Vehicle owners are often not aware a software update is needed unless its in the form of a recall. Traditionally, software updates were performed in person at service centers. Many times, vehicle owners were seemingly unaware an update was even available.
But with today’s modern connected vehicles, over the air (OTA) updates enable manufacturers to push updates to your vehicle while you sleep.
In fact, new cars have more technology than ever before, with computers controlling virtually every aspect of their operation.
And just like your laptop or your smartphone, sometimes your vehicles software needs updating too.
But how do I know if my car needs a software update? Let’s dive into the details.
What Does A Software Update Do On A Car?
Vehicle manufacturers for a variety of reasons release software updates to correct bugs, improve vehicle performance, and even add new features. Perhaps the most important of all these updates–critical software patches to protect against vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities may allow hackers to gain access to vehicle software and control vehicle systems.
How To Find Out If Your Vehicle Has The Latest Software?
Give your local car dealership a call and have them check your VIN number. They will be able to tell you if your vehicle is up to date with latest software. You can even quickly check to see if your vehicle has a software recall by using our car recall look-up tool.
Additionally, the newest tech from automakers such as GM, Ford, Tesla, and others provide in-vehicle alerts regarding available updates. Vehicle owners can even select a preferred time for these updates to take effect–such as the middle of the night while their vehicle is parked.
Do You Need Software Updates On Your Car?
Yes, vehicles rely on complex software to maintain and perform critical functions of an automobile. Software is responsible for monitoring everything from the heated seats to blind spot warning monitors.
If you own an electric car, software updates are critical to the performance and health of the EV battery.
If you drive a gas or hybrid car and you have a check engine light illuminated, you might need an software update. To find out if there is a software update for your car, simply check with your car’s manufacturer or by using our car recall look-up tool.
Are Vehicle Software Updates Free?
Yes, software updates for your car are typically free. This applies if they correct an issue covered by warranty, fix problems with emissions systems or safety recalls.
If your vehicle lacks OTA update capabilities, you will need to take it to your local dealership. The process of installing software updates on your car is simple and straightforward. It’s included in the warranty, so you shouldn’t have to pay anything extra for it.
But don’t wait until you’ve reached the end of manufacturer’s vehicle coverage to have these updates applied to your vehicle. You might find yourself on the hook for some of these software updates.
How Long Does it Take to Update System Software?
Updating your cars software may take anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes to complete. However, cars that rely heavily on software, such as a Tesla Model 3, may require up to 3 hours to update.
In fact, electric cars depend on advanced computers and software to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Final Thoughts: How Do I Know If My Car Needs A Software Update
Remember, software updates are important not just for your car’s entertainment and navigation system but also for the engine, brakes, and other critical systems.
Make sure you always have the latest update installed to avoid potential problems down the road. Its a good idea to add it to the your maintenance check list.
Have you ever had a problem with your car that could have been fixed with a software update? Let us know in the comments below.
Last Updated on January 28, 2023
Loves anything with a motor and wheels.
Christopher is an internet technology expert and mechanical engineer. When he’s not at the local autocross event, he can often be found working on one of his cars. He loves nothing more than taking something apart and putting it back together again. Email me direct, or learn more about us
9 thoughts on “How Do I Know If My Car Needs A Software Update?”
Kevin LumNovember 21, 2022 at 1:14 pm
If a car is older, outside any warranty and without OTA, is the cost of a determined software update the responsibility of the car owner? Why would’t the car manufacturer cover the cost?
TamikaFebruary 21, 2023 at 12:24 am
How much does this cost?
Kristie A WattDecember 19, 2022 at 9:32 pm
My 2018 mitsubishi wouldnt start. And i had it towed to a dealer. Only to find out it needed a software update. After spending money on another vehicle to use and to get it towed. Then to find out my battery needs replaced because it was drained because it needed an update i was not aware of. So in the end it cost me towing, rental and battery fees.
John FayFebruary 4, 2023 at 11:13 am
If the electricic has gone on my Skoda Octavia does that mean I need a software update. I have an appointment with the car dealerships next week??
ChristopherFebruary 8, 2023 at 8:19 am
I don’t believe that would cause that problem, no.
Richard KrugerFebruary 21, 2023 at 1:04 am
I purchased a 2014 Stingray august 2022, I found out that the 2g system was never upgraded. What can I do to have my car updated to communicate for software upgrades? My Bluetooth functions but I don’t know if I can access the updates on my cell and download the software updates? Can you guide me?
ChristopherFebruary 21, 2023 at 3:06 pm
Richard, my understanding is Onstar is the only thing that will stop working as 2g/3g is being phased out. There is currently a petition for this very problem here. I recommend you sign it. I suspect GM will eventually have a solution to this issue.
KG LombardiFebruary 28, 2023 at 2:59 pm
Can I refuse a software upgrade? My 2017 Hyundai Sonata is included in a service campaign to update anti-theft software. It sounds like, after the update, I will be required to use my key fob to first unlock the door, then again to disarm the system before I can start the engine. I do not want to do this every time I start the car, so I wonder if I can refuse the “upgrade.” Thanks.
ChristopherFebruary 28, 2023 at 4:32 pm
Yes, you can refuse a software update. However, some updates may be necessary to maintain warranty coverage.