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Knowledge : What is OBD? : What is CAN?

What's CAN?

CAN CAN, or CAN Bus, is the abbreviated term for Controller Area Network. It is a serial communications bus for real-time control applications with communication speed of up to 1 Megabits per second and has excellent error detection and confinement capabilities. In other words, this is the latest and greatest technology in vehicles today. In fact, several 2003 and 2004 vehicle manufacturers including Toyota, Ford, Mazda, and others already have this system in place. Just like OBD 2 was mandated to be on all vehicles since 1996, CAN Bus will be required to be on all vehicles from 2008 forward. Why is CAN important?

Today's vehicles have become so "computerized" that in order to communicate effectively and efficiently between the vehicle's numerous systems, sensors and controllers, manufacturers needed a new system to reduce the increasing cost and physical size of the wiring harnesses required to interconnect these systems. In addition to the cost, the increased number of connections presented serious reliability, fault diagnosis, and repair problems during manufacturing and vehicle servicing.

The solution was presented and adopted from the Robert Bosch Company back in the mid 1980's. During that time, CAN bus was mainly used for highly sophisticated industrial machines, but by the early 1990's, car manufacturers saw it as a way to help with their communication challenges.

For several years, car manufacturers have only had the option from selecting from four communication protocols: ISO 9141, J1850PWM, J1850VPW, KWP 2000 / ISO 14230-4. The CAN system provided car manufacturers a new high-speed connection, usually 50 to 100 times faster than the typical communication protocols, and reduced the number of connections required to communicate between their systems. At the same time, CAN provided diagnostic tool manufacturers a way to speed up communication between the vehicle and their tool. Technicians will love this technology because the increased communication speed will in the future allow technicians through their scan tool to view data close to real-time, just as they view sensor data today with their lab scopes.

The CAN standard has been incorporated into the OBD 2 specifications by the International Standards Organization (ISO) committee and is specified under the ISO 11898 (Road Vehicles - Controller Area Network) and defined under ISO 15765 (vehicle diagnostic systems) documents. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) accepts these ISO standards because it helps meet its mission to regulate and reduce vehicle emissions. Since 2003 several car manufacturers have already implemented it into their vehicles, but CARB has mandated that by 2008 all model vehicles sold in the United States will be required to have it.

Vehicles With CAN

2003 Models

  • Ford F-250
  • Ford F-350
  • Ford Focus
  • Ford Thunderbird
  • Lincoln LS
  • Mazda 6
  • Porsche Cayenne
  • SAAB 9-3
  • Saturn ION
2004 Models
  • Buick Rendezvous
  • Cadillac CTS
  • Cadillac SRX
  • Cadillac XLR
  • Dodge Durango
  • Ford E-250
  • Ford E-350
  • Ford Excursion
  • Ford Explorer
  • Ford F150
  • Ford F-250
  • Ford F-350
  • Ford Focus
  • Ford Taurus
  • Ford Thunderbird
  • Lexus LS430
  • Lincoln LS
  • Mazda 3
  • Mazda 6
  • Mazda RX-8
  • Mercury Sable
  • Porsche Cayenne
  • SAAB 9-3
  • Saturn ION
  • Toyota Prius
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