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Making sense of Chrysler's Secure Gateway Module

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - 07:00
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With both of these systems an internet connection must be available at all times including during test drives. Most smartphones now have WiFi hotspot capabilities. Using a Micropod II, the WiFi must be registered on the pod as well as the laptop whereas when using J2534 device which communicates via USB, the WiFi must be registered to the computer only. This can make the pod less desirable for use when test driving.

It is important to note that the J2534 wiTECH software only offers coverage from MY 2010 forward. The Micropod II coverage goes back to 2004 on CAN vehicles and covers all models 2009 forward. Chrysler is also using MEGA CAN which is only supported by J2534-3 devices. While a J2534-2 device will work with wiTECH it may have limited functionality on some of the MEGA CAN vehicles. MEGA CAN is used on everything 2018 up but can also be found in the Renegade and Fiat 500 going back to 2015 as well as the Compass, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and Fiat Spyder in 2017.

What does all this mean for us?

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Unauthorized devices will be allowed read-only or, what Chrysler calls, passive access to the private network. Passive means the ability to read codes and data but does not include the ability to clear DTCs, perform, actuator tests, special functions, ECU configuration, flashing, or module resets on the private side of the network.

As a mobile tech I have already had a few calls for code clearing and I foresee that demand growing until the aftermarket comes up with a viable solution. There is however, a ray of sunshine for repair shops not yet ready to invest in tooling right away, in that Mode $04 on the generic side of a scan tool will still allow codes to be cleared in the PCM only. When dealing with the engine controller, a sub $100 scan tool from the parts store can have nearly the same capabilities on these vehicles as a five-figure aftermarket tool with the latest updates. It is important to note that many generic code scanners will often show cleared codes as permanent codes whereas the wiTECH will not display permanent codes. This can be important when pre/post scanning.

(Image courtesy of AES Wave) Autel is one company that is offering a bypass cable to circumvent the SWG. It requires accessing and unplugging the SWG module.

FCA opened up access to aftermarket companies in November of 2018. Snap-On, Bosch, Autel and G-scan are all working with Chrysler towards a solution but there will likely be some challenges getting a tool to work with the FCA servers and integrating a solution to the need for constant WiFi. I myself am curious to see if this will look like a normal scan tool operation or use the aftermarket tools as a pass through with the J2534 interface.

I have always said that many of the aftermarket tools are much more user friendly and often offer much better data display and recording features than the OEM tools. I have been overall impressed with the wiTECH software except the data graphing and record functions. These functions might end up being more user friendly on an aftermarket interface.

If you’re on the AESwave email list (if you’re not you should be!) than you have probably seen the 12+8 adapter Autel has released. This cable essentially goes in place of the SGW. It will require removal or access of the unit which is typically located either under the driver’s side of the dash or behind the infotainment unit (the torque spec for the SGW bolts is 44 in-lbs. in case you were wondering). Removing the infotainment unit may not be ideal but since the SGW does not serve any function beyond securing the network it would seem like this should be a viable solution and would provide full network capability. Furthermore, this solution may be useful in diagnosing faults with the SGW as faults in the SGW may mimic faults in other modules. It is also notable that “no communication with SGW” codes do not exist. When using this cable. I might still expect to see communication codes associated between the radio and modules that communicate with it as the circuits will be interrupted.

Why the SGW?

Before you begin to think Chrysler is intentionally attempting to lock out the aftermarket using the SGW, let’s first talk about the security vulnerabilities vehicle owners face across all car lines, how Chrysler has addressed them, and how we may see other manufacturers jump on board with similar systems going forward.

In 2015, hackers were able to remotely take control of a 2014 Cherokee and manipulate many vehicle features including the steering and braking. This certainly wasn’t the first instance of vehicle hacking but it gained the most attention, much of which revolved around a well-documented video of the attack posted on YouTube. The video goes into detail about how the hackers studied potential weaknesses in the system and were able to manipulate them even going so far as to talk about the potential to target specific VINs and control them remotely using the cell networks, without ever needing to make physical contact with the vehicle. This led to a recall being issued on these vehicles and ultimately, played a role in the development and implementation of the SGW.

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