Now that mechanics have access to the best car tuning/programming software, the days of chip tuning are over. Modifying a vehicle’s ECU no longer requires you to go into the engine and manually solder the chip. Instead, you can use software to reprogram it, a much faster and less intrusive way to go about it.
Tuning means different things to different people. For some, it involves upgrading hardware in the intake system or fuel system. Others do more of the adjustments electronically, customizing the settings in the vehicle computer to maximize performance.
Whatever tuning means to you, you’ll need ECU tuning software to get the job done. Let’s take a closer look at the 10 best options so you can find the right one for you.
Best Car Tuning Software – Editor’s Pick
|Editor's Pick||Runner-up||Also Great|
|TOAD PRO||Viezu K-Suite||MaxxECUMTune PC-Software|
|Read Original ECU||✔||✔(most vehicles)||✔|
|Write ECU files||✔||✔||✔|
|Manual ECU mapping||✔||✔||✔|
|Automatic ECU mapping||✔||✔||✔|
|Supports Gasoline Vehicles||✔||✔||✔|
|Supports Diesel Vehicles||✔||✔||--|
|Software Compatibility||Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10||Android, iOS||Windows 7 or 10|
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Car Tuning Software – Editor’s Pick
- 2 What is a Car Tuning?
- 3 What Areas Can a Car Tuning Software Modify?
- 4 Best Car Tuning Software Software 2020 Review
- 4.1 1. TOAD Pro Auto Tuning Software
- 4.2 2. Viezu K-Suite Car Tuning Software
- 4.3 3. PrecisionCodeWorks ECU Remapping & Tuning Software
- 4.4 4. MaxxECU MTune PC-Software
- 4.5 5. EcuTek Car Engine Tuning Software
- 4.6 6. KESSv2 Car Performance Tuning Software
- 4.7 7. K-TAG Slave
- 4.8 8. Q-Tuning
- 4.9 9. DeltaECU
- 4.10 10. Celtic Tuning
- 4.11 11. Tactrix Software
- 5 What Do I Need To Tune My Car?
- 6 Can I Remap My ECU Myself?
- 7 Final Thoughts
- 8 FAQs
Let’s get to know what is car tuning and what you can do with car tuning software before reading the reviews!!
What is a Car Tuning?
Car tuning is when you adjust the parameters and settings in the ECU of a vehicle to optimize them for your ideal performance. Most commonly, it’s used to increase the handling, response, power, or fuel economy of the engine, though there are lots of ways you can adjust engine parameters to alter how the car performs.
In a modern vehicle, many aspects of the engine’s performance are controlled electronically through the engine control unit (ECU), also called the PCM (powertrain control module) or PCU (powertrain control unit). Because of this, tuning is predominantly a software-based process, though it may also involve upgrading or replacing mechanical components of the engine, as well.
Vehicles are tuned at the factory to satisfy the needs of the majority of drivers. Typically the emphasis for engines tuned at the factory is on maximizing safety and user comfort, as well as limiting harmful emissions. These settings often come at the sacrifice of overall power and performance.
Tuning has traditionally been associated with racing, allowing drivers to push their engines harder than would otherwise be possible. That said, the popularity of tuning has expanded in recent years, and many people who get their engines tuned have no interest in racing. With the expanded culture of car modification, the term has also come to include more cosmetic alterations, such as low-riding vehicles.
What Areas Can a Car Tuning Software Modify?
The short answer is pretty much all of them. Especially given today’s expanded definition of tuning, it can include everything from mechanical alterations to the engine block to adjustments of the interior environment, like the sound system and climate control.
With that in mind, let’s look at the most common areas that are modified during tuning.
Fuel system. This is the main area modified during performance tuning. Both the ignition timing and the amount of fuel injected can be modified to provide more power from the engine. Alterations can also be made to ensure your car is achieving the right air-to-fuel ratio.
Intake and exhaust system. Improving the cold air intake system or upgrading to a high-performance catback exhaust can increase the engine’s horsepower. These upgrades usually involve installing new components, such as a dual exhaust, in addition to chip tuning.
Transmission and gearbox. “Short-shift” modifications are one popular tuning option. This reduces the amount of time between gear shifts, increasing your acceleration. These modifications can improve horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency.
Suspension. Modifying the springs, anti-roll bars, shock absorbers, and other suspension components changes how your vehicle handles on rough roads. This can improve the handling and response of the vehicle, especially when you’re going around corners.
Tires. Changing the size of the tires affects how the car handles and changes the distance between the undercarriage and the road. Many tire replacements are made to customize the car to specific driving conditions, such as wintery weather or off-roading.
Sound system. Not all tuning involves the engine. One of the most common areas modified in vehicles is the audio system. Stock speakers and sound systems aren’t known for their sound quality and volume output. Adding subwoofers, amplifiers, or new speakers to your car can fix this common lack.
Best Car Tuning Software Software 2020 Review
1. TOAD Pro Auto Tuning Software
Both professional mechanics and home enthusiasts can make great use of the TOAD Pro software. It strikes an excellent balance between functionality and usability. While you can perform in-depth diagnostics using this software, it also allows you to tune and customize your engine. In other words, TOAD Pro gives you complete control over your vehicle’s health and performance.
TOAD stands for “Total OBD Auto Diagnostics,” and that’s an apt description of what you’ll get with this software. You can read trouble codes from the engine and transmission, along with performing emissions tests and viewing data from all 10 OBD2 modes. It also supports all-system diagnostics for 8 manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Ford, Audi, and Mazda.
What’s really impressive about TOAD Pro, though, is that it allows you to edit ECU data, as well. This means you can both analyze and adjust your horsepower, torque, fuel efficiency, and other important metrics.
We also love how easy TOAD Pro is to use. While the wealth of options can still be overwhelming for a DIY novice, the customizable graphs and dashboards make it easy to get the exact data you’re looking for. It’s also convenient that you can order it with the adapter included, making it a great all in one diagnostic package.
- Compatible with both OBD1 and OBD2 vehicles
- Easy to navigate and use
- Read and clear codes from engine and transmission on any vehicle
- Supports chip tuning to optimize performance and fuel economy
- Provides in-depth diagnostic reports
- Option to get ELM327 adapter included
- View live data in customizable dashboard
- OBD2 Programming
- Requires Window OS (no Mac or Android support)
- ABS/SRS diagnostics not supported for all manufacturers
TOAD Pro provides users with complete diagnostics, even beyond OBD2. The inclusion of tuning and optimization features makes it one of the most powerful pieces of car tuning software on the market.Check Price
2. Viezu K-Suite Car Tuning Software
For the ultimate in automotive performance tuning software, the Viezu K-Suite is what you want. It includes two powerful car tuning programs, along with helpful features that make it easy to remap any ECU.
The Vehicle List and Protocol list in the main window of Viezu K-Suite are helpful references. Use the Protocol List to see all the information you need about the ECU, along with what accessories you’ll need to tune it. The Viezu K-Suite Vehicle List shows all vehicles supported and makes specific tuning suggestions.
The KESS program that comes included in the Viezu K-Suite is one of the most comprehensive pieces of remapping software you’ll find, though it’s a bit tricky to use. The K-Suite also includes K-TAG, which uses guided programming that’s easier to use. By far, this is the best option if you’re looking for a combination of usability and functionality.
- Includes both KESS and K-TAG
- Easy to navigate and use most features
- Wide range of tools and mapping options
- Can buy full kit that includes adapter and hardware
- Updates are free and automatic
- All software written in-house
- Requires Windows (no Apple compatibility)
- Using advanced options can be complicated
The Viezu K-Suite software is feature-rich with wide vehicle and protocol compatibility, making it a great option for professionals and hobbyists alike.
3. PrecisionCodeWorks ECU Remapping & Tuning Software
PrecisionCodeWorks simplifies and automates the ECU remapping process. It’s the best car tuning software if you lack the time or knowledge to code the computer yourself. Simply read and upload the original ECU file, select which modifications you want to make, and PrecisionCodeWorks will send you a new build in a matter of seconds.
One downside of PrecisionCodeWorks is that it works on a credit system. Each new build costs credits, so it’s not the most cost-effective system if you’ll be working with multiple vehicles. You’re also limited to the build options PrecisionCodeWorks offers—it doesn’t give you the freedom to manipulate the tables yourself.
Overall, this is a better choice for hobbyists than professionals. PrecisionCodeWorks gives you less freedom, but there’s also less worry that you’ll mess up the ECU.
- Includes custom fuel tuning platform
- Multiple calibration options for diesel engines
- Quick operation
- Build your Tune function auto-writes map to your specifications
- Can modify EGR and DPF systems
- Wiki database and protocol lookup
- Requires purchase of credits for each tuning
- More limited mapping options
PrecisionCodeWorks is a great option for hobbyists, taking the guess-work out of ECU tuning. The credit system makes it more expensive for mechanics who need multiple builds.
4. MaxxECU MTune PC-Software
The MTune PC Software was designed by engineers frustrated with the complicated interface of most ECU remapping software. It keeps the main interface simple and streamlined, saving more advanced functions for side menus. This speeds things up for professionals and makes it easier to learn for beginners.
MTune offers a local autotune function. It also supports live tuning, and gives users a one-click option for accessing real-time data. The advanced features go beyond what you’ll find on most ECU tuning software, with flexible output functions that support more systems.
Not all features are supported for all vehicles and protocols. Check their website if you want to make sure your vehicle is on the list. This MTune PC-Software is also only available for Windows 7 and 10 systems, though they do offer an MDash Android app for non-Windows users.
- Fast and easy to navigate
- Free software updates released regularly
- Advanced real-time data is easy to access
- Offers 2D and 3D tuning
- Advanced features include gearbox control and wastegate control
- Not all vehicle models supported
- Can only be used on Windows 7 or 10 systems
MTune PC-Software is a versatile and feature-rich ECU remapping program. Though its available features vary between manufacturers, it’s an overall comprehensive way to retune most vehicles.
5. EcuTek Car Engine Tuning Software
EcuTek’s tuning suites are available for 7 vehicle manufacturers, including popular brands like Ford, BMW, and Honda. It supports a lot of EUCs within each of these brands, but this does limit its overall versatility compared to other car tuning software.
The best thing about EcuTek is that it’s fast and efficient. For some vehicles, you can complete the reprogramming in less than a minute. Having said that, this is a program designed for professionals, and the interface assumes a certain level of knowledge. Beginners may find navigating this software confusing.
This is the best car tuning software for optimizing engine performance after you make modifications. All of the maps are based on the OEM reading, so you don’t have to worry about any compatibility issues. It also retains all safety features of modified parameters, limiting your chance to cause unintended damage.
- Can reprogram some vehicles in less than 25 seconds
- High-speed data logging and detailed map definitions
- Maps can be duplicated and exported
- Retains all safety features of modified parameters
- Robust tuning features and options
- Allows modification of pre-set tuning programs
- Limited vehicle compatibility
- Can be confusing to navigate for beginners
The EcuTek Tuning Suites are designed for professional tuners. While the software is powerful and fairly intuitive, it’s not the ideal choice for hobbyists unfamiliar with engine coding.
6. KESSv2 Car Performance Tuning Software
KESSv2 is another ECU remapping software program designed for professionals and experts. This Master Kit does come with training courses that help you better utilize it, but it’s designed for skilled auto mechanics. For hobbyists or DIY-er, it could be overwhelming.
Having said that, few programs offer control over remapping the ECU that you’ll get from KESSv2. This is an updated version of KESS over what’s available in the K-Suite above, and it shows in the functionality. It offers the most comprehensive range of ECU customization of any car tuning software on the market.
The support available for KESSv2 is worth mentioning, as well. Their database is updated daily, and they frequently add vehicles to their compatible list. Reading and writing the ECU is quick and easy using KESSv2.
- Complete control over modification of your ECU
- Database of maps and protocols updated daily
- Includes training courses
- High-speed operation with both reading and writing
- Wide vehicle compatibility
- Can be overwhelming for inexperienced users
- Some features require subscription
KESSv2 is the best car tuning software if you want complete control over remapping and tuning your vehicle, though it may be too complicated and overwhelming for inexperienced users.
7. K-TAG Slave
Here’s another great option from Alien Tech. K-TAG Slave is a tool you can use to safely customize any aspect of your ECU. It gives you full access to the ECU but keeps things safe by guiding the programming.
From the user perspective, K-TAG is incredibly easy. Just read the original, get the custom-mapped modification, then write it back into your ECU. Now the downside of this is you’ll have to pay for each modification you make. That can add up if you work with a lot of vehicles.
K-TAG Slave also offers broad compatibility. The updated vehicle list lets it work with all major brands—more than 90,000 vehicles in all. It’s also very efficient, letting you quickly make whatever modifications you need without a worry.
- Guided programming for safer modifications
- Offers complete access to the ECU
- Read and write ECU files
- Compatible with all vehicle brands
- Cloning and backup features
- Each modification requires payment
- No option for independent modifications
K-TAG Slave enables you to easily and quickly create custom ECU maps for more than 90,000 vehicles. It gives safe, full access to the ECU for risk-free modifications.
Quantum Tuning is a global brand for chip tuning, with dealers in 83 countries around the world. Their remapping programs include options for RVs and large trucks along with passenger cars, vans, and trucks.
The Q-Tuning software is a great choice for garages that want to offer retuning for a wider range of vehicles. It gives you three remapping options. Quantum Green improves performance of diesel engines, Quantum Blue is developed for hybrid performance, and Quantum Red boosts power and performance in any gas or diesel engine.
Q-Tuning isn’t your best software option if you want to make independent customizations or view live or graphic tuning. For quickly optimizing performance, however, it’s a great choice.
- Compatible with more vehicle types
- Easy to use
- Works well with diesel engines
- Can be installed on up to 10 devices simultaneously
- Optimized maps deliver improved engine performance
- Only supports Windows devices
- Doesn’t allow independent ECU coding
Q-Tuning is the best car tuning software for diesel engines, with multiple remapping options that can be implemented quickly and safely.
DeltaECU is EcuTek’s software for reprogramming the ECU. It allows for accurate remapping, and is designed with professionals in mind. Like other advanced programs, professionals will find its use easy and intuitive, but it’s not the best option for beginners. In fact, you have to be a professional tuner to get it.
DeltaECU is fast and efficient. With most vehicles, you can reprogram the ECU in two minutes or less. Tuneable parameters include ignition timing, throttle input, speed limiting, and many more. DeltaECU also has graphic map views so you can identify issues more quickly.
DeltaECU puts a world of customization and programming options at your fingertips. There’s a reason you have to be a professional to use it. This is one of the most powerful pieces of car tuning software you’ll find.
- Allows reprogramming of original ECU
- Reprogram vehicles in less than 2 minutes
- Supports cloning and duplication of maps
- Wide range of tunable parameters
- Includes graphic map views
- Requires professional knowledge to use
- Only available to commercial tuners
Commercial tuning experience is required to purchase the DeltaECU software, which is a powerful and comprehensive option for ECU tuning.
10. Celtic Tuning
Celtic Tuning writes the ECU maps for you when you use their Super Chip service. Among the maps offered are optimization of the air/fuel ratio, changing the boost pressure, and updating exhaust gas temperature settings.
Now this isn’t a program that lets you get inside the ECU and customize it yourself. You will be able to fully customize your remapping, but it’s ultimately written by the Celtic Tuning programmers. That’s a great thing if you’re less experienced, but does limit its functionality.
The technical support you get from Celtic Tuning is top-notch. You can count on their remaps to optimize performance, and their tuning services are available for most vehicle brands.
- Offers range of options from component upgrades to full engine conversions
- Works on all ages of ECU, including older models
- Wide array of compatible manufacturers
- Excellent technical support
- Supports diesel tuning and DPF removal
- No independent ECU coding options
- Doesn’t offer live or graphic tuning
Celtic Tuning lets you work with experts to customize any aspect of a vehicle ECU, though it doesn’t offer the hands-on mapping options of other car tuning software.
11. Tactrix Software
Tactrix uses an XML-based interface to translate ECU data into language that’s easier to read and understand. This makes it easier to manipulate the maps and make your own modifications. It also supports live tuning and shows graphical representations of data, though it lacks the sophistication for 3D modeling.
One thing to note: Tactrix Software is a work in progress. At the moment, the vehicle support is limited to Subaru and Mitsubishi. However, the company is working to expand its functions and improve the software overall, so it’s likely to become more powerful in the future.
At the moment, Tactrix Software is an intriguing option for recoding the ECU, even if its applications are limited. It certainly has promise to be a powerful tool for tuning and remapping.
- Allows editing of ECU data in a user-friendly interface
- Supports live tuning
- Graphical data view
- Interactive database will allow more editing options in the future
- Easy to install and learn
- Currently only supports Subaru and Mitsubishi
- No pre-loaded maps or programs
Tactrix Software is a bit rough around the edges and has limited vehicle compatibility, but it’s an innovative approach to editing the ECU.
What Do I Need To Tune My Car?
Tuning a vehicle requires you to access the input tables in your vehicle’s engine control unit (ECU). This requires two things:
- Automotive tuner software. The level of ECU access you need to tune a car requires a specialized software, like the 10 above.
- OBDII adapter. Diagnostic data is transmitted through your vehicle’s OBDII port. An OBD2 adapter lets the software communicate with the ECU for retuning.
Can I Remap My ECU Myself?
With the right tools, yes. The ECU remapping software programs above grant anyone access to a vehicle’s ECU. Having said that, though, remapping an ECU is a delicate and complicated process. It’s not something that’s advised for just any home mechanic to undertake.
You can think of the ECU map as the computer’s instructions to the engine. Hundreds of parameters are defined in the various tables, dictating the spark timing, air-to-fuel ratio, and other important engine processes. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can cause serious and irreversible damage.
There are vehicle-specific guides online explaining how to best remap the ECU. If you don’t have a lot of experience with engine coding and programming, it’s advised to download one of these guides and read through it before you start. Taking the time to know what you’re doing can save you a lot of money and headaches down the line.
A retune can greatly improve your vehicle’s performance. It’s not something for a novice to undertake. For experienced home mechanics, however, the best car tuning software can save you a lot of money on a professional ECU remap.
Software programs that offer custom remapping written by experts are a great way to go if you’re not confident in your ECU coding skills. This lets you quickly optimize engine performance without the risk of causing any problems. Best of luck finding the car tuning software that’s right for you!
1. Does tuning the engine void my vehicle’s manufacturer’s warranty?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes in many cases. Whatever aspect of your vehicle has been modified will, in most cases, no longer be covered under warranty after modification. This is the big reason you want to have your car tuned by a verified professional rather than doing it yourself at home, unless you’re professionally trained or highly skilled in automotive repair.
The good news is, any parts of the vehicle that haven’t been altered will still be covered. If you tune the transmission and driveline to enhance performance, for example, the powertrain portion of your warranty will be voided, but your warranty covering things like the AC or window controls will still be valid.
2. Does tuning an engine increase fumes and emissions?
Not if it’s done correctly. All vehicles still need to comply by state regulations for emissions and professional mechanics are aware of these standards. A reputable mechanic will not tune your car in such a way that it’s illegal to operate in your state.
3. Will my car go faster after a performance tune?
In many cases yes, though this isn’t the primary goal. Engine tuning is primarily aimed at improving the torque and response of the engine in its lower and middle speed ranges, giving the car more “pick-up” so it can go from 0 to 60 more efficiently. Increased maximum speed is often a side-effect of this boost in torque, as well, though it’s relatively minor, rarely more than 10 miles per hour faster than its previous maximum speed.
4. What is an engine remap? Is that the same thing as tuning?
A “remap” is a blanket term used to describe a set of modifications to the ECU and is a popular form of engine tuning. During a remap, multiple aspects of the engine’s performance are recalibrated together with the aims of accomplishing a specific goal, most commonly boosting the output and power.
5. Will getting my car tuned affect my insurance premium?
That depends on what kind of modification you get and the policies in place at your insurance agency. Some will raise your premium if you retune your engine to improve its output. If you’re concerned about this, check with your insurance company before you make any modifications to your vehicle.
6. How does tuning an engine improve the fuel efficiency?
The higher the gear your engine is in, the more efficiently it runs and the less fuel it uses. Tuning your engine allows you to reach higher gears more quickly, reducing the amount of time you’re in a gas-guzzling lower gear. This is the main reason tuning your engine can often improve your vehicle’s MPG.
7. What is detuning?
This is the process of restoring a vehicle to its original factory standards. Basically it means removing the modifications, or un-doing whatever tuning has been done to it.