Whiich Scan Tool to go with?


Mar 12, 2003
I just bought an 87 GN and would like to get a scantool, but am undecided on which one? The car is all stock and I was told the tach is off, and it is. I am going to replace it with one from Caspers. The thing is it is running at a rough idle and surges. What scan tool would be good to check what the RPM's are really at and also check all sensors to see if they are good or not and to set the TPS and other sensors? Also where to purchase and what are the costs? I do not have a lap top and would rather go with a hand held if possiable. Any help would be great.
I like running DirectScan along with a Caspers knock gauge when the laptop isn't in the car, lots of data and no black box sitting on the dash.
I would suggest Direct Scan and here is why.

First, Turbo Link only has 1.25 frames per second. A lot of stuff can happen in 1.25 seconds. DS is 18 per second. Imagine only getting data feedback 15 times during a 12.50 run using TL. Now imagine getting feedback 225 times from DS.

I demo'd Turbo Link for a few weeks and was pretty happy. Then I demo'd Direct Scan. I knew right away that I wanted DS. You would too if you were able to test first before purchasing.

TL will not show BLM Cells, nor Injector Pulse Width.

DS, even though a DOS app, is a huge improvement over TL.

The only two advantages that TL has over DS is that's it's easier to hook up and it's a Windows based application.

DS will take you about 1 hour to mod the ECM and to run your cable. TL will take about 5 minutes and that includes loading your software.
I only have DS. A lot of people like to have both. ScanMaster for everyday use and DS or TL for tuning.

I like to keep my car clean and I don't like the little box on the dash or above the radio. If you tune your car right, you won't have to do it often. I opted for a knock guage instead of Scan Master.
ScanMaster is $249 and Direct Scan is $249. You are limited with ScanMaster and you are not limited with DS. The only downside to DS is that you have to pull out your laptop to view.

Another selling point. Kent Chu (www.chuengineerying) develops DS. I spoke to him the other day and he is/has been working on an "auxillary input module". This, when finished, will monitor fuel pressure, EGT and boost, along with some other voltages. TL and ScanMaster can't do that nor have I heard of them mention working on it. Note, TL will monitor boost with a "boost sensing harness" and "3 bar map".

It's really your preference at this point.

download Turbo Link demo at

download DS at http://www.bmcomputersource.com/dscollection.html

also get some files from the same page and view them.
Originally posted by justabuickv6

TL will not show BLM Cells, nor Injector Pulse Width.

Injector pulsewidth is available in the chips with the ScanMaster fast data patch (which increases the apparent data rate to about 3 frames/sec.

The only two advantages that TL has over DS is that's it's easier to hook up and it's a Windows based application.

... and the fact that it works on MULTIPLE GM vehicles, including F-bodies, trucks, Vettes, Syclone/Typhoons. It is also a "living" application with support and constant improvements.

The data rate of DS is really valuable if you are trying to do calibration work with a chip or to hunt down an elusive transition problem. TurboLink is a better all around diagnostic tool. I think it's just which tool is right for you ... do you want an open end wrench or a socket set? :)
Customer Support....Important to you?

I don't know much about DS, only what I read on the board. And, the DS owners aren't bashful about extolling its virtues ;) It is no doubt a fine system.

I do know something about Turbolink that may help you. I elected to buy an extender chip with the faster refresh rate. Plenty fast enough for me. Many times DS loyalists get on a thread like this thread and post OLD and OUTDATED information about Turbolink and its capabilities. The refresh rate is one of those capabilities that has changed on Turbolink....

Here is the bottom line for me: When I call Turbolink Customer Support, they remember me (and, my name) from several phone calls and one visit to their offices....Their patience NEVER ends, their knowledge includes a deep understanding of computers, their system, and how to make it work on my laptop (over the phone.) Dan and Jason are always curteous and competent when I'm floundering in a sea of ignorance about such things. Just last week I called and spoke to Ken Mosher himself to iron out a new problem in my setup after downloading the latest in frequent and FREE upgrades :)

DS has its place, I don't put it down in any way, just know that Turbolink has a GUI that is dazzling and easy to use, with a versatility and features that DS can't match. Scanmaster is a niche product too, many Buick owners live by it.

Yes, I paid full price for my Tlink :)

Happy Hunting....
Again, all great reasons.

I like Ken's statment, "I think it's just which tool is right for you ... do you want an open end wrench or a socket set?"
The thing is, it is running at a rough idle and surges.

The chip sets the idle RPM on this engine. Rough idle isn't uncommon (may need a tune up and a 'Spring Cleaning'). The idle RPM "hunts" on this engine more than any engine I've ever been around. A good aftermarket chip will settle the hunting idle RPM, and prolly smooth things up quite a bit. :)
I just recieved my DS and installed it in under an hour. I'm also new to the scan tools, but I think it was very simple to install and the info gained in the first 20 minutes was worth the time toinstall it. I've never used TL and I'm sure that some people swear by it. If DS is an option, I would recommend it. I'm sure TL is as good. You can't go wrong with either. My only requirement was not having a permanent visual installation. The DS cable can be tucked inside the dash or under the console when not in use. The rest of the hardware mounts behind the glove box.
I have a Scanmaster and knock gauge permanently in the car and will always have them there. I bought TurboLink and while I liked how it worked, I simply needed more data, like all BLM values, inj PW, all the hardware flags, as well as the faster update rate. Why, I am modifying chips and the update rate was just too slow with the ALDL based scan tools. I just switched to Direct Scan and love its speed.

Two ALDL based tools was redundant so I switched away from TurboLink.

Being fair to Turbo Link however, it works on a lot of GM vehicles, most of which have faster 8192 baud rather than 160 baud ALDL port like our cars. With the faster port I doubt Direct Scan would have the same allure.

Another tool that you can try is WinALDL. It requires you to make the cable attachment (a transistor and resistors) but the good point is that it's free to download (type WinALDL into google).

It operates in Windows, graphics are poor, but does record and allow you to export into a spread sheet. I haven't plugged it into my TR yet, but it works great on my 88 Fiero (2.8) and 91 S-10 (2.8). Turbo Regal LC2 is supported. I'm using it until I upgrade to the new Turbolink, but if you're looking to just start checking things out, you can't go wrong. I'll leave it at that for now. There are companies that sell the cables and it is popular with small L4/V6 OBDI GM folks.