Say, how powerful is that “Torque” app, anyway?

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about “Torque”, but I never bothered to take the plunge and get a bluetooth dongle, mostly because both of my vehicles are pre-OBDII. In fact, I’ve only ever owned one OBDII car: a ’96 Thunderbird. It belongs to my sister now, and I do help her work on it from time to time, as well as taking on shadetree work beyond that. And who knows, maybe I’ll find myself owning another OBDII car some day.

I do have a code reader (Innova 3120) that will let me pull/erase codes and display freeze frame data, but there’s a lot that it can’t do. Particularly frustrating was this one time when my T-bird developed a misfire that was not reported via a flashing MIL or stored code. I didn’t even realize that it was misfiring, until I took it to a shop for diagnosis and they found it.

I don’t know what they used to find it, or why the car failed to tell me that it was happening. I’ve heard that dealers have something called “IDS” that they hook up to help diagnose cars; maybe that was it. Is that the same thing as a modern scan tool, just tailored for Fords?

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I’m really hoping to avoid getting stumped by something so simple as a misfire in the future, while at the same time having access to a wider range of diagnostic tools. My tablet has come in super-handy for keeping wiring diagrams and digital service manuals on hand without having to worry about getting grease on the pages. If possible, I’d really love to be able to use this (Android) device as a scan tool as well.

I’ve been watching those bluetooth OBDII dongles come down in price and become more widely available. Seems to me that it’s just a matter of getting one and hunting down the right software to communicate with the car. It looks like that “Torque” app has more to offer than just a being a code reader. Can it function as a full-feature scan tool as well? Are there any other apps that I should consider getting that are as good, or better?

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And while we’re on the topic, I’m also curious if there’s any chance that I could use my tablet to access older ALDL or EEC -equipped vehicles. It sure would be nice to not have to do the paperclip thing and sit there counting MIL flashes just to pull codes. Of course, those would need separate dongles (or adapters?)...