Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE
L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
Most of us in the automotive service industry are already using information services like Alldata and Mitchell-On-Demand to access various types of repair information. Without a doubt, the services these companies provide are absolutely necessary to repairing cars correctly. It is however, not all inclusive in what is needed to repair today's modern day vehicles.
Case in point:
Recently, we purchased two 2001 Lexus ES 300's. Both vehicles were shipped to us from the wholesaler with only one key each. Knowing that we can easily program typical Toyota Immobilizer keys without a Lexus Scan Tool, I called the dealer and ordered one key cut for each car. Normally, Toyota Immobilizer keys run about 40.00 and we can program them to start the car through a procedure that entails pumping the brake and accelerator pedals. This procedure, that some technicians call the "pedal dance," was simple and I was not concerned since I had performed it often on other Toyotas.
After a few days had passed, the two separate keys arrived from the dealership. I was surprised to see that the invoice showed the keys were 250.00 each! I had forgotten the little fact that Lexus master keys have a wireless remote control built into the key head. This control is similar to the separate key fobs that lock and unlock the doors on other cars. I should have asked the dealer to make valet keys instead of master keys. Although valet keys lack the built in wireless transmitter and would not have opened the trunk or glove box, they could have still been programmed to start the car.
Well, I now had two master keys to program. No big deal, or so I thought. After printing out the Alldata procedure to for the "pedal dance" I successfully programmed they keys to start the cars. Now there was one other slight problem. Although I had programmed the keys to start the cars, the buttons on the keys to lock and unlock the doors did not work. Realizing that this must be a separate procedure, I went back to the Alldata to search for more information. The Alldata procedure was an exact reprint of the 2001 Lexus ES300 service manual. The section was titled: "Wireless door lock control system." The procedure made you start with the key out of the ignition, the driver's door open, other doors closed, and the driver's door unlocked. Then the procedure stated to flip the driver's manual door lock from lock to unlock at five second intervals. Then it went on to have me open and close the driver's door, then cycle the driver's door lock again five times. Now it stated to put the key in the ignition and turn it from off to lock and then to remove the key. The procedure went on at nauseam to have me push this button on the remote, then that button, and so forth. Needless to say, when all was said and done . . . more was said than done. I must have tried this crazy procedure five times but the remote never worked. A call back to Alldata verified that the procedure was a photo copy of the exact Lexus service manual procedure. Fearing I would have to pay the dealer to program it, (not to mention a lengthy road trip to get their and back), I decided to check IATN (http://www.iatn.net).
For those of you that are unfamiliar, IATN is a worldwide database of automotive technicians that exchange information, training and even meet at conferences throughout the country. I went to the IATN web site and clicked on the Fix Database. The Fix Database is available to sponsoring members and allows you search through over 129,000 repair fix messages by make and model. I selected 2001 Lexus and typed in the search word "key." Within seconds I found the information I needed. A shop owner in Scottsdale Arizona had gone through the same problem trying to program a new transmitter key. Several Lexus technicians had replied that the service manual had an error and the actual procedure to program the keys was slightly different. I printed out the new procedure and it worked on both cars.
It just goes to show you that even when you think you have all the information, you don't.
Hat's off to all the members of IATN!