BlueLink Diagnostic delivers programming directly via Internet

Staff handles diagnosis and reprogramming remotely, increasing tech productivity

Durham, N.C.—Sixteen years ago, Bob Beckmann launched Beckmann Technologies in Durham, N.C., when he was successfully rebuilding electronic control modules, mostly for Mercedes-Benz cars. 

Beckmann Technologies still thrives, but as use of the Internet grew, so did the company, and with the implementation of SAE standard J2534 and subsequent laws requiring OEMs to allow aftermarket access to emissions-related control modules for diagnosis and reprogramming, Beckmann said he saw another opportunity. 

“Traditionally there are three ways to diagnose a vehicle problem,” he said. “You can purchase special diagnostic tools from an OE or aftermarket toolmaker and train your people on how to use them, you can pay a mobile tech to come and diagnose a car for you, or you can work with a local dealership to help you diagnose and repair your customers’ cars. 

“All three of those solutions have drawbacks. They can cost you a lot of money and they can cost you a lot of time. That’s where we come in. We improve productivity by delivering programming to the vehicle directly via the Internet.” 

Beckmann started up BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions to provide such programming. He calls it “just-in-time diagnostics.” 

Aiming primarily at independent repair shops that service Mercedes-Benz cars, BlueLink offers a subscription service that provides diagnosis and flash reprogramming via the Web using a technician’s Windows-based laptop. 

Using a tiny, one megabyte program, which Beckmann calls “our little shim that allows us to talk to the car,” BlueLink can reprogram an electronic control module in under an hour, depending on the amount of data that needs to be “pushed through the Internet.” Beckmann points out that this includes the time needed by the technician to call BlueLink, time to launch the software and the time to verify the download. 

Since the diagnosis and reprogramming are handled remotely by BlueLink’s diagnostic staff, the technician at the shop need only initiate the process, be on hand to cycle the ignition key every now and again, and come back to button up the car once the process is complete. There’s no need for the tech to monitor the download or otherwise babysit the process. 

That’s the big selling point for BlueLink, he said, which also allows technicians freedom to work on other cars and increase productivity. 

BlueLink typically performs 10 to 12 Mercedes-Benz reprogrammings per day in-house. Those include reprogramming ECMs for various systems as well as their specialty, automatic transmission valve body flow data initialization and programming. According to Beckmann, BlueLink provides the latest flash files from Daimler’s servers in Germany direct to the repair shop, which he said is unique to the company.

Though BlueLink specializes in Mercedes Benz, Beckmann said they are actively working with several partners to provide remote diagnostics for GM, Volvo, Toyota, Ford, Honda and others. He declined to offer an implementation schedule, however, stating that access and security procedures are currently under development. He added that he won't release any new diagnostic services until he is personally satisfied that the systems are robust. 

Reprogramming subscriptions for Mercedes Benz cars can be bundled with BlueLink’s preferred diagnostic device, the Mongoose Pro from Drew Technologies, but BlueLink’s service is compatible with any “up-to-date” J2543 device, according to its website. 

“We allow the independent repair shop to get the diagnosis or reprogramming job done quickly and correctly, with no learning curve and no expense for specialized OE tools and equipment,” Beckmann said. “Our fees are for services rather than the costs of tools.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.