CAN Bus Hacking

Been following this for a while, I have too many projects to take on another but am considering making time:

Curious who else tinkers at home with:

  • Generic OBD-2 to BT/WiFi code scanner
  • 1st-party OBD-2 and OEM software (eg VIDA)
  • DIY Infotainment Upgrades (thumb drives were likely harmed)
  • Log Extraction / Eradication (gps, telematics, etc)
  • Hidden Menus
  • ECU Remap (diy or professional)
  • OTA updates or gtfo (just for the Tesla crowd)

0 voters

By no means complete, comment with your preferred tinker-toys or apps

M4 has some changes thanks to @DG-X5


I’ve done ecu tuning off and on over the years. Started with tuning Honda ecus when adding turbos back in the day, and then into motorcycle ecus. I had one bike that I converted from being carbed to supercharged and fuel injected, so did all the mapping on that from scratch.

I’ve played with some hidden features on fords since and keep considering diving into my etron.

ECU tuning is pretty crazy.


@jeisensc you caused me to impulse buy Car Hacker's Handbook

Free download if you don’t want to spend money.


:clap:t2::clap:t2::clap:t2: thanks for sharing, just downloaded

I impulse-bought a new office chair today, so I lose :man_facepalming:t2:


I’m heavily involved in this type of stuff. I was the first person to get many factory options fully integrated on a 4th Gen RAM including the next Gen infotainment platform the year before it launched in the Ram and was exclusive to the Charger/Challenger/300.

I’m currently trying to find time to go back to working on my integration module I developed to implement the modern Mopar infotainment architecture in my 04 PCI bus vehicle.

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Ugh ffs

My observation is that integration is a weakness across the industry. Some ground-up design/build, some choose the best off-the-shelf sub-assemblies — either way (and anywhere on that spectrum) nobody does a good job of fully integrating (which must include robust feedback upstream to make these off-the-shelf products better”).

TL;DR: tech in cars is becoming geometrically more complicated, increasingly less-understood by the OEMs, poorly integrated in its implementation, with broken feedback-loops inside a broken feedback-loop.

I’m curious how wrong I am from your perspective?

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In PA, they just check the built-in emissions. For Hyundai, I think those don’t usually set after tuning. How did the CA check work previously?

I don’t think you’re wrong at all. Often times I think the vehicle manufacturers don’t have enough in-house knowledge on the implementation of technology. This is probably particularly true with the American brands. They rely heavily on their OEMs to develop things, and the “glue” that ties everything together at a system level is lacking. I’m seeing this firsthand at work. I’m a firmware engineer for an OEM that primarily supplies the off-highway and commercial vehicle markets. They typically lag behind passenger vehicles as far as tech goes, especially when it comes to the smaller manufacturers, so I’m watching them transition from a lot of analog switchgear and wiring to multiplexed systems and there’s a lot of growing pains there.

I think the advancements are a double edged sword for enthusiasts. The days of going to a junkyard, grabbing parts from a better equipped vehicle and wiring them in is over. However, if you’re capable (or a third party offers a commercial solution), then you can do much more than you could before more easily. Some things just need to be plugged in and turned on in the computer, and they’re up and running.

I’m starting to look at what GM has going on, and I’m finding that there isn’t much being done in the enthusiast community. There are a few companies that offer some stuff but they’re charging a massive premium. In my truck, I was able to swap in a cluster from an upgraded model to get the large LCD screen. I found one from a wrecker that had a couple hundred miles more than my truck, waited until the mileage matched, and swapped it in. It read the config from the BCM and configured itself properly. Now, to do the same thing on my Camaro, I have to pay $650 to get one from the only company that supplies them. It’s a restricted part and can’t be ordered by a dealer directly, and it needs to be bench programmed for my car’s options and VIN or it will lock when I install it.

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I’ve only worked with US OEMs and agree with a lot of this including OEMs not understanding tech. Everything is outsourced to suppliers, there’s a lot of badly defined specifications. This why all infotainment looks like its from the stone age compared to say Tesla which does everything in house.
That said, GM does a really good job of designing and integrating the architecture (which will also make them really hard to modify/hack in the future).

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On my this particular point, I think when you can cheaply/easily (over-simplified) be replaced by:

  • laser scan an interior
  • 3d print a new center stack with your desired cradle — e.g. 2-din head unit, or Samsung phablet, or an iPad mini, etc) with whatever connector you want
  • at a Best Buy with an overnight appointment (obviously printing would take time)

It won’t be necessary. How the different manufacturers have approached change control until very recently has made this nearly impossible on a decade-worth of cars. I was continually shocked how many different brand/model/style head units are in different cars. If you look at 2 model Subarus, each with 4 trims, you were probably looking at 8 different part numbers with different features.

Volvo took some abuse when they built cars where packaged upgrades were (as much as possible) plug-and-play on the base model. You can add advanced package with radar cruise and hud after the fact, in service. Almost nobody does, and it costs more to build (though it streamlines manufacturing a bit), and gives the buyer some hope of upgrading it later (though aftermarket options gets better and better).

Everyone is struggling to decide if they are the integrator or the platform, and so far the answer is a resounding “no”.

Having to do an ECU bench unlock for simple OBD tunes sucks.

Who knows why this situation has arisen? Maybe because of the lack of really talented design engineers.

OEMs have basically prioritized system engineering (design specs subcontract out everything) over in house dev. And then basically made it a race to the bottom on who can be the cheapest. So you end up with a lot of products that “meet specifications” but absolutely suck to use.


These days all I do is Bimmercode but I used to get into the Linux code for the Mazda infotainment system back when I had a 3. People did some incredible things with it like getting android auto to work on it.

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I came across this PDF the other day. It’s on my reading list now.

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Fun read on adventures in Hyundai-land:

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