Is There A Software Upgrade For Your GM Car Or Truck?

Everyone with a smartphone or a computer knows all about the update process. There are updates for Windows, updates for OS X, updates for your applications, uploads for the games and apps on your phone…the list goes on. But the computers on your desktop or in your pocket aren’t the only computers you own – if you have a car or truck made in the last twenty or thirty years, you’ve almost certainly got computers in your vehicle. Onboard computers handle emissions control, fuel injection, performance balancing, and a host of other functions in your car or truck. And guess what? Those computers run on software, and that software gets periodically updated by the manufacturer.

If you have a General Motors vehicle, you’ve had onboard computers for quite a long time. GM first put computers, known as ‘Powertrain Control Modules’ (PCMs) since the 1990 Geo Storm was rolled out. (Why they chose the Storm rather than a Cadillac to introduce this new technology is anyone’s guess.) The PCM is a programmable module that handles all kinds of things for your vehicle.

For GM cars or trucks made in 1996 or later, you can easily check to see if there are available updates for your vehicle’s PCM at Checking is absolutely free; all you need is your VIN.

How to use the website:

  1. Enter your VIN and click the “Get CAL ID” button.
  2. From the next screen select “PCM/VCM Powertrain/Vehicle Control Module”, then click the Next button at the bottom right.

You will see any available updates for your GM vehicle. Each choice next to “Module:” is clickable. You only have to click once on each section to see what updates are there.

If you like, you can print out the pages, bring it to the dealership and have the updates applied. Cost varies greatly depending on what needs to be updated.

Can you apply these updates yourself?

Yes, in theory, but it’s not recommended. While it’s true all you need is a laptop and an OBD-II connector cable, you will need to acquire the update and use special expensive software. Furthermore, if you fail to update properly, the vehicle will literally not start.

Updates of this type are best left to the dealership.

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