Tackling the Ford IDS, Part 1

Jan. 1, 2020
Scan tools have come a long way in the last few years. Many have moved to PC-based tools, which is a far cry ...
TECH ETackling the Ford IDS, Part 1Scan tools have come a long way in the last few years. Many have moved to PC-based tools, which is a far cry from the proprietary, odd-shaped units we have all come to know, love, catch as they fall in our lap and generally rely on to help us solve our customers' problems. 

I invited readers to send in topic ideas, and you've told me there is a general interest in PC-based scan tools. More specifically, many of you showed interest in the Ford Integrated Diagnostic System (IDS) that I mentioned in my February 2007 Tech E column

It appears that some of you have purchased it and found that it won't work for you. Others wrote that they are intrigued, but concerned about the lack of a manual and the high amount of "Fordspeak" involved. 

This month, we'll walk through buying the hardware and installing the application, as well as some of the operational issues you will run into as you work with the tool. I am not going to get into very much actual vehicle-based use of the tool; I'll stick instead to the PC side of the equation as much as possible. 

Bells and whistles Before we look at the hardware choice and installation of software, why would you even be interested in a tool that carries with it a fairly high intimidation factor, especially for those from the "red brick" generation? The answer to that is twofold. First, once familiar with using the Ford IDS, I find it is the very best Ford diagnostic tool I have personally used. 

Second, if you have a laptop, you can still install other scan tools on that same laptop - saving you considerable time and money. The IDS is what software guys call a "port," or a conversion from the old Windows 98-based Worldwide Diagnostic System (WDS). This is the source of much of confusion, because the WDS used a touch screen and the buttons on the screen seem rather oddly placed for mouse navigation. I will talk about speeding up that part of the software in later installments of this subject. 

The IDS contains not only the ability to get codes and live data in labscope-like displays, but it also performs functional tests, such as the Power Stroke diesel injector buzz test. You can perform several body control functional tests as well. 

If you have an inexperienced tech who needs a little guidance, there are guided diagnostic routines by symptom that will help him or her understand the flow of diagnosis. For the experienced tech, these are great shortcuts to the various tests within the application. If you buy the VMM kit - "Fordspeak" for a multimeter that connects with a USB plug to the laptop - you can run other tests and receive specification-based feedback on the results. Personally, I do not use this feature, as we still prefer our labscope. 

However, the most valuable function the IDS performs is to seamlessly reflash any component of the vehicle with rewritable software. Using the vehicle's VIN, the software connects to Ford's corporate server. It determines the latest software level and offers to update the vehicle for you. 

Another slick function actually pulls the software off a component you are replacing and reinstalls it after the part has been installed on the vehicle. Generally, the application is available with a two-year subscription to the Ford flashing data for less than $3,000. This includes software, cables and a Vehicle Communication Module (VCM). You bring the laptop. 

The shopping list Now it's time to look at the hardware requirements. You will need a laptop that is compatible with the VCM and running Windows XP Pro only. Windows XP Home Edition won't work, and don't even think about Windows Vista yet.  A 2GHz Celeron processor would be considered the bare minimum, and 512 megabytes of memory is a necessity. Wireless connectivity is very convenient when you are connected to a vehicle that needs a software update so that you don't have to go to a hard network connection to get it. But I will discuss wireless connectivity in our last installment, when we will cover flashing.  The computer should have a USB 2 port and a DVD drive. Ford recommends the Panasonic Tough Book, but that is a really expensive option. After installing several systems, I believe it is not a requirement for a good working system. We have a Dell machine, and we pay $46 per month for a lease.  Next, visit http://www.motorcraftservice.com/ and choose "Diagnostic Tool Support" from the menu on the left side of the screen. You will find the IDS information in the menu on the left. The part number for the IDS is 164-9505. This will include the install CD, VCM, cables and an install manual.  If you want the VMM kit, it comes separate under part number 164-9508. You won't find it on the site. I had to call 1-800-Rotunda to get this information. Ford has it set up so that you can now buy through Rotunda. However, I have found they might not be sure how to process your order if you were not a dealer in the past. My advice is to call your counter guy at your Ford dealer. You might find the price is better.  Now, while you collect the necessary hardware and software, I will get to work on the next installment: We'll walk through the installation of the Ford IDS software and update it to the latest version.We welcome your comments and topic suggestions.
Please click here to send Donny a direct message.

Sponsored Recommendations

Best Body Shop and the 360-Degree-Concept

Spanesi ‘360-Degree-Concept’ Enables Kansas Body Shop to Complete High-Quality Repairs

How Fender Bender Operator of the Year, Morrow Collision Center, Achieves Their Spot-On Measurements

Learn how Fender Bender Operator of the Year, Morrison Collision Center, equipped their new collision facility with “sleek and modern” equipment and tools from Spanesi Americas...

ADAS Applications: What They Are & What They Do

Learn how ADAS utilizes sensors such as radar, sonar, lidar and cameras to perceive the world around the vehicle, and either provide critical information to the driver or take...

Banking on Bigger Profits with a Heavy-Duty Truck Paint Booth

The addition of a heavy-duty paint booth for oversized trucks & vehicles can open the door to new or expanded service opportunities.