• Mar 30th 2011 at 3:00PM
  • 116

In 2010, Ford reinvented its SYNC system with the launch of the refreshed Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. But the new integrated system – MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch or what's known as "SYNC generation 2" – has been plagued by more than a few bugs. And part of the problem is due to its design.

If one of its various functions trips up – navigation, phone or entertainment, among others – the system can restart. This can leave the driver faced with a blank display and a restart procedure that can take two to three minutes. Double bummer: It usually wipes out your paired phones and indexed music.

After talking with several colleagues who have experienced similar issues (including one where the volume was stuck on max while the A/C continued to blow cold air in 42-degree weather) and experiencing these issues first hand for ourselves, we called up Ford's Head of Technology Communications, Alan Hall, and got on the phone with one of the Blue Oval's engineers to see what's causing the issues and how the automaker is addressing them.

Continue reading Ford's second-gen SYNC system off to a buggy start...

*UPDATE: Official statement from Ford added after the jump.

"If the pulse of one of these applications goes haywire, in order maintain system stability, we reset that application by resetting the entire software to come back to a 'known good state,' similar to how you reset your phone or computer," said Mounir Hider, a Ford product development engineer.

The display and hardware in this new "Gen 2" system attempts to manage a variety of functions at once. And while Ford builds in redundancy to handle many of the core functions – climate and audio being two – navigation tends to find itself limited to a single point of failure.

"We don't use this reboot strategy loosely," said Hider. "There are certain events that will trigger these reboots. Mainly it's when things get out of sync with each other."

Hider did tell us one little known fact: The SYNC system actually restarts every 24 hours of usage. After a day's worth of use, the system will automatically reset on its own after the ignition is turned off. This is mostly invisible to the driver, assuming they don't go back into the car and turn on the ignition during the restart procedure.

Ford Sync reboot screen

Navigation Goes Blank

On two separate Autoblog test drives over the last few weeks – a 2011 Ford Edge and a 2011 Ford Explorer – we experienced both the usefulness of SYNC and also the frustrations with its lack of reliability.

I encountered some phone pairing problems – nothing major, really, and after restarting SYNC was able to "find" the phone – but the most frustrating was a hard reset that occurred when I had a route programmed into the navigation. I didn't have a phone paired with it at the time and didn't have the stereo or HVAC running. I was headed to a meeting in an unfamiliar part of San Francisco, so the nav was of particular importance. Somewhere on Masonic Avenue, I looked down and the screen went blank, starting up to tell me that it was "Performing System Scheduled Maintenance."

Somewhere on Masonic Avenue I looked down and the screen went blank, starting up to tell me that it was "Performing System Scheduled Maintenance."
Fine time for them to schedule it, I thought.

As it turns out, the alert notice was incorrect. The reset I experienced wasn't scheduled – it was a bug that triggered the shutdown.

"That was required maintenance to ensure that the system continues to work flawlessly," said Hider. "There [are] many things that – once aligned – could cause that experience. From a software perspective, we need to ensure that if we are faced with an anomaly of some sort that we come out of it successfully. Hence our reboot or scheduled maintenance strategy. The alternative when you have issue is to declare it unusable and we don't want that strategy... the customer is dead in the water for minutes rather than having to go back to the dealer for them to reinitialize or reinstall software."

Corner Case Or Common Problem?

While Ford won't say how many of resets its cars have experienced – they only know when one occurs when vehicles are brought into the dealer and they aren't sharing that number – the buyer and dealer community is starting to rumble. Ford's responded with a series of SYNC software updates and a battery of troubleshooting videos that try to help customers with their issues.

More importantly, it appears dealers are sympathetic to SYNC's woes. I called three different Ford dealerships – one in San Francisco, one in St. Louis and one in Detroit – and all were able to walk me through a master reset procedure on the telephone in under six minutes. Not surprisingly, the dealerships were quick to point out that SYNC is co-developed with Microsoft. Ford of San Francisco admitted that they are getting a lot of complaints about the MyFord Touch system, but stated that it's likely a Microsoft issue and not something Ford can control.

Ford MyFord Touch dashboard with Sony audio

When I heard the dealer tell me that, it brought to mind my Dad's first forays on the Internet. He was a late bloomer, getting his first email address in 2004 at the age of 70, and one of his first forwards he sent along was a send-up of "if Microsoft built cars" (reprinted here in all its blue-sky background glory). It would seem bits and pieces of that old forward are proving to be sentient – if less dramatic.

Ford's method for refreshing SYNC leverages its SyncMyRide site, where users sign up and register their vehicle using a VIN and a new username and password. Updates to SYNC can usually be found on the site, with major releases necessitating a trip to the dealer for a full install.

One small but growing complaint from the Ford community is that the automaker isn't being transparent enough about the revisions in the SYNC updates. So, for example, if a new version of SYNC is posted and requires a dealer install, owners should be able to see what's being updated – a "change log" in software speak – in order to determine if they should take their time to head into the dealer or not (similar to app updates on smartphones). As it stands now, it's hard to tell what's different about SYNC 2.7 (the most up-to-date version of the SYNC software for MyFord and MyLincoln Touch users) as opposed to an earlier release. Ford could do its owners a solid by being more open about these changes.

Ford knows it has a hot product in its hands with SYNC (a recent poll suggested it was a major consideration for new car buyers) and for the most part, the automaker has managed to create a useful interface to control a range of formerly unwieldy functions in an ever-changing world of phone platforms and firmware nightmares. But Ford must do a better job of managing the reliability of the system – particularly as the 2012 Focus arrives – and figuring out faster ways to get updates into it vehicles while informing customers in the process.

How to Reset SYNC

Generation 1
(all other SYNC-enabled cars)

  1. Make sure the car is on, in Park
  2. Press AUX, select SYNC
  3. Press MENU
  4. Scroll to System Settings, press OK
  5. Seek to "Advanced," Press OK
  6. Seek to "Master Reset," Press OK
  7. Confirm reset

Generation 2
(2011 Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, Lincoln MKX and 2012 Ford Focus)

  1. Make sure the car is on, in Park
  2. Press the Phone Button to enter the PHONE MENU
  3. Scroll repeatedly until SYSTEM SETTINGS appears in the radio display
  4. Press OK to enter the SYSTEM SETTINGS MENU
  5. Scroll repeatedly until ADVANCED appears in the radio display. Press OK
  6. Scroll repeatedly until MASTER RESET appears in the radio display
  7. Press OK. SYNC will ask you to confirm the reset
  8. Press OK to confirm. The radio display will read ALL RESET
  9. SYNC will take you back to the ADVANCED SETTINGS MENU

Additional reporting by Damon Lavrinc.

*UPDATE – Official Ford response from spokesman Alan Hall:

Customers remain highly satisfied with SYNC and 80% say that they would recommend it to others, but we are committed to improving the ownership experience even further. Further to your post, we'd like to stress that the maintenance screen reboots that the Autoblog team experienced are very rare for our customers. We have already released new software updates into production and these have also been made available through dealers since Autoblog evaluated the vehicles mentioned in the post. The latest software level, launched in the new 2012 Focus with MyFord Touch, features an update that significantly minimizes the chance of maintenance reboots. That same improvement is being applied to the 2011 Ford Edge, Explorer, and Lincoln MKX models beginning with early April production, and will also be available for current owners from their local Ford and Lincoln dealer as a SYNC software update. We have already informed our owners, and dealers, of the available software updates, and will continue to do so as they become available. We have also recently launched several customer initiatives to help answer any questions that owners may have about SYNC and MyFord Touch:

· Owner Support Website - www.syncmyride.com/own/touch
· Text and video based tutorials from feature overview to a "how-to" guide

1 The ability to share information directly from site via email, mobile, print or Facebook
2 A "Click to Chat" option which provides one-on-one conversations with a Ford Technology expert

· Our In-Vehicle Technology Call Center provides one-on-one discussions with a Ford Technology expert. Monday through Friday, (8:30am – 5:00pm local time)

· Ford Owners - 1-800-392-3673 and select option 3

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      This system constantly reboots, has problems with speech recognition, takes forever to load, sometimes pauses for minutes, lacks consistency in running modules (text to voice), and just generally SUCKS! Oh and the vehicle healther report...FU Ford...preload the device with the right stinking phone #. This feature came with a new Ford Explorer fleet vehicle, and I can say if I did have to layout my own money for this massively overtouted time vampire, I would be demanding that the dealer rip it out of my dash and give me a basic radio and a Tom Tom!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I purchases a 2012 Ford Explorer in Sept. of 2011 and the SYNC System has been a complete nightmare. After months of numerous attempts to fix at the dealer, they told me that I would just have to wait unt the "fix" came out in 2012. So I got my lawyer involved and they quickly agreed to give me a brand new replacement vehicle (another 2012 Explorer). The new car had the same exact issues. In talking w/ some of their folks at Ford Corporate offices, they initially told me that 20% of all 2011-2012 Explorers are having these issues. As I dug further, I reach a Ford employee who stated that well over 50% are truly having these issues. Ford knows they have a big problem on their hands. Get a lawyer involved and go in on your local "Lemon Law" rules. It has worked for me and in the process of trying to get my full refund from Ford.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Do I need a Lawyer because I feel the same way with our mkx
        Tom Sepanik
        • 3 Years Ago
        I just got my 2 week old 2012 MKX back from service. The radio wouldn't turn off, then it won't turn on, then the LCD went blank. They replaced the APIM Module and re installed the Software. Little did I know that there is a BIG problem with the MYSYNCH feature - No wonder - Bill Gates got his Crappy software in all these cars. I wonder who had sex with who - to get that contract. Ford should have seen that coming. I am retired from Ford - but I can testify to FORDs stupidity on these issues. With any luck, I have a stable install in my car now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I picked up my 2011 mkx May 27, one week exactly later I got in started it up and the screen went black and said it was doing maintenance, then one week exactly later it did the same thing again, then the day before fathers day I got in it was in the mid 80's touched the auto for climate nothing happened, tried touching all of the climate buttons with no response, tried using the steering wheel controls and the message said can not communicate with climate at this time, tried voice and it did nothing, gave up on that but still had to go out, put it in reverse and the fan came on full blowing what Im guessing was outside air which was very hot and it wouldnt shut off, later that day I decided to unhook the battery and it reset everything and worked fine, the next day I parked the car and shutoff the radio and the screen went black and did the maintenance thing again, I worked at ford for 32 years and thought we made a good product, now but I wouldnt recommend anyone getting the touch system or any vehicle with it in it, it really is a piece of junk, ford says 80% are happy with it, thats because not everyone with a problem is running back to the dealers and reporting it everytime it screws up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bought a $41k 2011 Taurus Limited in April. Sync didn't work too badly. My phone would always connect whenever I got in the car, the radio was easy and fun to use, and the only real complaint I had was the maps on the navigation system were very out of date, by maybe 2-3 years. Then Sirius changed their channel lineup. We all waited for Ford to send out a patch...and a patch showed up from version 3.2 to 3.2.2, so I installed it. What happened next, I wasn't prepared for. First off, it didn't fix the Sirius channel issue. The system no longer understands most of my commands. I say 'audio', it comes back with 'help'. My phone doesn't connect automatically any more. I have to force it to connect, It then connects when I get back in the car, but the next time after that, it requires a forced connection again. I talked to Ford, they tell me to do a reboot of the system. I did that many times...They then tell me it's my phone..Hmmm, it worked with the older version of software. I asked to revert back to 3.2, nope, can't do that. Ok, when is another patch coming, especially for the Sirius channel changes. The latest answer, possible early next year, along with a map upgrade...Wait a second. I have to wait almost a year for a simple table lookup patch, and if I'm lucky, I'll have a 4-5 year old map to update? I told them on their Sync site, that I may be looking into the Lemon laws in Florida, their answer? They refused to post my message. I guess that don't want anyone knowing.
      Steven Nemerow
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bought a brand new 2011 Ford Explorer Limited about 5 weeks ago. After having problems with it 4 times, today it was towed to the dealer. It started the first week. 2nd time was two weeks later. Then last nite I couldn't drive away from a restaurant. It finally started after I played with a bunch of the buttons over and over again. Today I went to go somewhere from inside my garage and there I was stuck again, not starting, and it was towed away with those messages still on the screen. On the display I get 4 messages one right after another: Collision Warning Not Available Service Advance Trac Cross Traffic System Fault Blindspot System Fault When these messages appear, I'm stranded! The vehicle will not start. I'm in a rental now till they figure out what the problem with my Explorer is. Anyone encouter a similar problem with the Sync system where it stops the vehicle with starting?
      David Reeve
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can not believe that Ford is still "buffalo-ing" everyone after all this time. Basically, it is clear that they don't have a clue! I have a brand new 2013 cmax with the Sync system. It is exhibiting all the stupid problems and more that you have listed. I drive 35,000 miles or more a year and use the blue tooth constantly to assist on business calls. At this time, I would not give you a dime for the system. I have today placed Ford on notice that I intend to report the problems to the Attorney General's office for the State of Florida under the Lemon law. I have had this unit in the dealer 4 times now and they have replaced a GPS modual and still, the directions can not find my location. The radio reverts to any screen it whichs everytime I make a phone call. The other day I pulled off and filmed a video of me hanging up repeatedly and the radio not responding properly. Other wierd "yellow caution" signs like a stupid old Microsoft Windows XP program freezing up. The final straw was when the dealer stated I would have to wait for an update until the end of this quarter. He told me this a 2 weeks ago. I didn't think that I purchased a brand new 30 k plus car for the privilage of have a defective radio. I thought I was purchasing the whole car! Look for more on this. These guys need to quit making lies about how wonderfull their radio is. They claim 80% of their customers are satisfied? Wow, I run a busines and I would be ashamed if 20 % of my customers were not satisfied with my product.........David Reeve, Delrey Beach, Florida!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Have 2012 titanium focus hatchback. Ordered the car new and never has worked correctly. This is a 27440.00 dollar car. Has winter package ,technology package,protection package,remote start.401A package etc. Whole system freezes up,touchscreen,steering wheel controls. Stuck on one channel until it reboots itself or I go out ,disconnect battery and do the reboot myself. Battery saver -turned off comes across sometimes when I push the start button ,but not to start,just to listen to radio. How do you turn off battry saver? Updates are few and far between. Fuel icon doesnt come on when 50 miles are left on tank. When you receive notification through travel link, clock is 4 hours fast. Weather comes up detroit/metro area and Im in Canton Oh. Using phone and am listening to am station and when disconnecting from phone,radio jumps to fm. SD card at fault, put SD card in. SD card is in. Oh yea. have nav also.When showing 5-day forecast some icons are 1/4 the size. Also service advisor tells me all things are tied together. My one touch powerwindows .3 of them work and one doesnt. Did the re-boot ,now 2 of the dont work with onetouch. Windows all work, but not the onetouch. And a lot of times unavailable functions while driving pops up. Just while touching normal things. Changing channels, frequencys etc. Other than that,it is a fine wheelbarrow!
      Janeen Wolcott Doole
      • 3 Years Ago
      The comments here are true! Ford needs to get their act together on all the Sync/My Ford Touch issues. My 2011 Edge limited is at the dealer for service once again for a blank screen. Already have had numerous updates, a new APIM, a whole new unit installed and still no long term fix! Ford NEEDS to deliver a working product/vehicle! It's hard enough to get people to buy American...and I live in Michigan, home of the motor city.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am looking into the Lemon Law in SC. I have had my Sync Module replaced four times so far. The first two times in the shop they did updates and the next three times they had to completely replace it at which time I was NEVER offered a loaner car. I'm so fed up with FORD!!! Waiting on a call from the General Manager who "is on vacation" and then will start with arbitration. I have less than 10,000 miles on my car and has been in the shop 6 times due to sync. I want my $42,000 back!! Will never buy another FORD!!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Cindy- I have had my 2012 Explorer XLT for 2 weeks. Today was my 3rd trip to the dealership!! This time I was told I was getting a complete Sync wipe and reinstall. Which I "thought" was done the last time!! So frustrating. I'm am sorry your dealership is not offering you a loaner car, that is awful :/ Anyways, IF this does not work, I was told the service dept would need to take this issue up with Ford, um..........ok........ in the mean time what?!?! No radio, back up camera shows while DRIVING, black screen, etc. I have had EVERY single problem and its only been two weeks!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have just filed a complaint with Lincoln under Massachusetts Lemon Law. The list of problems I have experienced with the Lincoln My Touch, the navigation and the Sirius Travel Link in my 2011 MKX are the same as the issues other folks are dealing with. My service manager has told me point blank not to bother to bring the car in anymore. They can't fix it. Period. They, too, are waiting for Lincoln to find a repair. They suggested pulling the negative battery cable to completely reset the system. It is more extreme than a master reset but it reboots the system at least for a few days. However, you then need to re-pair the phone, add in all your quick dials, add your home address in the nav, and reset all Sirius and radio stations. I am stunned at the lack of regard for the customer here! Ford/Lincoln is completely disinterested in helping resolve these problems. Their answer is the same as everyone has gotten, "yes, we are aware of the problems and are attempting to find a fix. Sorry for the inconvenience." Seriously?? I'm thinking a class action suit might make them a little more interested. Anyone else think this is a good idea? I'd love to hear some feedback on this. Thanks!!
        Michele Capra
        • 3 Years Ago
        i agree with you. im fed up with ny new 2012 lincoln mkx. the system is constantly frozen. . I was there yesterday, in NY, and they did an update, and nothing works. I think a class action suit would be great. Paying over $500 per month to be aggravatged.
      • 3 Years Ago
      We have this issue with our 2012 Ford Edge. It has persisted even after the eagerly awaited update was distributed and installed from a USB flash drive. I really hate this (My Sync) feature of the car and would tell everyone to avoid it. The GPS freezes up frequently on trips. There are many other glitches that occur such as problems with phone pairing, radio and blower fan that stay on after car is turned off and car doors opened, etc, etc. The computer system is really dreadfully squirrelly.
      Fading Ford Fan
      • 3 Years Ago
      What ford needs to do is stop acting like toyota. Talk to your customers and get them some answers as well as a fix for these problems. Untill then install a home button and push it every time the car or truck needs repair and let it drive it self back to the dealer. 2011 F-150 Sync problems, transmission problems, camera problems, throttle sticking, tires wearing funny after 6000 mi. and paint defects right from the factory. It's in the shop again and maybe for the last time given the Oklahoma lemon law. My last ford was great, 95 model, my last truck spent one hour in the shop over 9 years this truck 5 weeks in 5 months not counting a few other trips for day service. and now 9 month later everything is still broke. FORD, talk to your customers and I don't mean a service rep.
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