GM 96-97: The “odd” years

Lately, we have been getting a lot of questions from people with 96-97 GM vehicles looking for a tuning solution.  Unfortunately, these are transitional years where the electronics are incompatible with either the earlier and later computers that are well supported.

There are a few solutions for people with 96-97 computers:

-Convert to a 94-95 ECM that is well-supported by TunerCATS OBD1.  This will require an ALDU1+CABL2 combo, TunerCATS OBD1 tuner ($69.95) with a single definition file ($EE – $19.95) OR TunerCats WinFLash and TunerPro RT with the $EE definition, along with a new 94-95 ECM.  This may involve minor wiring changes.  Arguably the most simple and straightforward option.  Preserves all engine sensors, distributor, etc.  This option will work for LTx engines ONLY.  96-97 Vortecs must use another option.

-Convert to a 98+ ECM that is well-supported by EFI Live.  This will involve more substantial wiring changes and a supported 98+ ECM.  This will involve a 24x reluctor conversion kit. (See here for more information.)  This is *NOT EASY OR SIMPLE* but arguably provides the best solution because quality, trusted LSx electronics replace many problematic parts on the earlier engines such as replacing  the Optispark system with coil-near-plug as found on the LSx.

-Use TunerCATS OBD2 Tuner.  Even though there are no hardware changes needed for this, I put it towards the bottom of the list.  TunerCATS OBD2 Tuner is only available with Roadrunner ECM hardware because of licensing restrictions BUT Roadrunner hardware isn’t compatible with 96-97 ECMs.  You will end up having to spend $489 on a RoadRunner guts kit (that you can’t use on a 96-97 ECM!), $280 on the  TunerCat RTOBD2 package, and $80 on a definition for your ECM.  Grand total: $850.  Now go back and compare costs to the two conversion options above if you wonder why I didn’t list this option first…