Smart Pro vs. Chrysler

May 4, 2020
Advanced Diagnostics’ device did its job after the call came to help out with a notorious vehicle.

On Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, I was getting ready to go to work, when I heard on the radio that there had been a mass shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola (NAS) where I used to work. Before long, we learned that an aviation student from Saudi Arabia opened fire on his unarmed classmates. The Escambia County Sheriff’s office responded and eventually shot and killed Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani but not before he snuffed out the lives of three U.S. Navy service members and wounded eight more. Eventually, all 21 remaining Saudi flight students across the country were deported back to their home country after the attack was determined to be one of terrorism.

Apparently, none of the deportees felt obligated to pay off their vehicles, and all vehicles were repossessed, without keys. A friend of mine got the job to make keys for some of those vehicles, which was complicated by the fact that most had in-dash navigation systems that had been pulled out so the FBI could download the data to see where the vehicles recently had been. The FBI returned the navigation units after downloading the data but didn’t reinstall them. My friend soon discovered that he couldn’t program new keys into several of the vehicles, particularly the Ford models, until the navigation units had been reinstalled.

After the problems with the navigation units had been solved, my friend still had one vehicle he couldn’t program — a 2018 Chrysler 300. He called to ask whether I could do it. It took only a brief check to learn that the Advanced Diagnostics Smart Pro, indeed, could program that vehicle and video of the process had been posted on Advanced Diagnostics’ YouTube channel. After watching the video, however, my dislike for Fiat, the owner of Chrysler, increased dramatically.

One of my first cars had been a 1969 Fiat 850 Spider, and that was all it took to ensure that I never again would own anything that Fiat made. But, when I learned that to program a new prox fob into this 2018 Chrysler 300, I’d have to do it from the trunk of the car using a self-powered programmer, my dislike of everything Fiat hit a new high.

Ever since Fiat took over Chrysler in 2014, the management of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has implemented European policies and procedures in a blatant attempt to force owners to return to the dealerships for service. Despite the advent of the National Automotive Service Task Force and the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act, FCA has done everything it can to make it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone other than a dealership to service its new vehicles.

For locksmiths, this began by shutting down access to the Sentry Key Immobilizer Module (SKIM) code, or the PIN that’s necessary for programming. More recently, FCA began to use the so-called Star connector for programming anti-theft systems. FCA also hid the connector in places that are difficult to find and difficult to access.

To the Rescue

The good news is that we have some dedicated vendors out there, such as Advanced Diagnostics, that refused to let FCA shut out locksmiths from helping the owners of Chrysler vehicles. Thanks to research and development, many products and procedures now are available to automotive locksmiths to overcome intentionally placed roadblocks. In fact, many Chrysler products have become easier to service, because the latest generation of programmers either bypass or pull the SKIM code directly from the vehicle, which makes it unnecessary to deal directly with the manufacturer or a code service.

Unfortunately, the 2018 Chrysler 300 still is a pain to service, but it can be done if you have the proper equipment and aren’t too old or too big to crawl in and out of the trunk of the car. Because I work part time as Santa, I’m almost too old and almost too big, but I still got the job done. However, some of the language that I used during the job wasn’t fit for the little kids who had so recently sat on my lap!

The Advanced Diagnostics Smart Pro is the updated replacement for Advanced Diagnostics’ T-Code Pro and MVP Pro. The Smart Pro came out at about the same time that FCA started implementing its Star connection, so cables for new Chrysler vehicles aren’t part of the stock package. They’re available separately.

The cable required for the 2018 Chrysler 300 is the ADC2011, which isn’t technically a Star connector cable. It uses a proprietary connection that plugs into a special connecting block that might be located in various places in the vehicle. The cable plugs directly into the OBD-2 cable that comes with the Smart Pro.

Different FCA vehicles might require the ADC2012 cable, which uses the Star connector and is plugged into the system typically near to the OBD-2 port. This cable also plugs directly into the OBD-2 cable that comes with the Smart Pro.

Advanced Diagnostics recently began advertising that the Smart Pro has “30% more programming capability versus the leading competitors.” I’ve had my Smart Pro only for a few months, and statistics was one of those subjects that I had problems with when I was in college. But my gut feeling is that number is about right. Ever since I got the machine, I’ve compared it with the other programmers that I have, and, indeed, I’ve found many vehicles that I could program easily with the Smart Pro that I either would have had to walk away from or use a specialty tool on.

Preparation is Vital

When I learned of the job, it was already early afternoon, and by the time I had researched what was required and was ready to go to the vehicle, it was near the end of the day. One of my problems was that the fob I had in stock had remote start, but the vehicle wasn’t equipped for remote start. I found this out by calling a local Jeep dealership that I have a good relationship with. My friend in the parts department there was able to give me the Chrysler part number for the correct fob from the vehicle identification number (VIN) so I could cross-reference it with my vendor’s part numbers. I explained the problem to the repossession company, but they told me that the main priority was to get the vehicle running as soon as possible, so they didn’t care about an extra button on the remote that wouldn’t do anything. I always try to be professional when I deal with a customer, so I like to do any necessary prep work before I show up on the job. Because this was the first Chrysler 300 that I tried to program, I also watched the video on the Advanced Diagnostics YouTube channel. As it turned out, I didn’t quite do my homework as well as I thought.

When I arrived on site, the sun was going down. The vehicle was located at the back of the repo lot, and thanks to a recent rain, it was a bit like working on a car in a swamp. When I opened the trunk, I discovered that the previous owner kept a lot of stuff in there. My friend who originally got the job and I had to remove workout clothes, books, household items and just plain junk from the trunk to gain access to the connector. Next, we had to remove the panel that formed the floor of the trunk and covered the spare tire and battery. With everything out of the trunk, I could see the wiring harness running forward from the battery to a point where it disappeared under the seat cushion of the rear seat. Just before the cables disappeared, I saw two junction blocks where I knew that I’d have to connect my programmer.

After placing my wadded-up sweatshirt over the threaded shaft that held the spare tire in place, I was able to crawl inside the trunk without impaling myself. I peeled back the carpet to expose the connectors and plugged in my Smart Pro, while holding a flashlight in my mouth. After working my Santa-size belly back out of the trunk, I turned on my programmer and started to work. It worked only for about a minute and a half. Before I even could start the process, the programmer shut down because I failed to make sure that the battery in the unit was charged before I came out!

This was the first vehicle where I had no choice but to use the Smart Pro’s internal battery. When I got the device, I charged the battery fully before I used it the first time, but on most vehicles, the Smart Pro operates off current that’s supplied by the OBD-2 port, and I had been lazy about making sure that the internal battery was charged. (Now, I charge the battery every time I charge my jump-box, when I get home on Friday evenings.)

The next hour or so was wasted trying to cobble together some way to power the Smart Pro. For some reason, I hadn’t put the power supply in the case with the device, and I wasted a lot of time trying to come up with an alternate way to power the device. In the end, we decided that it was time to stop feeding the mosquitos and to come back in the morning with a fully charged battery. The moral of the story: Keep the battery in your Smart Pro charged, or at the very least, keep the power supply with the device!

Getting Down to Business

Returning to the job the next day with a fully charged Smart Pro and a good night’s sleep, everything looked better in the daylight. Even the mud was drier! This time, I also came armed with a couple of garbage bags for all the junk in the trunk, so I had a clear work area. The only real problem was that my friend wasn’t there, so I essentially worked alone.

After I had all of the junk stuffed into the garbage bags, I crawled in the trunk and discovered that when I hooked up the Smart Pro the previous night, I plugged it into the wrong connector — DUH! There are two similar connectors located almost side-by-side. The connector that you have to hook up to is, naturally, the one that’s the hardest to see and gain access to. It’s located under a flap of carpet, almost as though the manufacturer was trying to hide it. The main thing to keep in mind is that the proper connector is green. Working by flashlight the night before, I hadn’t even seen the second connector.

After making the correct connection with the Smart Pro, I struggled my way out of the trunk and began to program the vehicle. I checked the vehicle’s battery voltage the night before and knew that I was dealing with a fully charged car battery, so I didn’t hook up a jump-box. But if the battery voltage had been less that 11VDC, I would have used the jump-box.

Start Programming

After selecting the correct vehicle from the Smart Pro’s vehicle selection menu, you get to the main vehicle menu. From here, you can program or erase the prox keys, see how many prox keys are programmed into the vehicle and check for fault codes. Rather than pulling and entering the SKIM code, the Smart Pro simply bypasses it. I chose to program a new prox key and then pressed the Connect button.

After pressing the arrow button to continue, I was instructed to “Switch hazards on,” which means turn on the vehicle’s emergency flashers. Leaving the Smart Pro in the trunk, I moved into the passenger compartment to turn on the flashers. From what I’ve been told, this sends a “wake-up” message to the computer so programming can take place.

Returning to the Smart Pro, I pressed the “continue” arrow once again. The next screen showed me the VIN as well as the part number of the immobilizer and the hardware and software versions. It also showed me how many prox keys were programmed into the vehicle. The repo company didn’t want me to erase the old prox keys, so I didn’t, but I noted that two prox keys already were programmed, so when I was finished, there should be three.

Next, I chose the “Program Prox Keys” option and pressed the “continue” arrow. That brought up a warning screen that told me to “Make sure that there are no wireless devices close to the prox key.” This is to eliminate the possibility of radio frequency “noise” interfering in the programming process. I never had a problem with this, but, then again, I use a Bluetooth earpiece and normally leave my phone in the truck anyway. Pressing the “OK” button brought up a screen that told me to wait about a minute. I assumed that the device was opening communications channels to the computer and bypassing the PIN during this time.

After the delay, a new screen appeared that told me that I had to follow the next steps “Quickly and Carefully” within 30 seconds of pressing the “OK” button. Because I prepared by watching video of the operation, I already had the new prox key sitting on the front seat of the vehicle and was ready to complete the next steps. (This is another example why it’s always good to review any available videos before you tackle a job for the first time — you’ll be prepared for steps such as this one.)

When I pressed the “OK” button, I was told to hold the new prox key near to the start/stop button and to “Continually press and release the unlock button” until I heard the power door locks cycle. I immediately went forward and grabbed the new prox key, sat in the driver’s seat and began to press and release the “Unlock” button on the fob. After pressing and releasing the button a couple of times, the power door locks cycled, and I was a happy man!

Returning to the Smart Pro in the trunk, the screen now told me that three prox keys were programmed. After pressing the “OK” button, I was asked whether I wanted to program any additional keys. I pressed “NO,” and the programming finished and told me to test the new key. I turned off the Smart Pro and disconnected the cable before I tried cranking the car. It fired up perfectly, even though the GPS navigation unit hung precariously from the dash.

As I finished up and showed the repo guy that all the functions on the key (except remote start) worked, I noticed for the first time the military patches stuck to the headliner of the car. Looking at that Arabic (I assume) script, I once again was reminded of the shooting and the three U.S. service members who lost their lives that fateful day. Then, as I crawled in and out of the trunk for the last time to retrieve my programming cable and put the carpet back in place, I thought about how the killer infiltrated our military by pretending to be an ally.

Then I looked at that Chrysler 300 and couldn’t help but think about how Fiat is doing everything that it can to force its way of thinking onto the U.S. consumer. Although Fiat might not be violating the letter of the Right to Repair Act, it certainly is violating the spirit of the law with impunity. As I drove away, I did a lot of thinking about whom our real friends are.