North American automobiles (all brands) are equipped with a seat belt reminder system. This can take various forms - the least intrusive is a system that annunciates only if the car begins to move without the appropriate seat belts fastened, the most annoying is a system that annunciates as soon as you have started the car, before you even begin to put the belt on. I always wear seat belts - I guess it is a hangover from my occupational background as an aircraft pilot - and the warning message and chime annoys me, especially if I am sitting in a parking lot with the engine running, and the chime keeps going off every few minutes. So, I decided that today was the day to get rid of the seat belt warning.
All current production cars - whether they are Lupos or Phaetons - have an amazing number of programming options available. It is very easy to change the programming, the main difficulty is finding out exactly what data value to tweak to accomplish what you want to.
As Phaeton owners, we have several sources we can go to to learn more about configuration and coding. One is the Touareg forum, because the Phaeton and Touareg have a great deal in common so far as systems and programming go. Another is a public domain source such as http://www.openOBD.org (OBD meaning 'On Board Diagnostics', and 'open' referring to the idea of free access in the public domain). Finally, we can purchase some of the information directly from VW in the form of service documentation (Bentley manuals or CD's), although VW does try to minimize the amount of disclosure of programming options in these documents.
Once we have the required information, we can either re-program the car ourself, using a laptop computer (Windows platform) running VAG-COM software (see http://www.ross-tech.com, or we can take the car to our dealer and ask them to do the reprogramming for us, using VW programming tools such as a VAG 5051 or 5052 programmer.
Some dealers are very co-operative about doing this - usually making coding changes free of charge if the request is made at the same time scheduled service is due (heck, they have to hook up the 5051 or 5052 to pull out diagnostic troubleshooting codes anyway, and it only takes an extra 15 seconds to make a software coding change). Other dealers are very reluctant to change anything from 'factory default' settings - either because of fear of litigation, or perhaps because they have had difficulty making programming changes in the past, and don't want to go down that path again.
Anyway - enough of the background information, here is how to get rid of the seat belt warnings:
Within 'Group 17', which is the programming applicable to the 'Dash Panel Insert' ('kombiinstrument' in German, or 'thing with the speedometer, tachometer, and all the warning lights' in plain English), there are three possible warnings that can be enabled or disabled. They are:
- warning of brake pad wear, to the extent that the brakes require servicing,
- warning of seat belts not fastened, and
- warning of low windshield washer fluid.
You can 'pick and choose' which functions you want to enable, or you can enable them all, or disable them all. The default setting for a North American car is 'all enabled'.
Function 07 within Group 17 is the function for changing the coding of the applicable device. There are other functions, such as retrieving fault codes, making adaptations, erasing fault records, and so forth, but we don't need to discuss those here.
If you go to Group 17, and select Function 07 (coding), you then need to enter a 5 digit value. The 5 digits have different functions. The first two digits are the numbers affecting the warnings mentioned above. The third digit indicates the region of the world the car will be used in. The fourth digit indicates whether the vehicle has a flexible service interval or not, and the fifth digit affects speedometer function (not calibration, but function).
The 'default' setting for my (Canadian) Phaeton within group 17, function 07 was 07321. (In practice, the left-most digit is ignored if it is a zero, the number would appear on the programmer as 7321). The 7 indicates that all three warning actions are active, the 3 indicates that the car is operated in Canada (where we use the metric system for measurement), 2 indicates that service is performed on a fixed interval of time and/or distance (not thermal cycles, time, and distance as in Europe), and the last digit, 1, indicates standard speedometer coding.
How do we figure out what to change the 07 to, if we want to get rid of the seat belt warning but keep the brake wear and washer fluid warning? It's actually quite easy, and anyone with any kind of software background will recognize the methodology right away. It's plain old binary. Each possible warning is assigned a number, as follows:
00 - no warnings of any kind
01 - brake wear warning
02 - seat belt warning active
04 - windshield washer warning active.
To determine which two digits to put in the correct place of the coding group, you simply add up the numbers that represent the functions you want. By default, VW had all three functions enabled, so 01 + 02 + 04 = 07, which, as explained above, was the first two digits of the coding group when the car left Dresden. I didn't want the seat belt warning, so the mathematics for my preferences was different: 01 + 04 = 05.
So, I just replaced the complete string 07321 with 05321, and stored the value. The result - no more seat belt warnings, ever.