Upgradable parts on a new vehicle?

  • 3.5L
  • 6 CYL
  • RWD
  • 2,000 MILES
I am trying to find out what parts I can upgrade on my new 2015 Ford Transit 350. I just purchased this vehicle and was surprised to find out that it didn't come with cruise control. When I asked the dealer about it after the purchase, they told me that I didn't ask for cruise control. I didn't ask specifically for windshield wipers either, but those came installed! Anyway, I've asked about getting it installed, but my dealership doesn't seem to know if it's possible.
I wrote to the Ford company and asked them, but all I got from them was that they don't recommend installing any parts except those made by Ford, which makes a lot of sense because I don't want to void the warranty. But I never got a straight answer. All I want to add to the vehicle is the following:

Cruise Control
upgraded radio with Ford Sync

I can find all the parts, with a part number, in the Ford Parts catalog when I enter my VIN. But my dealership doesn't think that anything can be upgraded. Can you add some insight to this simple, yet confusing problem?

Thanks for your time!
Do you
have the same problem?
Friday, January 16th, 2015 AT 8:27 PM

1 Reply

You need to visit a different dealer or talk with different people at your dealership. I worked for ten years for a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership, and there, what you're trying to do is not only very easy to do, we would have it done within a few hours. The cruise control kits came in a complete package that included a new steering wheel with the switch assembly on it, a new "clock spring" with an additional circuit in it for the cruise control switches, and a new brake light switch. All the parts attached to mounting brackets that were already there, and all the needed connector plugs were already hanging there. There were very few wires to run. Even the throttle cable attachment was already there.

The dealership regularly stocked the kits for dozens of different applications, but the drawback was that when good customers needed a replacement part, the parts department people robbed them out of those kits to give away at no charge. Years later after I had left the dealership, I was still repairing their radios, and out of the need to gain space, they gave me all of those kits for cars from the '80s. I've seen those kits at auctions where two Ford dealers went out of business, so I know they're available from Ford too.

The kit for your vehicle might not be available yet because they are normally purchased by people who just bought a used vehicle without the options they want. The downside is you don't want to wait too long. Ford is extremely bad about making replacement parts available for their vehicles. Parts like fenders and grilles that are made by aftermarket suppliers will be available for a long time, including through the dealer, but things like interior panels may no longer be available in as little as three or four years.

Given the proliferation of unnecessary computers on all of today's cars, it is usually necessary now to reprogram some computers to know the cruise control is present. One fellow installed factory running lights, but they wouldn't turn on until the dealer reprogrammed the computer. The most customer friendly manufacturer is Hyundai. You can do the programming yourself over the internet, for free. The next is Toyota and Chrysler that charge independent repair shops 40 or 50 bucks. GM is by far one of the worst and won't allow any repair shops access to anything. They make most of their profits, after the sale of the vehicle, from their repair shops. Ford is somewhere between those two extremes.

As for the radio, I can only suggest that you'll want to leave that to the dealer. GM started the nonsense of building their Body Computers into their radios so you can't remove them from the vehicle and they won't work in other cars. They also selfishly stopped allowing us to buy their radio service manuals, so now you're tied to their two grossly-overpriced repair centers. They started that in 1994, and the people at Ford must have seen how much money GM was sucking from their customers that they started doing the same thing in 1997. A lot of GM owners have said, "never again" due to the vast number of customer-unfriendly business practices, and I have to listen to their complaints all the time. I have not heard nearly so much anger from Ford owners, but as I've been told by a former student who works for a Ford dealer, the radios still need to be programmed to the specific vehicle after they're installed, and you can expect to have a lot of real expensive electrical problems due to the severe over-use of unneeded technology. A lot of the problems stem from the environment that electronics lives in. Vibration, heat, cold, moisture, and road salt are not the place for already-unreliable computers.

If you notice anything unusual that could be electrical in nature, be sure to have it documented at the dealership before the warranty expires. At Chrysler dealerships, as long as the complaint is entered on the repair order, even if the mechanic can't make it act up to be diagnosed, they will take care of it long after the vehicle is out of warranty. I normally consider extended warranties, (which are just an over-priced insurance contract), to be a poor value for most people, but with all the electronics, you might consider investing in one as long as it covers all the computers and any electrical stuff. Too often when people came in with these contracts they bought somewhere else, I overheard, "what you need isn't covered". I don't know about the contracts through the manufacturer, but with aftermarket contracts, it has gotten so bad for the repair shops to collect their payments, so now most of them make the car owners pay the repair bills, then they have to try to get reimbursed from the contract company. Those companies seem to pay car owners faster than they pay repair shops.

I also have nothing against finding parts at salvage yards, but with such a new vehicle, you might find they want a lot for those parts, or they might be cheap because there won't be much demand for them yet. My bigger concern is the dealer's attitude if they have to reprogram something to recognize parts you didn't buy from them. Here again, GM and import dealers are the worst. For other brands, some are very accommodating and some are not.
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Friday, January 16th, 2015 AT 9:18 PM

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