One down, 300,000 to go. Last week, I installed the software fixes that the 300,000 Ford and Lincoln vehicle owners will soon receive to improve the control system in their Focuses, Explorers, Edges and MKXs.
Actually, I had coffee, interviewed a source, took a few phone calls and worked on another column while the software updates installed themselves in a 2012 Focus. Like an Apple iPhone, updating MyFordTouch and MyLincolnTouch is about 10 percent activity and 90 percent keeping out of the way while the device fixes itself.
"This is a really significant change," Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive said. "You can fix the electronics in your own car. It's the first step to a totally new kind of vehicle maintenance."
After years building a reputation for high quality and dependability, Ford's taken a beating recently, largely because of MyFord- Touch. It plummeted from near the top to far down in influential studies by Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. The studies - and many Ford owners and shoppers - found the system inconsistent, unreliable and generally annoying.
The software update Ford and Lincoln owners will receive in the mail over the next couple of weeks addresses some, but not all, of the complaints.
The update will arrive as a USB thumb drive in the mail. Owners can install it themselves or go to their dealer.
I recommend the do-it yourself method. It's easy, and while it takes just over an hour, that beats waiting in line with the other 300,000 MyFord and MyLincoln- Touch owners.
Here's what the update does:
• It speeds up how quickly the voice-recognition system responds when you activate it.
• It makes the touch screen more responsive. It should no longer take multiple touches to make the control respond.
• A new typeface, bigger virtual buttons and a simpler layout improve the touch screen.
• It's easier and faster to pair a phone for hands-free operation.
The toughest part of the process was remembering not to turn the car off before the download was complete.
Fortunately, Ford foresaw that. It's easy to restart the download. The process begins
from scratch, however. If you accidentally shut the car off 57 minutes into the one-hour download, you're back to Square One.
You can leave the vehicle parked or drive it during the update. If you drive, make sure you're happy with the settings for audio and climate control. You can't change them during the download.
The update worked as advertised. Pairing my iPhone for hands-free calls and streaming audio was child's play. The touch screen responded faster and more consistently. It's considerably less frustrating. The voice-recognition button activates the system quickly.
Voice control of phone and audio is good. The navigation system's response to spoken commands is inconsistent. It needs work.
MyFordTouch just got better. The next 300,000 users - and the next round of quality surveys - will tell us whether it's good enough.