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Old 01.05.2020, 12:32
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Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

Little story I'd like to share.

Lately I've been hobbying around on my "new" 2007 Ford S-Max, which doesn't have Daytime Running Lights standard, but it can be activated by a special interface called FORScan. There are several third party programs that allow ECU tweaking, akin to the engine "tuning" all the kids are raving about these days, as they spend daddy's money pimping their VW to sound like a Maserati that just inhaled a helium balloon.

Well, I get that. I like to tinker. Except I'm the daddy now and I'm pimping a 7 seater minivan MPV. So anyway, I'm currently digging into the computer modules to activate DRLs, among other things. You'd be amazed at what you can easily change to turn your base model grocery getter into a top of the line XL Titanium SS Ghia edition.

I've been casually studying OBD systems for a few years. My original goal was to add cruise control to an old Ford Focus, but I discovered so much more in those little black boxes that control every aspect of lighting, mirrors, key programming, audio, tire size and pressure monitoring, remote this and that, etc etc. The ability to change all this seemingly hard wired stuff with a simple USB dongle connected to a cheap Windows laptop meant that my next car would be a Ford, and the next after that.

I used to be a Volvo guy, from a Volvo family back as far as I can remember. We always had other cars too, but the Volvos outlasted them all. The first car I bought myself was a 1970 164 with dual four barrel Bosch carbs. I learned to work on cars by tearing into that incredibly simple, built-like-a-tractor motor. They were easy to work on, held their value and the parts were always readily available.

But then Volvo had a really rough period. Lots of problems with electrical systems and design stagnation. They got a boost when Ford bought in, injecting money and innovation, and expanding the shared platform approach that had worked so well with Ford going back to the 1980s with their small truck venture with Mazda.

So after our '96 Volvo 850 died in 2015, I started searching for a used V50, one of the best designed and best selling cars on the road. Discouraged by the relatively high prices, I discovered the collaboration they had with Ford, sharing the Focus platform nearly 1:1 with the V50. I picked up a Focus wagon, a white fleet car that had all Autobahn kilometers and detailed service records. That became our family car for the next five years until the kids got too big. Great little car.

Now that the kids are bigger, they want to bring more stuff on holiday and we want to be able to fit their friends and cousins in the car with them, we got a seven passenger S-Max. Not the most exciting minivan car, but it has the same engine and computer system as the Focus, so I already know my way around the ECU and it's various modules. I've already activated DRLs, global lock/unlock, auto-retracting side mirrors, disabled the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (legal on pre-2014 cars), added an additional key, corrected the speedometer and figured out how to do a DPF regeneration when I get up the guts to rev the engine to 5k rpms. Nerd alert! I also did some cool stuff like adding a Sony head unit with CarPlay, installing a rear camera, and fixing little things like broken handbrake cable, a couple dents and torn driver seat. But the nerdy computer stuff is the most interesting because you don't normally think about how those things can be tweaked and customized years later.

Anybody else into hobbying on this kind of stuff? I have a feeling we're few and far between in der Schweiz.

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