To Flash or not to Flash

January 28, 2019

Can Module Reprogramming Become a Profit Center for your Shop?

The decision to enter into the Reflashing “Business” should not be taken lightly. The tools, software, subscriptions and training can become quite expensive not to mention the potential costs related to mistakes during the reflash process.

Taking all of this into consideration, you may be passing up a chance to increase your revenue by going into the business of reflashing. Shops all around the country are leaving possibly tens of thousands of dollars on the table by either subletting the repair to a dealership or contracting a mobile company to stop and do it at the shop for them.


Why Pass-Through Reprogramming?

What were the reasons behind creating it, and what are some of the key points that you want to keep in mind?

There was an article in the SAE Automotive Engineering Magazine – November 2006 Issue, that predicted that by 2010, software will represent more than 10% of the cost of a vehicle, up from less than 5% today. That increase in cost is only for the software used to run the vehicle. That does not include the wiring or the hardware.

Another item pointed out in the article is that in 2006 there were approximately 1,000,000 lines of code just for the engine management software alone. To give you a better idea on how much that is, if you were to print all of the code out on 8 1/2” X 11” paper using the same type size used in this manual, it would take 21,739 pages. Also in the same article, engineers predicted more than 10,000,000 lines of code would be used by 2010 to perform the same task.

To stay on top of these technological advances, software is developed around the clock and around the globe. The manufacturers put software development teams in several different countries around the world. As soon as one development team was done with the software in one part of the world, another team would immediately take over the process.

The engineers are pressed to develop systems faster than ever. The competition between vehicle manufacturers today is extremely competitive. If one vehicle manufacturer is able to produce a vehicle in 12 months and it takes another manufacturer 13 months, the manufacturer that can produce a vehicle in 12 months has the edge when it comes to sales and marketing.

The bottom line is that mistakes are possible, and reprogramming can help resolve these issues. At the time of this presentation, over 50,000 reprogramming flashes are occurring monthly on GM vehicles at the dealership level alone. This alone should tell you that there is a lot of opportunity to add this service to your customers and add more money to your bottom line. To help you achieve this goal, this seminar will help you develop a step-by-step reprogramming evaluation process. Also, we will help you to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to determine if you are ready to perform the recommended procedure.


Basic Types of Module Reflash

Module software updates: Module software updates will account for about 80% of your normal programming. This is done on existing modules that are in the vehicles that you are working on. These modules will have an issue that can be fixed with updated software from the manufacturer.

New module programming: This is the second most common type of reprogramming that you will be doing. This is done when you have diagnosed a system and the fault is the module itself and needs to be replaced. Once the module is replaced, you need to make sure that it is programmed with the most current software from the manufacturer.

Re-initialization of systems: This is done when you have just reflashed a vehicle and now you need to make things work on the system. An example could be that you have reflashed a Body Control Module (BCM) on a GM, Ford, or Chrysler vehicle. You may need to re-initialize the keyless entry unit or perform a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) re-learn procedure. Later on in the presentation we will be covering this type of issue on a GM vehicle.

The Up Front Investment – The Cost of Tools and Subscriptions

The following example will demonstrate the return on investment if you as a shop owner were to invest in reflashing ONLY Ford Motor Company vehicles.

  1. Bookmark the OE website.
  2. Use a simple note pad to document vehicles that come into your shop.
  3. List vehicles GM/Ford/Chrysler.
  4. Check all 1996 and newer vehicles that enter your shop for reflashes.
  5. If the vehicle has any reflashes available, add it to the list.
  6. At this point you don’t need to make a decision if a reflash is needed. The goal is to document the potential vehicles that might need to be reprogrammed.
  7. At the end of 90 days add up the total number of potential reflashes.
  8. Take the total number of potential reflashes and divide by 1/3.
  9. The next step is figuring the potential return on investment.
  10. The average cost for reprogramming is $80.00 to $125.00. For this return on investment, we will use $100.00. You can call around your area to get a more accurate average.
  11. Multiply the 1/3 number from Step 8 by the average cost to determine total gross profit.

Let’s do some quick math:

* Total vehicles for 90 days: 90 vehicles.

* Divide 90 by 1/3 = 30 vehicles.

* Average reprogram price to customer $100: $100 x 30 vehicles = $3,000.00.


Let’s take a look at the details.

The return on investment will focus on domestic vehicles. In order to calculate the return on investment we need to establish the cost for reprogramming domestic vehicles.

* J2534 Reprogramming Interface: $2,300.00

* Battery Sustainer: $500.00

* Ford Software Subscription

365 day IDS/FDRS Software License = $849.00 per license
30 day IDS/FDRS Software License = $299.00 per license
2 day IDS/FDRS Software License = $149.00 per license
365 day FJDS/FDRS Software License = $849.95 per license
30 day FJDS/FDRS Software License = $149.95 per license
2 day FJDS/FDRS Software License = $49.95 per license

Let’s take a look at what it would cost to enter the module flash business. The below calculation assumes you already have a laptop that is capable of performing to the Ford OEM standards. As you can see we use the 30 day subscription price of $299.99 along with the purchase price of the J2534 tool $2,300.00 and a battery sustainer for $500.00. If you were to charge $125.00 per reflash and pay the technician $35.00, you would see a profit of $90.00 per flash. At this rate, it will take you approximately 35 reflashes to pay for the tools needed to successfully reflash.

Ford Reprogramming  Expenses
Software subscription 30 days  $   299.99
J2534 Pass thru device PURCHASE  $2,300.00
Battery sustainer PURCHASE  $   500.00
Total  $3,099.99
Reprogramming charge to customer  $   125.00
Technician labor charge  $     35.00
Gross profit from reprogram  $     90.00
Total Expenses  $3,099.99
Division of gross profit to expenses  $     90.00
Total Reflash to break even  $     34.44

This next calculation shows what it would take to be profitable after the initial expense of tools has been recouped. Note that the only expense left is the monthly subscription fee. At this point all you need to do is perform four (4) reflashes per month to cover the software expense; the rest goes to your bottom line.

Ford Reprogramming  Expenses
Software subscription 30 days  $   299.99
J2534 Pass thru device PAID  $          –
Battery sustainer PAID  $          –
Total  $   299.99
Reprogramming charge to customer  $   125.00
Technician labor charge  $     35.00
Gross profit from reprogram  $     90.00
Total Expenses  $   299.99
Division of gross profit to expenses  $     90.00
Total Reflash to break even  $        3.33

As you can see, the potential for module flashing can be a valuable profit center for your shop if you are willing to spend the money on tools, software and most of all, TRAINING. Reflashing should not be taken as a light hearted subject in the automotive service industry. It is a complex subject that requires the correct tools, training and attention to detail. It may not be for everyone but for the skilled driveability technician, it can be a great profit center.


Related Course

Reprogramming and Flashing

Reprogramming and Flashing

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This course will cover SAE J2534 programming and OEM programming. Also, the different types of pitfalls you may encounter when going through the reprogramming process. John Forro will discuss the different types of tools needed and the pros and cons of each tool and the expenses. John will also cover the new RAP tool and how to avoid potential problems when going through the process.

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