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[–] alele-opathic 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago  (edited ago)

If you are even reasonably handy, I'd suggest buying a car old enough that the ECM has been reverse engineered, but not so old your wife find it uncomfortable (e.g. < 2012 or so). The key is to remember that cars have no monolithic 'computer'; everything on the car is a module (here, a smaller self-contained device [sometimes a computer] that talks to the rest of the car on a serial bus using the CAN protocol. This is almost ad absurdum since the early 2000s, e.g. the IMMO and theft protection are usually separate modules. If the ECM and its protocols are understood, you can uninstall and remove modules. Many modules MUST be uninstalled before removal (e.g. Onstar) or it breaks other things on the car.

I have no experience with Ford and Daimler-Chrysler, but GMs use a tool called a Tech2. The originals are a few grand, but cheap chinese knockoffs can be had for around $500. Be aware that sometimes you need adapters/additional interfaces for GM family cars that aren't GM (e.g. the CANDI adapter for the Saabs). If you look around the web, you'll find plenty of threads on which chinese knockoffs are reliable and which aren't. You will also need the security codes to play with restricted sections, but these are also easily found for older vehicles.