Radio Programming – Calibrations or Software?

When 2018-2021 GM models equipped with an Infotainment 3 System (RPO IOR, IOS, IOT, IOU, IOV) (Fig. 26) come into the dealership with various system concerns – the radio display freezing, Bluetooth not connecting automatically, or certain features not accessible – and programming updates are determined to be needed, is the right repair to update the radio software or the radio calibration? Or both?


Fig. 26


There may be some misunderstandings about the differences between software and calibrations, which are not the same thing and are not interchangeable terms. Calibrations instruct the radio what to do while the software tells the radio how to do things.

For example, when a radio plays the welcome animation at start-up, a calibration instructs the radio which brand name and logo to display. It’s the software that tells the radio how to display those graphics, including how fast or slow to play the animation, the image size, and how long the image is displayed.


Calibration Updates

Calibrations for the radio are updated infrequently. In the Service Programming System (SPS), the radio calibrations are updated by selecting Radio – Programming. (Fig. 27)

If the radio is being replaced, the new module will require calibration programming using SPS, followed by USB programming for the software. Be sure to always check the appropriate Service Information and Bulletins for details on related programming as well as the correct programming order for each specific repair.


Fig. 27


Software Updates

Software updates occur much more frequently in order to address fixes and continuous improvement enhancements, such as issues with Bluetooth, device projection (Android Auto/Apple CarPlay), Sirius XM, screen displays, and instrument cluster/Driver Information Center (DIC)/Head-Up Display (HUD) concerns. Each software update includes all enhancements from previous software version releases.

The software releases are usually announced with a Service Bulletin once the programming is available. The software release also may be pushed to vehicles remotely through an Over-the-Air (OTA) update. (Fig. 28) If the remote vehicle update cannot be completed, the radio must be updated through SPS via USB. Keep in mind that not all software releases are distributed as OTA updates.


Fig. 28


In Techline Connect, the radio software is updated by selecting USB File Transfer. Use a USB 2.0 flash drive with a minimum capacity of 16 GB when updating the software.


Before Beginning an Update

Before proceeding with a USB File Transfer to update the software, check for any Infotainment System OTA updates on the infotainment system. Go to Settings > System tab > Updates on the infotainment screen to verify if an update package has been remotely downloaded to the vehicle.

If an update is shown on the Updates screen, the software update must be performed using the download that is present on the vehicle.

If there is not an update available, the build number must be verified before a software update is performed using the USB File Transfer. (Fig. 29)


Fig. 29


Look for additional articles on radio programming coming soon in future editions of TechLink.

– Thanks to Jeremy Richardson, Jeremy Krall and Zach Gillett

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  1. The Calibrate Device message may be displayed if certain IOR radios have an older calibration file originally used in 2019MY vehicles with V135116 or greater software, which was originally designed for 2020MY calibrations. When the newer software is installed in a radio with an older calibration, it identifies the calibration mismatch and displays the message to calibrate the radio.

  2. Carl Archambeau says:

    Could you include in your next article an explanation for why a radio that has just successfully completed a USB programming event and the radio becomes inoperable with a message “Calibrate Device” constantly displayed on radio screen. No clear direction is published in SI regarding this issue but if you call TAC the technician is advised to program radio with SPS/MDI. I’ve done many USB programming events and have never seen this occur until recently. Vehicle was a 2020 Equinox with IOR radio. 20-NA-012 applied and I did not see any instructions on how to address “Calibrate Device” message after USB programming completed.

  3. The Updates menu selection does not go out of the vehicle to check for updates. It checks the vehicle modules only for an update that has been successfully pushed and downloaded to the vehicle. If GM didn’t already push the update to that VIN for any number of reasons, or if GM did push it but its installation was ignored, declined, or failed to download (or install), then the Updates menu will show no new updates are available. Look for more articles on radio programming coming soon in TechLink.

  4. Why is it that there will be a bulletin for OTA update EG: 150 you can look in the software build and it may be at build 148 the vehicle is new enough that is still has an active onstar account so not having a cellular link is not an excuse. You can force the radio to look for an update and it says it has latest software but yet you can go into SPS and download that version 150 update and do it manually? Happens more times then not.

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