Case Study

CAN Data frames's Structure and Format

Data Data frame structure

The data frames in Classical CAN and CAN FD comprises the same fields. The remote frame, only available in Classical CAN, has the same field structure as the data frame, but without a data field.

The SOF (start-of-frame) field is a fixed 1-bit field with a dominant bit level. It is followed by the arbitration field, which contains mainly the identifier bits and some protocol bits indicating the length of the CAN-ID and reserved bits. The next field is the control field with the information on the length of the data field (four data length code bits). Additionally, it provides some control bits, e.g. the FDF (FD format) bit distinguishing the two data link layer protocols, Classical CAN and CAN FD. The payload is in the data field. In Classical CAN, it features up to 8 byte and in CAN FD it can be up to 64 byte long. The following CRC field comprises a cyclic redundancy checksum (CRC) and in CAN FD an additional stuff-bit counter. The ACK (acknowledge) field is made of two bits. It is used to indicate a correct reception of the message. The last fields are the 7-bit EOF (end-of-fame) with fixed format (recessive bit-level) and the 3-bit IMF (intermission field) separating the frame from the next one.

Data data frame formats

The CAN data link layers distinguish between base frames (11-bit CAN-ID) and extended frames (29-bit CAN-ID). Base frames have a dominant IDE (ID extension) bit. This is why they win bus-arbitration against extended frames with the very same first bit-pattern. In order to distinguish between Classical CAN and CAN FD frames, the r1 reserved bit is transmitted recessively in CAN FD frames. Of course, this violates the Classical CAN specification. This means that legacy CAN controller chips destroy CAN FD communication. However, there are some migration paths that let you use legacy CAN implementations in CAN FD networks.


In the shown Classical CAN arbitration field examples, “0” represents a dominant and “1” a recessive bus-level (ID = identifier, SOF = start-of-frame, RTR= remote transmission request, SRR = substitute remote request, IDE = identifier extension)

The ISO 11898-1 standard introduces four different formats:

CBFF: Classical base frame format with 11-bit IDs

CEFF: Classical extended frame format with 29-bit IDs

FBFF: FD base frame format with 11-bit IDs

FEFF: FD extended frame format with 29-bit IDs

The formats differ in the control field (additional bits in FD frames), the data field length (Classical data frames are limited to a maximum of 8 byte, while FD data frames allow up to 64 byte), and the CRC field (different polynomials and additional safeguards for FD frames). Remote frames are not supported by the CAN FD protocol. CiA doesn’t recommend using remote frames. Remote frames request a data frame with the very same CAN-ID.