[Product Review] GM Service Information from ACDelco’s Technical Delivery System

GM Service Information from ACDelco’s Technical Delivery System

by Hib Halverson

The proverbial “Factory Service Manual”…many in the DIY community think of it as a book you flop down on your work bench and thumb though looking for service instructions. If you’re one of those folks, know that the times–they are a changin’.

When working on any V-series Cadillac, dealers and independent service shops don’t use service manuals in book form. The service information is on their computer hard drive or is accessed on “the cloud” by a web browser. This information is supplied by either GM itself or alternative suppliers of electronic service data.

Paper service manuals are still available though publisher, Helm, Inc., but their days may be numbered. With the service business no longer using physical manuals, the market for them has decreased significantly. This shrinking market has already changed the way Helm delivers its product. Of late, Helm advises those purchasing manuals that what they buy will be “digital copes” of factory service information and will be in “loose leaf” form. Users are responsible for finding a binder to hold said digital copies. An average Service Manual for a V-series Cadillac is four volumes, about eight-inches thick. Imagine getting a stack of three-hole pages, eight inches high. Yeah–right.

The other problem with obtaining hardcopy service manuals is that the time it takes GM and Helm, Inc. to release them has become longer and longer. For example, at the time this review was written, Fall 2017, Helm only recently released the physical Service Manual for the 2016 ATS-V–a full 22 months after customer deliveries began. The 2016 CTS-V manual set was a similar situation. If you want books for a ’17–be patient.

But wait, there’s more. The cost of these manuals has become ridiculous. Recently, I priced the newly-available, ’16 ATS-V books. With just “standard” shipping, handing and sales tax, the total came to $470 bucks. Ouch!

There’s gotta be a better way.

The reviewer has just begun the work necessary to change a set of spark plugs in the 3.6L engine in an ATS-V. GMSi on the display of the laptop in the background using a Wi-Fi connection. Image: Author.

Enter “GM Electronic Service Information”. It has full coverage of GM vehicles back to 1998 and engine and transmission coverage back to 1996. In its early days, it was known as “ESi” and came on a CD-ROM. Today its known as “GMSi” or just “SI”, it’s on the cloud and you look at it with a web browser. All GM dealers subscribe to it.

Not widely known outside of the service community is that SI subscriptions are, also, available to third-party users, including consumers, though ACDelco’s “Tech Connect” program. ACDelco spokesperson, Jeff Wandell told the V-Net, “There are three service information subscriptions based on the length of time of access: 3 days for $20, 1 month for $150 and 1 year for $1200.”  Do the math and twenty bucks for three days works out to $6.67 a day, the one month “sub” comes in at $5.00 a day and the annual subscription, $3.29 a day.

For people doing regular service work on GM vehicles exclusively, GMSi represents a hell of a deal when you consider competitors, Alldata and Mitchell charge $169.00 a month, which for a year, would come to $2068. Plus the GM service has a three-day option which neither Alldata nor Mitchell have. Admittedly, for some consumers, even GMSi’s 1200 bucks annually is still pretty steep, but look at it another way. Say, three or four times a year, you work on your V to the extent that you need factory service information, so, for a total of 60 or 80 bucks, you buy some three-day subscriptions to GMSi and get the information you need. Take my situation: my Wife and I own six GM products and I do most service and maintenance myself. Five of those six are 1998 and newer and supported by GMSi. As often as I work on our cars and truck, a subscription made some sense.

Besides its plethora of information and an apparent price advantage, there are other GMSi pluses: 1) during your subscription period, you have access to information for all GM vehicles, so, in addition to working on your V, if need to know how to change the oil in a Corvette Z06’s dry sump, take the transmission out of a Chevy Silverado or replace a radiator hose on a Buick Enclave, you can get that info, 2) the data can be printed, so you could select a procedure you know you’re going to do, then print it and save it for later, 3) GMSi is continually updated. A problem with paper manuals is one cannot obtain the updates which are issued by Si to correct errors, to add information which was left out or to support mid-year production changes and finally, 4) with GMSi subscriptions, also, get you access to technical bulletins back to 1980.

GM Service Information is easy to access. Once you have purchased a subscription, you enter your ID and password, check off a couple of “condition of use” agreements and enter your year, make and model. Then, you are presented with some choices in what manuals you want to view. After that, you pick a category and perhaps a sub category. Finally, you get the information on the specific procedure you need. Graphics are mostly computer generated “math art” but some of it is pictures. Hyperlinks are used extensively, to access related instructions–say you want to change plugs in an LF4. You first have to remove various parts of turbocharger plumbing so the plug removal info links to the turbo plumbing removal procedure.

Screen shots of an illustration and math art related to removal of turbo charger plumbing from an LF4 in an ATS-V. Images: GMSi, use with permission.

So far, I’ve found that the ACD version of GMSi is the same as what dealers use. I could detect no differences. Another characteristic I’ve observed is that while you need a PC running either Windows 7 or 10 to use all of GMSi’s features, it has partial functionality on an Apple Macintosh which, in my case, is a plus because, while I use a Panasonic Toughbook CF-31 out in the shop, the office runs on Macs and, sometimes, it’s helpful to look at SI on our PowerMac. GMSi’s “Mac limitation” is that you can’t see some of the graphics because the browser plug-ins necessary to do that are not available in versions written for the Mac OS.

So far, I’ve used GMSi to get information on ATS-V head lamp bulb changes, fluid level checking and filter changes for the 8L90 automatic transmission and the diagnostic data for an ECM code, DTC P0734, which recently turned on the MIL in one of our ATS-Vs. In each of these instances, I quickly found the information I needed. I could either print it and take it out in the shop, I could sit the Toughbook on the fender and connect via Wi-Fi, or I cold connect the laptop to the shop’s ethernet connection next to the work bench.

After using GM’s Service Information for a couple of weeks, I am so glad I signed up for it. I think it makes a lot of sense for advanced DIYs who regularly work on their Vs and do work complex enough that they require factory service data. For more information on GMSI visit ACDelco’s Technical Delivery System (TDS) web page at: https://www.acdelcotds.com.

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