Selecting a code reader

Tiny
DICEBERG
  • MEMBER
  • 1994 BUICK PARK AVENUE
  • 3.8L
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 210,000 MILES
I am helping my friend with his 1994 Buick park ave. We are changing the timing belt and doing a general overhaul. His engine has been running a bit rough, changing the map sensor helped but it started getting worse in the cold. So he decided to do an overhaul.

I am looking to figure out which type of code reader I need to buy to be able to get the engine code for the over haul.

The vehicle has a 16 pin hookup under the dash which is causing confusion as I look at ratings for readers which indicate 1996 and later.

3800 v-6 engine 210k miles, bought from estate sale no maintenance history.
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Monday, December 16th, 2013 AT 9:02 AM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
You can find simple code readers at Harbor Freight Tools but be sure they're for OBD1 cars. Most are for the newer models with OBD2 or the even newer CANBUS systems. Those won't talk to your car. Also be aware most code readers only access the Engine Computer, not all the other computers on the car. For those you need a full scanner. A lot of mechanics, including me, bought the Chrysler DRB3 because with an additional plug-in card it will access all emissions-related stuff on any brand of car sold in the U.S, but again, only on '96 and newer models.

You might also look on eBay. If you're going to work on more cars in the future, invest in an inexpensive scanner, but remember, most of what works on one brand won't work on others, and what works on a '94 or '95 won't work on a '96. I have a Monitor 4000 that works on Chryslers, Fords, and GMs with one cartridge, up to '95 models, and with another cartridge will do Chrysler automatic transmissions. I also have a Chrysler DRB2 but those only work on Chryslers from '83 through '95, and you need many different cartridges to cover all the years and models. I suspect you'll find them now for less than a hundred bucks because mechanics are constantly trading up and getting rid of the older stuff.

Simple code readers tell you the fault code number and that's all. You still have to look up the description. The better code readers give you the description, but remember, they only tell you the circuit or system that needs further diagnosis. They never tell you to replace parts or that they're bad. A scanner does all that, but for multiple computers, plus they display live sensor data the computers are acting on in real time while you're driving. They're "bidirectional" too meaning you can talk back to the computers and command them to do things like turn on the radiator fan for troubleshooting and things like that. Having a code reader is like having a shopping bag. You have something, but you don't have anything in it.
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Monday, December 16th, 2013 AT 10:12 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Just to add to this one gm used 16 pin obd2 connectors on obd1 cars they started in 1994 on some of the buicks and chevys. Maybe other models but I ran into some buicks and chevys.I call them obd 1.5 cars lol. You cant flash the codes out of them without a scan tool some of the diyer scan tools that read obd1 domestic cars and have obd2 connectors can read your car.I know the actron cp9185 and cp9190 can read them. But for what you get and what it cost isnt worth it. You would be better off getting a used mac task master matco pro scan etc on ebay. They dont use cartridges like cardiodocs monitor 4000 also they can read almost every computer in the cars for the software that is loaded on the scan tools except for the newer ones. Some of the computers you need the obd2 smart cable to go with the scan tool. Let me know if your intrested theres a nice mac task master ending on ebay in like 8hrs. The scan tools I mentioned are not bi directional meaning you cant use the scan tool to command engine solenoids special tests cooling fan motor etc.
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Monday, December 16th, 2013 AT 10:57 AM

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