post (I forgot where I saw it) about how they do the hardness test or something on the gears to see how much torque has been going through them. Unless I see proof, I don't believe it. Partially because a flash, at least in cars I have owned, does not reformat the entire ecu every time. It just overwrites part of it. The after market flashes are designed to do it that way. So does it count every time it has been flashed at all? Or just reformats? The guy in England who cracks all the tunes would figure out a way to get around it if there was one. Is it a physical counter? Otherwise it should be able to be overwritten by the flash. Yeah, you can run tests on the memory to count the overwrites and pull old data (I've done it with memory cars I accidentally went over) but I highly doubt they will do on a regular basis for warranty repairs. Now if you put a junk tune on and it goes lean and pops the motor, the black box will probably record the last bit of data before the pop. And if you blank that, they will get suspicious. From that they can tell if it is a hacked tune. If I understand the black box they use correctly and they wanted to go to that effort.
 

ArizonaBOSS

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The computer will store a P1000 code for some amount of time, and from the threads from when the GTs started blowing #8 cylinders, Ford can see on this PCM how many times it has been flashed.
 
CaliMR said:
People have made the same claim about ECU flash count for almost every modern vehicle. There was also the post (I forgot where I saw it) about how they do the hardness test or something on the gears to see how much torque has been going through them. Unless I see proof, I don't believe it. Partially because a flash, at least in cars I have owned, does not reformat the entire ecu every time. It just overwrites part of it. The after market flashes are designed to do it that way. So does it count every time it has been flashed at all? Or just reformats? The guy in England who cracks all the tunes would figure out a way to get around it if there was one. Is it a physical counter? Otherwise it should be able to be overwritten by the flash. Yeah, you can run tests on the memory to count the overwrites and pull old data (I've done it with memory cars I accidentally went over) but I highly doubt they will do on a regular basis for warranty repairs. Now if you put a junk tune on and it goes lean and pops the motor, the black box will probably record the last bit of data before the pop. And if you blank that, they will get suspicious. From that they can tell if it is a hacked tune. If I understand the black box they use correctly and they wanted to go to that effort.

I actually think you are right from my past experiences with cars in general. From what I read, the only way they can tell is if the car has not completed its drive cycle after a re-flash. This is the same thing that prevents you from being inspected right after a ecu reset. Typically you have to drive the car for 50 miles or so to complete the drive cycle. Despite having read all the posts about the ecu keeping track of flashes, I have read a few posts by people who seemed much more knowledgeable about tunes than those reporting that ford can tell after a tune is uninstalled. All have stated that after uninstalling a tune and completing a drive cycle that ford cannot tell that it was installed.

Has anyone tried calling one of the tuners?
 

PeteInCT

#LS-378 - So many Porsche's, so little time....
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I believe CaliMR is correct, at least for some ECU's. Audi uses Bosch, I actually don't know who makes the one in our Boss. That said, I know for a fact that Audi cannot tell if their ECU's were reflashed with a tune like APR, GIAC, REVO, Unitronic, etc. except for the impact it has on the engine output, fuel pressure, etc. For turbo engines, Audi could see the boost pressure raised from 17 lbs to 25 lbs, but that's about all they can see as evidence - it infers a tune but doesn't prove it. Don't ask how I know this ;D
 
The infamous #8 Technical Service Bulletin gives some useful information. One of the Ford engineers posted that when an automatic trans comes back under warranty, they will know if the car has been flashed, just using information stored in the transmission.

I am surprised that Ford hasn't gone to the trouble of uniquely identifying their own calibrations. It is very easy , all that is needed is a few lines of computer code.
 
Great responses!!
Ok here is something else to add to the thread.

Would using a chip log same results or leave traces if it was unplugged prior to going to a dealer?
 

PeteInCT

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Some more info, albeit based VW/Audi design (for what it's worth):

  • The tranny computer is somewhat independent of the ECU/PCM although they obviously 'talk' to each other, and reflashes are totally independent. When I reflashed my DSG tranny on my Audi with HPA software, the load is done directly to the tranny and not through the OBD port like when an engine tune is executed.
  • I still believe only a 'full flash' with total rewrite is detectable
  • If only 'X' number of bytes are changed in a tune reflash there is no way a tech can tell that the program is changed unless they have software to decrypt the compressed format and compare it byte by byte. Totally feasible in a home computer environment but I doubt the techs have the software tools to do this at a shop. That's the stuff the software development teams are using.
 
I understood if you disconnected the battery for a few minutes on the 2003-2004 Mustangs that it would clear any traces of a flash.

Don't know if so or not, I never had to issues for warranty work on my Mach1 which I had a flash tune in since they made the 1st one for it.

I do know a friend had a 2007 GMC which he bought used. It had a warranty issue and they said there was a signature in the computer from a flash and wouldn't cover it.
 

TMSBOSS

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Not a Smart Guy when it comes to Auto computers. Just a thought.

If ford is looking for an issue with a blown motor or other problem. Could they not simply download the software in the car and take a look? If the software is not a Ford program would they not know the computer was reflashed/reprogramed?

If they are trying to determine why a single $12,000.00 Boss motor blew they may be motivated to determine all factors involved with the failure. When you consider they may investigate a failure as a early sign for a systemic problem which could effect over 3000 boss engines. One would think they would dig into every posibility to include Any modifications to the vehicles software. Why would they only look for a "counter" for a flashed computer?

As was mentioned earlier, the computer will show it was flashed for 50 or so miles. So if someone was to reflash their computer back to the factory settings after grenading a motor, the reflash would be obvious.

If you reflash, modify or change the car, an assemble, part or system. You are saying good bye to the warranty. There are a few exceptions for Ford approved and installed programs. Ford would recognize their software mods and have to stand behind them.

How would you hide the changes to the computers???

Like I said, not a computer genius
 
Fordman9870 said:
i was thinking about getting the track key, then thought about american muscle sct with lifetime tunes. if i flashed it with the aftermarket tunes, then had to go back to the dealer later can they tell if it has been flashed?
Thanks

If your worried about the warranty, both the Track Key and Bama (American Muscle) tunes are consider aftermarket tunes and any damage they cause is not covered under Fords manufactures warranty.

As far as if they can tell if you flashed (or reflashed with the stock tune), this is my understanding base on past tuner experience: When ever you flash your ECU with a hand held tuner, the last thing it does is clear all stored codes. This clearing of codes generated a P1000 code. All the P1000 code means is that the trouble codes have been recently cleared. The only way to clear the P1000 code is the car has to go though a certain number of drive cycles. So if you reflashed back to stock then drove your car for a week, the P1000 code should be gone.

I wouldn't leave the aftermarket tune in the car, even if you have had enough drive cycles to clear the P1000 code, if your trying to hide it from the dealer. (I'll let you decide if this is right or wrong)
 
The answer is yes they can see it has been flashed and how many times this is nothing new alot of people figure well I can flash it then change it back if it blows. They can see it that is just one reason the track key is pretty good. And also yes they can simply download the current flash and read it ontop of knowing it was flashed.
 
As per what Ford has stated, the track key is warranted up through the remainder of the 3/36 bumper to bumper warranty, so the only thing you really lose is the extra 2 years of drivetrain warranty. But (I don't think Ford said this part specifically) for it to invalidate the drivetrain warranty, the damage has to be caused by the track key tune.

Per the track key website

As an aftermarket product, TracKey comes with a “best-in-the-aftermarket industry” 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, and its installation and usage does not void the original OE warranty.

Now how they worded that opens possibility that even if it causes damage during the extra 2 years, the damage to the motor etc will be covered, but not damage to the track key install (ECU is not covered by the drivetrain warranty I am guessing so it isn't covered anyways). I didn't read the whole OE warranty front to back and it probably says that aftermarket products void it, but Ford states clearly that it does not void the OE warranty on their advertisement. It also says 3/36 not the remainder of the 3/36 which implies it is a new 3/36 period but that would be a tough one to win. There are conflicts in what they say, assuming the warranty states aftermarket parts invalidate it, but the general rule of thumb is that conflicts/vagueness are interpreted against the drafter especially when the drafter is in the power position or is a regular player in the industry. Thus if you took them to court and had a balla' lawyer you could possibly win if your motor blew due to TK calibration during the extra two years. But it will be a fight. Just like if you mod any car, they in theory have to prove it caused the problem. Burden of proof is on them. But from my Evo experience (I never had any issues with the car, but many others did) that is a hard one to win in court and too expensive to fight to be worth doing. Also, they can claim stuff like abuse caused the damage and abuse is never covered by warranties.

That said, Ford has been good to me. I have a 1995 Bronco that had numerous brake issues, and the dealer was replacing rotors (normally wear items, but it was a common problem) at least every 3 months and I never paid for pads, fluid etc for the brake system during the warranty. By the time the warranty ended, they came out with a new pad that fixed the problem entirely. I also had the rear end explode (shrapnel a block down the street) after the warranty ended, and they did a very large % of the cost under good will (cost me $200 for an entire rear end, including carrier, gears, axles, the whole caboodle between the wheels including install). If people start popping motors during the extra 2 years and it is a common issue (thus probably not abuse) I am confident they will cover at least part of the repairs. We have had a lot of Fords, and Ford corporate has never ****ed us. Individual dealers... yeah, but a call to Ford and that always got cleared up.


The counter is still suspect imo, as there are only so many ways it can count them. Yes they can pull the chip and send it to NASA to do an analysis on it and tell from ghosting etc if it has been rewritten (similar to how you pull info that has been deleted with a hard delete which is why military etc uses the multi pass hard deletes among other things) but if it is just code in there that tells it to count how many times it has been flashed, if it is in the ECU then you should be able to flash that part of the code too. Most tuners will pull the original tune which would have the original flash cycle data on it and you should be able to reflash that back and force it not to add to the counter (if the tuner software is sophisticated enough). There is the possibility that the flash counter is stored somewhere else, and it just sees the flashing. Maybe a chip in the dash or something that interacts with the OBD but is not part of the ECU. If so, again a sophisticated flash software in theory could over write it as it has to be writeable for it to be able to record. Unless it is more of a ram type thing that stores it. Lots of possibilities how it works, but most are unlikely. Just a little theorycraft on my part here, no idea if any of the OEMs actually go that far. I do doubt that the tuners are that sophisticated though, based on experience with it in the import scene.

However, I am very happy with the Track Key software and do not intend to do an aftermarket tune unless at some point I turn the car into a competition car (and it is allowed by the rules) but at that point any warranty is written off anyways. For Track Key, I quoted above what the Track Key site says. I also have saved a copy of the site, because they may change it later. But if they change it, it would not be retroactive. I guess they can claim that their marketing guys made the page so they aren't responsible... but the page also has the install instructions and the patches the dealer needs to install it. So it is a weak argument, even leaving aside any bad faith type stuff in marketing it with lies.

lol I wrote another book. But I will leave it with this: my friend with a Boss is a big time lawyer, they fly him around the country when they need a big boy to litigate stuff. Makes more money per year than I do in 15. And he told me that when he installs Track Key, he is writing off the extra 2 years of the warranty. Not because he could not win if he challenged it, but because it would not be worth the cost and effort to fight Ford. The regular bumper to bumper 3/36 he says is pretty iron clad and if they don't cover it then it would be worth fighting. Real aftermarket tunes, if they catch you, are a different story especially if they catch you trying to cover it up.

Also they did not ask me to sign any sort of waiver, the only thing I signed was the normal paperwork which also had them checking the tranny for a 1st gear issue and they put a line about checking tire pressure :p There also was no paperwork in the track key packet that I saw which stated the warranty is void.
 
CaliMR said:
As per what Ford has stated, the track key is warranted up through the remainder of the 3/36 bumper to bumper warranty, so the only thing you really lose is the extra 2 years of drivetrain warranty. But (I don't think Ford said this part specifically) for it to invalidate the drivetrain warranty, the damage has to be caused by the track key tune.

Per the track key website

As an aftermarket product, TracKey comes with a “best-in-the-aftermarket industry” 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, and its installation and usage does not void the original OE warranty.

Now how they worded that opens possibility that even if it causes damage during the extra 2 years, the damage to the motor etc will be covered, but not damage to the track key install (ECU is not covered by the drivetrain warranty I am guessing so it isn't covered anyways). I didn't read the whole OE warranty front to back and it probably says that aftermarket products void it, but Ford states clearly that it does not void the OE warranty on their advertisement. It also says 3/36 not the remainder of the 3/36 which implies it is a new 3/36 period but that would be a tough one to win. There are conflicts in what they say, assuming the warranty states aftermarket parts invalidate it, but the general rule of thumb is that conflicts/vagueness are interpreted against the drafter especially when the drafter is in the power position or is a regular player in the industry. Thus if you took them to court and had a balla' lawyer you could possibly win if your motor blew due to TK calibration during the extra two years. But it will be a fight. Just like if you mod any car, they in theory have to prove it caused the problem. Burden of proof is on them. But from my Evo experience (I never had any issues with the car, but many others did) that is a hard one to win in court and too expensive to fight to be worth doing. Also, they can claim stuff like abuse caused the damage and abuse is never covered by warranties.

That said, Ford has been good to me. I have a 1995 Bronco that had numerous brake issues, and the dealer was replacing rotors (normally wear items, but it was a common problem) at least every 3 months and I never paid for pads, fluid etc for the brake system during the warranty. By the time the warranty ended, they came out with a new pad that fixed the problem entirely. I also had the rear end explode (shrapnel a block down the street) after the warranty ended, and they did a very large % of the cost under good will (cost me $200 for an entire rear end, including carrier, gears, axles, the whole caboodle between the wheels including install). If people start popping motors during the extra 2 years and it is a common issue (thus probably not abuse) I am confident they will cover at least part of the repairs. We have had a lot of Fords, and Ford corporate has never ****ed us. Individual dealers... yeah, but a call to Ford and that always got cleared up.


The counter is still suspect imo, as there are only so many ways it can count them. Yes they can pull the chip and send it to NASA to do an analysis on it and tell from ghosting etc if it has been rewritten (similar to how you pull info that has been deleted with a hard delete which is why military etc uses the multi pass hard deletes among other things) but if it is just code in there that tells it to count how many times it has been flashed, if it is in the ECU then you should be able to flash that part of the code too. Most tuners will pull the original tune which would have the original flash cycle data on it and you should be able to reflash that back and force it not to add to the counter (if the tuner software is sophisticated enough). There is the possibility that the flash counter is stored somewhere else, and it just sees the flashing. Maybe a chip in the dash or something that interacts with the OBD but is not part of the ECU. If so, again a sophisticated flash software in theory could over write it as it has to be writeable for it to be able to record. Unless it is more of a ram type thing that stores it. Lots of possibilities how it works, but most are unlikely. Just a little theorycraft on my part here, no idea if any of the OEMs actually go that far. I do doubt that the tuners are that sophisticated though, based on experience with it in the import scene.

However, I am very happy with the Track Key software and do not intend to do an aftermarket tune unless at some point I turn the car into a competition car (and it is allowed by the rules) but at that point any warranty is written off anyways. For Track Key, I quoted above what the Track Key site says. I also have saved a copy of the site, because they may change it later. But if they change it, it would not be retroactive. I guess they can claim that their marketing guys made the page so they aren't responsible... but the page also has the install instructions and the patches the dealer needs to install it. So it is a weak argument, even leaving aside any bad faith type stuff in marketing it with lies.

lol I wrote another book. But I will leave it with this: my friend with a Boss is a big time lawyer, they fly him around the country when they need a big boy to litigate stuff. Makes more money per year than I do in 15. And he told me that when he installs Track Key, he is writing off the extra 2 years of the warranty. Not because he could not win if he challenged it, but because it would not be worth the cost and effort to fight Ford. The regular bumper to bumper 3/36 he says is pretty iron clad and if they don't cover it then it would be worth fighting. Real aftermarket tunes, if they catch you, are a different story especially if they catch you trying to cover it up.

Also they did not ask me to sign any sort of waiver, the only thing I signed was the normal paperwork which also had them checking the tranny for a 1st gear issue and they put a line about checking tire pressure :p There also was no paperwork in the track key packet that I saw which stated the warranty is void.

This is wrong you do not loose any of your factory warrantee at all.
 
Jeep can you back up your statement? I just like to have hard proof.

Now I am wondering.... if you use the track key, your warranty goes down to 3/36 BUT if you switch back to your regular key and are using your regular key and something happens at say 40K miles and they can see you were using your regular key when it happened. would it be covered?
haha i think my thread is leading to more questions than answers.
Thanks to all contributors so far!!
 
jeepinocala said:
This is wrong you do not loose any of your factory warrantee at all.

That is what Ford has been quoted as saying, in some articles. But then I quoted their web site saying the opposite.
 
My understanding of TK is that it's warrantied for 36/36,000 like stated on their website. So nothing changes during that period. What changes is between the 36/36,000 and 60/60,000. If TK is determined to be the cause of the warranty issue it will not be covered. If you're driving using the silver key and your water pump goes out at 52,500 miles it should still be covered under warranty. If you're tracking your car using TK at 52,500 miles and you fry a cylinder and the TK tune is determined to be the cause it will not be covered under warranty. (those are just examples) I could have sworn we covered this already in a dozen other threads. ;)

Bottom line is if you're that worried about it don't buy TK and leave your car completely stock. I don't believe there are any aftermarket tunes that come with a warranty.
 

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