First of all, is this the right forum? If there's an automotive electronics forum, then I apologize for this post, and I'll ask over there.
I would only use this once or twice a year. Right now, I go to the AutoZone , where they come out and run the scan with some Actron scanner for free. S till, I like owning my own tools, and if I'm going to buy something, it sho uld be nice stuff, not just something that sort of works.
I have laptops and desktops that run on Win XP and up. My newest Mac does n ot have an Intel chipset. I have OS X 10.3.9 installed on it, and I believe that nothing past OS X 10.4 could be installed on it.
I am aware that current diagnostic software can interface with Android and iOS devices.
I have a 1989 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. It has OBD I, so it might not be p ossible to get software that works with that, at least not easily. My mom's car is a 2000 Saturn wagon, and it runs on OBD II.
What software or scanner do you have? What do you wish you had bought inste ad? What would you buy for your next device or software? That's what I want to hear.
news:rec.autos.tech , but I haven't checked it in quite a while, so I don't know if it's any good. There might be a Saturn forum on a web site or something.
You might ask if they will rent a scanner like they rent other tools - basically you put the purchase price down as a deposit, take it home for a day or two, and then return it in the same condition as you got it for a 100% refund. (Some other auto parts stores do this too.) Even if you buy a scanner outright later, this might let you play with a couple of different ones before you do.
For retrieving and clearing codes, I have always run my scanners with Windows, either 98, 2000, or XP. I've never tried running one on any flavor of Mac, or on a phone.
I think a GM of that vintage will still have the "jump two pins in the ALDL connector to blink the Check Engine light" interface, and the scan tools of the day didn't give you a bunch more information than the light codes did, but I could be wrong. An alternative would be to prowl Ebay, Craigslist, etc for the original GM scan tool for it. I *think* the GM tool was/is named a "Tech 2", or possibly some other number than 2.
I have a couple of older RS-232 products from
The first one (bought around 2001 or 2002) came as a kit and had some of the thinnest traces I've ever seen on a PC board, but it did work when I soldered it together. It was able to successfully talk to my '01 Toyota, as well as a '96 Suzuki. It could only speak the protocol that Japanese cars of that era used (ISO-9141, I *think*) so it couldn't talk to American vehicles of similar vintages.
After three or four years, that one died, and I bought the then-current version from the same vendor. It came assembled and could speak all three of the then-current protocols. It could talk to the same two cars as above, plus I'm pretty sure I used it on an early-00's Chevy and it worked as well. It could not talk to an '05 Chevy that used CAN, the latest protocol. I still use this one once or twice a year.
I can't remember which one it was, but the RS-232-side protocol was documented for one of these. I wrote my own software (under DOS (!)) to read a few values and after a little experimentation I got it to work.
The provided software, at least for the ones I have, is a Visual Basic extravaganza. It can read data, read trouble codes, and clear trouble codes, but don't push it harder than that. I have no experience with the software they ship with newer tools.
I had trouble with a download from the Web site once, so I emailed the company and got a prompt reply with working zip file attached. (As far as I can tell, it's a one-man band.)
Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a self-contained tool, rather than one that plugs into a PC/laptop... if a laptop is not available, sometimes it is challenging to get a desktop PC close enough to the car. I don't really use it enough for that to be an issue, though.
I'd talk to the independent mechanic that I take my Toyota to and see what he uses, if it's not the Toyota dealership tool. I'd also check with some enthusiast forums to see what they like.
Make sure to get one that speaks all the protocols. From '95 until about '04 or so, I think there were three (ISO-9141, VPW, PWM), and then in about '04 or '05, CAN was added.
One thing that I don't know the complete details on: All scan tools should be able to read the mandatory  powertrain trouble codes. But in an effort to lock out home mechanics^W^W^W^Wprovide better diagnostic info, some manufacturers have sub-codes of the mandatory codes, and either 1) only the manufacturer's scan tool can read the sub-codes, or
2) anybody can read the sub-codes but the meanings of the sub-codes may or may not be documented in the service manual. (There are/were lawsuits against the automakers to compel them to release *all* their data.)
Also, as far as I know, it isn't often possible to re-flash or otherwise tweak your ECM with a "generic" OBD-II scan tool. Even though at least one of the standards specifies a way to authenticate to the ECM, I suspect many manufacturers do their own thing in this department.
As a random note, there is +12 V power on the OBD-II connector, and the standard says it has to supply at least 4 A. So you can hang a fair amount of stuff off of it if you want to. (I can't remember if the connector has +12 V even if the vehicle is +24 V.)
I have a 1991 and a 1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. Your OCC and mine are too old for OBD2 which came out in 1996. A scanner won't tell you anything that just jumpering the OBD connector with a paper clip and counting flashes of the indicator light will tell you. Read about it here
Thanks for that link. I have the Y-code V-8, fed by a Rochester QuadraJet. To help keep the environment clean, GM covered all the places where adjustm ents could be made with steel plugs. A Dremel Mototool opened them up. The tools used to make those adjustments are scarce as hen's teeth. I made an a djustment tool from some brass shim stock.
I bought the plug-in "scanner", really a plastic handle holding a paper cli p, years ago, well before there was an Internet. The important part was get ting the manual, with the codes decoded.