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It's an open secret that a lot of cars these days are built with all of the hardware that they need to perform the operations of "extras" whether or not you pay for them. They're then software locked in the car's control system in the hopes that you'll pay your local dealer to unlock them.

My question is thus: how would one go about discovering which features on their car are software-locked and which would require additional hardware? Can this be done fairly trivially using ODB2?

If it helps, my particular car is a Skoda Superb 2018 SE Tech but if a generic answer is possible, that would be better.

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  • Buy a dealer-level computer so you get access to all levels of the software. The cheap readers won't cut it.
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 19, 2021 at 16:57

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For your Skoda and other Volkswagen Audio Group (VAG) vehicles probably the simplest way is to use something like OBDEleven, this uses what they term "One-Click-Apps" to update the necessary coding in the car's control systems for enabling/disabling/configuring various features. If you click on the individual "apps" for you car it will say what hardware (if any) is required.

Of course even if you do need some additional hardware there can still be savings to be made over paying the dealer to retrofit since you can have the kit fitted independently and use the OBD-II functionality to enable the new hardware.

The question of how you tell if you've got the necessary hardware is a little more complicated. A full scan using the OBDEleven app should provide a lot of information regarding the installed control units etc and some of the hardware is easy to check for visually but the only fool-proof way to be sure is to try enabling the feature and see if it works as intended.

There may be more you can enable through software than just what is described on the app list however. This is done through a process referred to as "long coding" (which is what the so-called "apps" do underneath) and you can find more info on what can an can't be done usually on manufacturer-specific forums.

To do the "long coding" process you need a system that supports doing that functionality - in the VAG world this means something either like OBDEleven (which supports when you have a "Pro" subscription) or VCDS, neither are free of course and both are notably more expensive than a simple ELM327-style OBD-II reader - precisely because they offer this extended level of functionality.

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  • I've actually got a (admittedly knock-off) vag can cable that I bought for my old Audi A3, I never got round to trying it. If that would work with the Skoda, are there any good resources for exactly how to do these things? I've also just looked at OBDEleven and it looks pretty slick, would you generally recommend it? It looks pretty affordable Nov 19, 2021 at 18:09
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    IIRC the support for 3rd party cables pretty much ends with 2005 so you might be out of luck with that cable. As for OBDEleven - I've got one and I've used it a little and I have to agree it's pretty slick and easy to use. I haven't done a great deal with it yet, just a few diagnostics and re-configuring the Stop/Start on a friend's car to his liking but so far so good. Nov 19, 2021 at 18:18
  • Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it Nov 19, 2021 at 18:43
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    To be clear, the standard is called OBD-2 (II=Roman two)... the "OBD-eleven" is a cleverly cute naming trick to exploit the resemblance... Nov 20, 2021 at 0:51

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