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Old 01-27-2015, 11:45 PM   #1
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
Posts: 1,328
Year: 2000
Chassis: Blue Bird
Engine: ISC 8.3
ECU diagnostic tools

Disclaimer: this all started because the local Allison dealer won't re-program my transmission without an authorization letter from the vehicle OEM. Blue Bird informs me they haven't done the engineering homework to support this change, so they don't want to write an authorization letter.

So.. my bus is model year 2000, a transit body Blue Bird (ie not a school body; the roof arch and windows are different; it has a rear side door; don't know what else is different). It has a Cummins 8.3L engine (ISC series, CAPS fuel pump) and an Allison B400R transmission. Like the MD3060 this B400R is a six-speed..... BUT! It's programmed such that the second overdrive, the sixth speed, is not available.

I've found a heavy truck diagnostic tool reseller who informs me that I can just buy a diagnostic cable and Allison's software and make this change myself. But it's $$not cheap$$. It's not.. terrible.. but I'd have to drive about 50k miles to reach the break-even point on fuel savings of having that second overdrive (ie, unlikely). He wants about $1600 for a Noregon JPRO with Allison DOC software. This bus apparently uses the J1708/J1587 data link bus.

It'd be nice to maybe tweak the settings on my engine, too... just another $1000 for Cummins Insite software..

So, umm, anybody out there wanna promise to rent these tools from me to do their own ECU diagnosing and tweaking? Surely there are a few of you out there who are similarly stuck in 5-speed mode with a 6-speed gearbox. Or does any have similar tools they'd rent to me? I've found a few local shops who have Insite and very reasonable pricing, but so far none but the Allison dealer who are prepared to touch the tranny.
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Old 04-04-2015, 08:40 PM   #2
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I can't help you on the device, but I got mine done at a place in VA with no questions asked. It took a bit, but I had to get a letter from Thomas. I went to 2 shops trying to get it done and called a few more and they all said the coachbuilder authorization is required. PM me if you have any questions.
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Old 04-04-2015, 09:43 PM   #3
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I hope others chime in to help.

Nat
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Old 04-06-2015, 09:20 PM   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chassis: Blue Bird
Engine: ISC 8.3
porkchopsandwiches, thanks for the detail you included on your thread about the Allison process. I've learned that Allison have it buttoned up pretty tight to prevent calibration changes without their blessing. I had hoped that all one needed to do was get hold of Allison's software, drill down through some menus, and tick an option somewhere that would say "enable 6th gear." Oh how wrong I was! The detailed info in your thread gives a good idea about what their sensitive points are with the recalibration.

The tools I referenced earlier were the JPRO Diagnostic Link Adapter (DLA+) and Allison's DOC software. The JPRO is little more than an adapter from the vehicle's J1708 (modified RS-485) or J1939 (CAN) bus to a PC's USB port. Allison's DOC software can do a lot of neat things, but it turns out it was misrepresented and/or there were misunderstandings.. It can do various things to check on trans health, perform tests, live data monitoring for diagnostics etc. However, tranny calibration (the configuration as to which gear to engage and when) is held very tight. Eventually I found online a PDF copy of the "TCM Reflash (PCCS)" user guide. It is dated 2007 (so details might have changed, but I doubt it) and explains the process in detail. It turns out this software requires a live connection to the internet so that it can verify the user's credentials each time it starts. Calibrations are downloaded from Allison's server as needed, and downloaded files expire and must be re-downloaded after just ten days. It's a real mess for the casual hobbyist that most of us are.

For the information of all, there is a dark and shady lining in the expensive diagnostic tools rain cloud. The JPRO and Allison DOC are about USD$700 each from legit sellers.. but as with all else, China sells knock-offs here too. There are readily available clones of another interface cable called Nexiq, bundled with pirated copies of the software relating to essentially every heavy truck component manufacturer, along with crack codes to unlock the software as needed. Words to the wise, though: they warn that the computer's internet connection should be severed before using the tools because the Nexiq drivers may try to auto-update, and if they do, the adapter will be bricked. Also, as with any pirated/cracked/warez, one should expect viruses, trojans, who knows what. Don't rely on anti-virus; just use it on a disposable computer (or, at least a disposable Windows installation). I tinkered with one briefly, and although when I ordered the thing I suspected it might be illegitimate, when it arrived it turned out to be very much so and I sent it back.

While in the market for a cable etc (before learning what it really takes to re-calibrate an Allison trans) I learned that the Windows API for the interface cable is a standard, so that software from Cummins, Allison, Bendix, CAT, Eaton, etc all can work with any of many brands of interface cable. That standard is owned by the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council (also known as TMC). It is printed in their Recommended Practices manual, and this particular standard is called RP1210 (possibly with a revision suffix of a, b, c, ...). I also learned that the J1708 data link used on my bus is effectively an RS-485 bus. TMC sells the current version of their Recommended Practices manual for $330 on CD-ROM... but I scored a used copy of the 2010 version on Amazon for $30! It's a totally legit used book so I don't have to send it back like I did the Chinese cable clone. Also the J1708 spec can be purchased from SAE for $70. Haven't found a way to get that on a discount yet; even the local university library couldn't find a copy for me.

In case there are more hardware/software engineering minded folks among us, those are the details I've learned so far. Maybe "someday" I'll see if I can build my own RP1210 compatible cable and get the J1708 spec so I can learn what the engine etc are saying. If anybody wants to collaborate on such a project, let me know!
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Old 04-08-2015, 02:04 AM   #5
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I talked to porkchop about this at the end of 2014 a bit, I think the easier way eventually is to have an actual shop perform the work like he did.

I still think it might be possible to poke around in there and make something work without needing to contact the mothership.

My suggestion would be to get a dearborn protocol adapter (a chinese knockoff one) and set up a laptop with an acquired version of Allison DOC v12 on a reformattable laptop.


Quote:
Originally Posted by family wagon View Post
porkchopsandwiches, thanks for the detail you included on your thread about the Allison process. I've learned that Allison have it buttoned up pretty tight to prevent calibration changes without their blessing. I had hoped that all one needed to do was get hold of Allison's software, drill down through some menus, and tick an option somewhere that would say "enable 6th gear." Oh how wrong I was! The detailed info in your thread gives a good idea about what their sensitive points are with the recalibration.

The tools I referenced earlier were the JPRO Diagnostic Link Adapter (DLA+) and Allison's DOC software. The JPRO is little more than an adapter from the vehicle's J1708 (modified RS-485) or J1939 (CAN) bus to a PC's USB port. Allison's DOC software can do a lot of neat things, but it turns out it was misrepresented and/or there were misunderstandings.. It can do various things to check on trans health, perform tests, live data monitoring for diagnostics etc. However, tranny calibration (the configuration as to which gear to engage and when) is held very tight. Eventually I found online a PDF copy of the "TCM Reflash (PCCS)" user guide. It is dated 2007 (so details might have changed, but I doubt it) and explains the process in detail. It turns out this software requires a live connection to the internet so that it can verify the user's credentials each time it starts. Calibrations are downloaded from Allison's server as needed, and downloaded files expire and must be re-downloaded after just ten days. It's a real mess for the casual hobbyist that most of us are.

For the information of all, there is a dark and shady lining in the expensive diagnostic tools rain cloud. The JPRO and Allison DOC are about USD$700 each from legit sellers.. but as with all else, China sells knock-offs here too. There are readily available clones of another interface cable called Nexiq, bundled with pirated copies of the software relating to essentially every heavy truck component manufacturer, along with crack codes to unlock the software as needed. Words to the wise, though: they warn that the computer's internet connection should be severed before using the tools because the Nexiq drivers may try to auto-update, and if they do, the adapter will be bricked. Also, as with any pirated/cracked/warez, one should expect viruses, trojans, who knows what. Don't rely on anti-virus; just use it on a disposable computer (or, at least a disposable Windows installation). I tinkered with one briefly, and although when I ordered the thing I suspected it might be illegitimate, when it arrived it turned out to be very much so and I sent it back.

While in the market for a cable etc (before learning what it really takes to re-calibrate an Allison trans) I learned that the Windows API for the interface cable is a standard, so that software from Cummins, Allison, Bendix, CAT, Eaton, etc all can work with any of many brands of interface cable. That standard is owned by the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council (also known as TMC). It is printed in their Recommended Practices manual, and this particular standard is called RP1210 (possibly with a revision suffix of a, b, c, ...). I also learned that the J1708 data link used on my bus is effectively an RS-485 bus. TMC sells the current version of their Recommended Practices manual for $330 on CD-ROM... but I scored a used copy of the 2010 version on Amazon for $30! It's a totally legit used book so I don't have to send it back like I did the Chinese cable clone. Also the J1708 spec can be purchased from SAE for $70. Haven't found a way to get that on a discount yet; even the local university library couldn't find a copy for me.

In case there are more hardware/software engineering minded folks among us, those are the details I've learned so far. Maybe "someday" I'll see if I can build my own RP1210 compatible cable and get the J1708 spec so I can learn what the engine etc are saying. If anybody wants to collaborate on such a project, let me know!
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Old 04-08-2015, 10:22 AM   #6
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So you acquire the Allison software, how do plan on acquiring the username and password to log on?
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Old 04-08-2015, 12:05 PM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chassis: Blue Bird
Engine: ISC 8.3
That's effectively what I did. It isn't there. I worked with DOC 8.x. With a reprogramming password entered, options are made available to change the I/O assignments on the computer. These are used for such things as tach signal from the engine, throttle position, whatever informational outputs the transmission has available..

Apparently changing the shift table, which I presume also encompasses which gear ratios are open, is something Allison does internally by generating what they call a calibration.

That said.... maybe we could build a protocol logger, bury it inside porkchopsandiches' bus, and persuade him to go have his trans switched back to 5-speed, and then 6-speed again. From the recorded data we could analyze the differences and perhaps replay it against another transmission.
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Old 04-08-2015, 12:41 PM   #8
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Stony Plain Alberta Canada
Posts: 2,937
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: 190hp 5.9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 72
Nice thinking.

That would be sick if you could do that.

I want to build a rat rod after my bus with a 8.3 MD3060 combo. I would love the sixth gear, but there is no way Allison will do that in a rat rod.

The MD3060 in sixth gear, 4.44 gearing, and tall tires, I should be able to cruse the rat rod around at around 1200 RPM at 63 miles per hour.

Nat
__________________
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Old 04-08-2015, 01:25 PM   #9
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
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Engine: ISC 8.3
Quote:
Originally Posted by nat_ster View Post
I want to build a rat rod after my bus with a 8.3 MD3060 combo. I would love the sixth gear, but there is no way Allison will do that in a rat rod.

The MD3060 in sixth gear, 4.44 gearing, and tall tires, I should be able to cruse the rat rod around at around 1200 RPM at 63 miles per hour.
Wow. That would be a seriously fun project, both to build and to drive! Your best bet, unless somebody figures out how to hack the programming, might be to get that powertrain in a body where 6th is more easily achieved (like a Thomas bus), have the programming done, and then pull the powertrain out.

I have wondered about filing paperwork to have a new VIN assigned to my bus.. I'm effectively putting a whole new body on the chassis after all, so it probably qualifies as a major reconstruction. With that in hand I could perhaps persuade Allison that I am in fact the manufacturer now, and could write the approval letter myself. But I'm worried about what having a custom VIN would do to the insurance situation -- I get the idea that insurance options would be narrowed even more.
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Old 04-08-2015, 03:31 PM   #10
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Join Date: Jul 2014
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Rated Cap: 78
Probably the easiest way to get this done is to find a similar vehicle that has the same engine/trans combo with 6th gear and get the vin and tcm numbers off it.

For the Bluebird, A wanderlodge comes to mind...
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