Coding is difficult

What is auto coding? Step by step instructions

Where analog fittings used to have their regular place, today high-resolution displays are installed and nothing runs in the engine control without software anyway. No wonder when new cars are presented at computer fairs instead of automobile fairs. There is another reason why a car's software is interesting. Car owners can configure or code them themselves, as experts say. But what is auto coding, how does it work?

So what is auto coding? A car is a complex machine with many functions that is controlled by a computer. But not all functions are activated by the manufacturer and some are even annoying. Functions can be activated or deactivated by coding.

Today, cars without assistance systems, hands-free systems and other smart services are unimaginable. The car in the garage can often do more than you might think. There can be many functions in the car that have not been activated by the manufacturer. If you want to use this, you can have it activated in the authorized workshop for a fee. Many car owners prefer to do the coding themselves. So many car owners are faced with the question of how difficult it is Auto coding is.

The answer to that is not an easy one. In addition to the hardware, this primarily requires know-how. Learn the basics about coding and how automakers and lawmakers feel about it.

How to Get Familiar with Auto Coding as a Beginner

Many functions in a car are taken over by the on-board computer. If the driver had to operate these manually, they would be overwhelmed. This is not only due to the fact that the on-board computer takes on many functions, but also executes them at the same time. The driver and passengers are often not even aware of this. The functions can be classified according to various criteria. For example in

Basic functions: These include, for example

  • Start / stop function
  • Beep when locking and unlocking
  • Locking the doors from a certain speed (e.g. from 15 km / h)
  • Seat belt reminder
  • Fold in and out mirrors automatically
  • Closing the windows after locking the car door with the key

Light functions: The on-board computer also takes on many functions when it comes to lighting, for example

  • Activate / deactivate daytime running lights
  • Change the brightness of the daytime running lights
  • The brake lights flash when the brakes are fully applied
  • Flashing of the headlights when locking or unlocking the doors via the remote control
  • Flashing of the headlights when the alarm system is triggered

Speedometer: Analog dashboards can be found today in the automobile museum. The digital dashboard offers us different options depending on the car coding, such as:

  • Display of the real speed via GPS signal
  • Current consumption at current speed
  • Brightness of the instruments
  • Display of the switching time in eco or sport mode
  • Selection of whether the display should be on the dashboard or the head-up display
  • Incoming calls display

Parking aid: Optical support and acoustic warning signals make parking and leaving safer. This usually includes

  • Reversing camera that is automatically activated when reverse gear is engaged or when the vehicle rolls backwards.
  • Acoustic warning signal that sounds automatically when reverse gear is engaged or when the vehicle rolls backwards.

The examples are only a small selection of the many different functions that are performed by the on-board computer. If one were to continue the list of all possible functions, it would be very long and tedious to read. But consider, for example, the automatic connection of the smartphone with the integrated hands-free system or the activation of the windscreen wipers after the rain sensor has detected raindrops. All of these automatic functions save us work and increase safety because we can concentrate on the traffic.

But what if a reversing camera is installed, but the monitor still does not display an image after engaging reverse gear? One possibility is that the camera or the monitor is defective, maybe both. However, it is also possible that no corresponding command is issued when the reverse gear is engaged. In that case, it is very likely that the software was not encoded. You can have the reversing camera activated in the workshop for a fee, or you can do it yourself.

Auto coding can be done by yourself

Think of the car as a computer that has a housing for itself, driver and passengers, that stands on four wheels and is powered by a motor. As with any computer, the control software of a car can also be changed. In order for a change in the software to be noticeable, the corresponding hardware must also be installed.

An example should clarify this. If you want to activate the reversing camera on your car by coding, you should check beforehand whether a reversing camera is installed in the car. Otherwise the coding is pointless. If, however, a reversing camera is installed but deactivated, it can be activated by coding and put into operation.

Intervention in the software

Coding means an intervention in the configuration of the on-board computer. This can be compared with the configuration of the PC in the office or home office. If a printer is connected to the PC with cables, nothing happens. The PC software recognizes a new device, but cannot classify it due to a lack of driver software. This driver software should be installed and activated. The reversing camera from our example must also be activated in the software so that the on-board computer shows images of the area behind the car on the monitor when reversing. Another example is the screen background of a desktop PC, which can be compared to the display on the digital dashboard. Here, too, car owners can change the display by coding.

However, many car owners do not feel comfortable interfering with the car's software system. If you want to do a coding without any experience, various questions arise. One question might be whether the car is still safe after coding. Anyone who recodes the dashboard may wonder whether the display might fail. These questions are based on fears that are very well justified. In the worst case, the PC at home can crash. If the software system of a car malfunctions because of the coding it has done itself, the consequences can be more serious.

There is no major accident if, for example, the rain sensor or the reversing camera are activated. Coding the brightness of the daylight front and rear and the cockpit lighting usually do not cause any malfunctions. However, this assumes that the coding is done correctly. And that requires know-how.

If you are uncomfortable with this, if you are unsure or even afraid of consequential damage, you should stay away from coding. Instead, you can speak to a well-known mechanic or the next time you visit the workshop and find out how the coding works. If you want to try it yourself, you should definitely follow a few rules.

Coding functions yourself - these points should be observed

In principle, all car computers work on the same principle. However, there are differences in software from manufacturer to manufacturer. These can relate to abbreviations for functions as well as the division of the software menu. The greatest challenge for beginners is the search for the function. Once you have found it, you set or remove a checkmark for the function you are looking for and the coding is done.

Before you get into the software of the vehicle, however, you should inquire whether the unauthorized coding will invalidate any warranty claims against the car manufacturer. Once that has been clarified, you should deal with the coding know-how. Simply entering the system and coding it would not be right. Beginners who do not have the experience should write down each of their steps with pen and paper. In this way, even after a long period of time, you can see which codings you have made and which menu items you used to get there.

Coding can also affect essential properties of the car. If these are changed, an obligation to notify and approval by the Federal Motor Transport Authority may be necessary. In the event of violations, there is a risk of fines and coercive measures such as the removal of license plates.

How is auto coding done?

If you want to code functions on your car, you need the appropriate hardware. A laptop or smartphone is required for this, but these are already available in every household. Then you still need access to the on-board computer. In the case of a laptop, this can be a cable connection. Usually, however, a WLAN dongle is used.

However, cheap products are cheap goods from China. It is therefore worth spending a little more money on certified goods. Each car manufacturer determines for itself where the connection point for data cables or WLAN dongle is. It is usually located in the footwell on the driver's side.

Then you need the right app for the smartphone and the right program for the laptop. The difference between laptop and smartphone is that a lot more coding can be done with the laptop and the appropriate program. However, this also requires more know-how, which you have to acquire beforehand.

Other important data can be read out by connecting a smartphone or laptop to the car's on-board computer. The on-board computer also provides information about wear parts and defects. Knowing about this strengthens you the next time you talk to the mechanic about necessary repairs. The on-board computer also saves data about the driving style.

More questions and interesting facts

With every question put to us, we offer additional tips and advice on further topics. If you find this information helpful, we'd love to hear from you.

Read out data about your own driving behavior and improve it

With the technical equipment for coding cars, data about one's own driving behavior can be read out. Using this data, drivers can draw conclusions about their driving style and improve it. One possible goal is to protect the vehicle and reduce fuel consumption. The data also reveal, for example, how quickly the vehicle is usually accelerated.

Incidentally, the data is read out and evaluated after an accident. Insurance companies are also interested in this data. They serve as a basis for determining whether or not an insurance company has to pay after an accident.

So it can't hurt to use this data to get an idea of ​​your own driving behavior. With this help, your own driving style can be improved. It can also reduce fuel consumption and wear parts last longer.