Looking for a scanner for ECU programming? I’ve got you covered!
However, I understand that terms like ECU Programming and ECU Coding can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. It’s easy to misunderstand what you’re actually looking for.
Don’t worry. In my post, I discuss scanners that offer both ECU Programming and ECU Coding functions, so you don’t have to search elsewhere.
I also provide clear explanations to help you understand the difference between the two. It’s all there to make things easier for you.
Table of contents:
- Best Scan Tools with ECU Programming/ ECU Coding: Overview Table
- ECU Programming vs. ECU Coding: What’s Are the Differences?
- 4 Best Scan Tools with ECU Programming
- 3 Best Scan Tools with ECU Coding
Best Scan Tools with ECU Programming/ ECU Coding: Overview Table[Mobile users: Swipe left for full table]
|Autel Ultra||Above $3000||ECU Programming||Check Price
|LAUNCH X431 PRO5||$1000 – $3000||ECU Programming||Check Price|
|TOPDON Phoenix Pro||$1000 – $3000||ECU Programming||Check Price|
|XTOOL D9 PRO||$1000 – $3000||ECU Programming||Check Price|
|OBDeleven Ultimate Pack||Under $500||ECU Coding||Check Price|
|TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro||Under $500||ECU Coding||Check Price|
|Launch X431 V Pro||$500 – $1000||ECU Coding||Check Price|
ECU Programming vs. ECU Coding: What Are the Differences?
I can see that you might be a bit confused about the terms “ECU coding” and “ECU programming”, and you’re not sure if they mean the same thing. Well, they are different, and let me shed some light on this for you in the simplest way possible.
|ECU PROGRAMMING||ECU CODING|
|Quick explanation||• Changing or updating the software inside the ECU|
• Add new features or functions to the ECU
|• Updating existing code in the ECU
• Match replaced ECUs, unlock hidden functions
|Purpose||• Improve vehicle performance|
• Customize driving experiment
|• Keep ECU up-to-date
• Customize common driving experiment
|Fit for||• Professionals, technicians, repair shop ||• Professionals, DIYers, entry-pro
|Level of tasks||• Complex, programming knowledge required||• Much easier|
4 Best Scan Tools with ECU Programming[Mobile users: Swipe left for full table]
|Product||ECU Programming available on||Key value|
|Autel Ultra||BMW/ Benz||• Best for automotive shop|
• Best hardware & battery
|LAUNCH X431 PRO5||BMW/ Benz||• Affordable price||Check Price|
|TOPDON Phoenix Pro||Mercedes, VAG Group, Nissan & Jaguar/Land Rover/ Subaru/ Renault/ Hyundai||• ECU Programming for 13 brands||Check Price|
|XTOOL D9 PRO||Benz/ BMW/ VW/ AUDI/ SKODA/ FORD (offline)/ MAZDA (offline)||• Shop-level performance|
• Good battery life
- Autel MaxiSys Ultra: Best for Automotive Shop
- Launch X431 PRO5: Most affordable
- TOPDON Phoenix Pro: Another good value option
- XTOOL D9 PRO: Best Money-saver
#1. Autel MaxiSys Ultra: Best for automotive shop
- 5-in-1 VCMI functionality
- Advanced BMW and Benz ECU programming and coding
- Comprehensive reset services
- 8+ hours of battery life
- Split screen
- Only programs two vehicle brands
- Technical support could be bette
What Makes Me Like Altel Ultra?
1. Dealer-level ECU Programming function
This scanner is among my best choice when it comes to OE-level ECU programming on Benz/ BMW. Autel Ultra can:
- Post-programming Learning,
- Programming Restoration,
- Vehicle Configuration Synchronization,
- Read/ write Adjustment Value,
- Implicit Coding
It’s like this super advanced scanner has everything that is needed in an automotive shop. And sure, all the mentioned functions work flawlessly during my tests. I can confirm that Autel Ultra is a heavy competitor with the Snap-On platform.
2. Super strong hardware and large battery capacity
The Autel Ultra has a powerful 8-core CPU, which makes it very reliable. I have not experienced any connection problems or issues, even when using it for demanding tasks.
The Autel MaxiSys Ultra also has a long-lasting battery with a capacity of 18,000 mAh. It can work continuously for 8+ hours without losing power. This is great because it saves time and I don’t have to charge it constantly.
Overall, these features make the Autel Ultra the perfect choice for any automotive shop.
3. The advanced 5-in-1 VCMI that worth $2000
The Autel MaxiSys Ultra is a tool that is very helpful for managing busy repair needs. It comes with a 5-in-1 VCMI, which means it can be used as an Oscilloscope, Waveform Generator, Multimeter, or CAN Bus Tester, and has dual Wi-Fi connections for VCI connection.
The connection between the VCMI and the Ultra is fast and easy.
Additionally, the stable dual Wi-Fi makes it easy to download updates without losing connection to the car.
What I Dislike?
I’ve had a great experience with the Autel Ultra scanner, and I haven’t heard any complaints from others either.
The only thing that might give you pause is the price and the yearly update fee ($1695/year, with the first year’s update included for free).
However, if you’re buying it for professional or garage use, I can assure you that the Autel Ultra is definitely worth the investment. It’s a reliable tool that will serve you well.
Today’s best Autel MaxiSys Ultra price:
#2. Launch X431 PRO5: Most affordable ECU programmer
Price: Under $2,000
- Supports online ECU programming
- Screen is readable in the sun
- Extensive protocols coverage
- Intuitive topology display
- Has a learning curve for some users
- Low battery capacity
What Makes Me Like Launch X431 PRO5?
1. ECU coding and programming using a smart box
Although I love this feature, I have to admit that you’ll need some OBD2 knowledge to perform them without issues.
One of the best things about X431 Pro5’s ECU programming is that you can download the OEM software from the manufacturer’s server using Smartbox 3.0.
Then it’s easy to replace a vehicle’s software and firmware in the ECU or program new ECUs.
In addition, you can rewrite code for replaced components, helping you activate or deactivate specific module functions.
2. Useful topology map
I found this map invaluable since it communicates with all the modules on the vehicle and shows their communication structure.
It lets you see the fault module, DTC definition, and why the DTC came up. Furthermore, the scanner color codes the status of the modules. Thus, it saves time and helps you work efficiently.
3. Covers more vehicles than other scanners
Launch X431 PRO5 supports all diagnostic protocols, especially:
- DoIP: E and F Chassis BMWs and new Land Rover/Jaguar cars.
- J2534: Toyota, Honda, Volvo, etc.
- CAN FD: new vehicles from GM.
Hence it can support more car models than its peers on the market.
What I Dislike?
1. Can only reprogram ECU for two car brands
Launch X431 PRO5 used to offer programming functionality for 20+ brands. Unfortunately, it changed in Nov 2022.
According to US law, Launch X431 PRO5 can now only be used to reprogram Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
2. Low battery capacity
The 7000 mAh battery capacity on this unit cannot provide enough juice to run it for a considerable time.
It will be back to be charged in around 3-4 hours, which will be inconvenient for busy auto shops.
Today’s best Launch X431 PRO5 price:
#3. TOPDON Phoenix Pro: Another good value option for ECU Programming
Price: Under $2,000
The TOPDON Phoenix Pro is a versatile ECU programming tool that supports multiple car brands.
- Poweful ECU Programming
- User-friendly & fast
- Wide vehicle coverage
- Long battery life
No major cons
What Makes Me Like TOPDON Phoenix Pro?
1. Powerful ECU Programming for many vehicle brands
The thing I like about this TOPDON Phoenix Pro can perform the ECU programming functions on many car brands, it supports up to 13 brands including Benz, BMW, AUDI, VW/SKODA/SEAT, Porsche, Jaguar/Land Rover, Nissan, Subaru, Renault, Hyundai.
If you often work with European vehicle makes, the Phoenix Pro’s online programming feature will be particularly helpful in keeping up with all the necessary programming tasks.
2. Great design and user-friendly interface
I absolutely love the design of the TOPDON Phoenix Pro. It has a modern and luxurious feel, making it look expensive. The scanner also comes with an adjustable kickstand, which is very convenient.
Moreover, this device has an incredibly user-friendly interface. All the features are well-organized, making it easy to find and use specific functions. Navigating through the interface is a breeze.
3. Long battery life and fast speed
When choosing a scan tool for use in the garage, the two most important factors I consider are battery life and speed. In these regards, TOPDON Phoenix Pro surpasses my expectations.
With its impressive 15000mAh battery capacity, TOPDON Phoenix Pro enables me to use the scanner for an entire day without needing to recharge.
Furthermore, TOPDON’s products are known for their lightning-fast speed, TOPDON Phoenix Pro is not an exception. This speed allows me to quickly identify and solve problems, making the repair process much quicker and more productive.
What I dislike
So far, I haven’t encountered any significant issues with this scanner. If I come across any problems in the future, I will update you promptly.
Today’s best TOPDON Phoenix Pro price:
#4. XTOOL D9 Pro: Best money saver
Price: Under $1,500
The XTOOL D9BT Pro is an affordable scan tool that offers ECU programming functions and a wide range of service capabilities.
- Affordable price & update fee
- 3-year free updates
- 42+ service functions
- Limited function coverage
What Makes Me Like Launch XTOOL D9 Pro?
1. Reliable ECU Programming for 7 brands
The XTOOL D9 Pro is currently the most affordable scan tool available that offers ECU programming functions. However, being affordable does not mean that it is of poor quality or performance. With this tool, you can access hidden functions, add new features to the ECU, and disable annoying features.
This advanced feature is available on these car models: BMW, VW, Audi, Skoda, Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Mazda, Ford, and Lincoln.
So if you’re planning to enter the programming field, investing in the XTOOL D9 Pro would be a safe choice.
2. XTOOL D9BT Pro has 42+ maintenance services
The XTOOL D9 Pro is an advanced scanner that can cover a wide range of service functions, from basic to advanced ones. It’s difficult to list everything, but some of my favorite functions include
- Odometer read
- VIN write
- Gear learning
- Key programming
3. Great customer support
This is what I always compliment every time I review an XTOOL product. Their tech support is king! You can ask them anything about their products or report any problem and they with answer and solve everything for you as soon as possible.
4. XTOOL D9 Pro is the best money saver
The fact is that an under-$1500 scan tool can perform ECU Programming and all the shop-level functions are impressive.
What’s even better is that it comes with a 3-year free update, which is longer than what most advanced scanners offer (usually only 1 or 2 years). Additionally, the update fee is only $399 per year, which is quite affordable.
What I dislike
1. Service functions may not work on some vehicles
It’s worth noting that just because a product claims to have a certain function doesn’t necessarily mean it will work on your specific vehicle.
In my experience testing XTOOL products, they don’t have the same vehicle and functional coverage as the big players in the diagnostics world like Launch and Autel.
But that doesn’t mean the XTOOL D9 Pro is a bad product. It still offers a lot of reliable functions for many vehicles, even if it may not cover every single one.
Today’s best XTOOL D9 Pro price:
4 Best Scan Tools with Programming Capability Full Comparison Chart
|Program new ECUs|
|Upgrade ECU software|
|Number of service functions|
|Cars & light trucks|
|Heavy duty trucks|
|CAN FD/ DOIP protocols|
|DESIGN & HARDWARE|
3 Best Scan Tools with ECU Coding[Mobile users: Swipe left for full table]
|Product||ECU Coding available on||Key value|
|OBDeleven Ultimate Pack||BMW/ VAG Group||• Long coding & adaptation|
• One-click Coding options
|TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro||Numerous car brands||• Affordable price|
• DIYers’ Choice
|Launch X431 V Pro||Numerous car brands||• Professionals’ Choice|
• Wide vehicle coverage
- OBDeleven: Best for VAG group
- TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro: DIYers’ Choice
- Launch X431 V Pro: Professionals’ Choice
#1. OBDeleven Ultimate Pack: Best choice for VAG group
Price: Under $200
What Makes Me Like OBDeleven?
1. Super advanced long coding for VAG group:
OBDEleven is renowned for its super advanced coding and long coding capabilities for VAG group vehicles. The long coding function, accessible through the Control Unit menu, allows professionals to explore hidden aspects of the vehicle. It’s a feature I can spend hours delving into.
2. Change car behavior with one click:
OBDEleven offers a wide range of pre-programmed coding options, making it easy for users to customize their vehicles without requiring expert knowledge.
From turning on/off comfort features to unlocking hidden functions, you can make changes with a simple click. Popular choices include
- modifying side marker lights,
- activating unique-looking lights,
- and changing the cockpit theme.
3. Dealer-level functions for VAG group & BMW:
OBDEleven is my go-to choice for VAG vehicles due to its extensive capabilities:
- advanced diagnostics,
- car feature customization,
- and coding/adaptation options.
While it may not have the same level of advanced functions for BMW as the VAG group, it still provides advanced diagnostics and car customization features.
What I dislike
It’s worth noting that ECU Coding and other advanced features are only fully supported for certain vehicle types, specifically VAG group models and some BMW models.
If you have a different make or model, OBDEleven can still assist you with basic OBD2 diagnostics and engine-related problems. However, for more advanced functionalities, it’s important to check their official website to see which features are available for your specific car.
Today’s best OBDeleven Ultimate Pack price:
#2. TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro: DIYers’ Choice
Price: Under $500
- ECU coding for BMW
- Bi-directional control
- 31 service functions
- Cover all car brands
- No wireless connection
What Makes Me Like TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro?
1. ECU Coding on different car brands
You know, when it comes to scanners that can handle ECU coding in this price range, some of them are limited to specific car brands like BMW or the VAG group.
However, there’s this TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro that I’ve personally tested, and let me tell you, it’s quite remarkable. It supports a diverse range of models, including Mercedes, Honda, Ford, and more.
It’s truly a fantastic tool that allows you to customize your car according to your preferences.
2. Best fit for DIYers
The Launch V Pro is designed more for professionals, whereas the TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro is the ideal choice for DIYers. Here’s why:
- Comprehensive Diagnostics and Maintenance
- Wide Car Brand Support
- Reliable Performance and Battery Life
Considering these aspects, the TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro is a reliable choice for DIYers like yourself who take care of multiple vehicles.
Its comprehensive functionality, broad brand support, and dependable performance make it an excellent tool to have in your garage.
What I dislike?
Honestly, I haven’t encountered any major issues with this scanner so far. Occasionally, there might be a specific function that doesn’t work on one or two particular car models, but that’s a common problem with most OBD2 scanners. I wouldn’t hold it against TOPDON for that.
Now, let’s talk about its design. Unlike what you might expect, it’s not a wireless scanner. However, I actually appreciate the fact that it’s wired because it ensures a highly reliable connection.
Today’s best TOPDON ArtiDiag Pro price:
#3. Launch X431 V Pro: Professionals’ Choice
Price: Under $1,000
The Launch X431 V Pro is a comprehensive bidirectional tool for advanced repairs and maintenance in every garage, offering reliable performance on a wide range of vehicles.
- Full Bi-directional Control
- Wide vehicle coverage
- Super fast performance
- ECU Coding
- Complex menu
- Bad tech support
What Makes Me Like Launch X431 V Pro?
1. Offline & Online ECU Coding functions are available on numerous car brands
The Launch X431 V Pro offers advanced functions for ECU Coding on a wide range of car brands. I have personally used this feature on brands such as Nissan, Ford, Porsche, and BMW, and it worked perfectly.
With the Launch X431 V Pro, you can easily:
- Match new replacement modules
- Disable some annoying features
- Activate various functions to optimize your driving experience.
2. Many advanced functions that fit professional use
Beside the ECU Coding function, Launch X431 V Pro also offer numerous advanced and reliable features that serve the professional vehicle diagnostic and maintenance needs:
- OEM-level bidirectional control on all vehicle systems
- Key programming
- 37+ service functions (relearn, reset, calibration, etc.)
3. Strong hardware & wide vehicle coverage
One thing I really like about the Launch X431 V Pro is its stable performance. The scanner has a lightning-fast scanning speed and smooth connection to the vehicle, making it incredibly efficient to use.
Another great feature is its wide compatibility with various vehicles. Whether you work with a diverse range of vehicles or have multiple cars in your family, this scanner is a perfect option. It can support nearly all vehicles that come into your garage, simplifying your diagnostic and maintenance tasks.
What I dislike
Launch X431 V Pro, just like many other Launch products, may encounter issues with Auto-VIN identification. It may not always automatically detect the VIN on certain car models, then you have to input it manually.
Although this process is not overly difficult or time-consuming, it can be inconvenient, especially if you work with numerous vehicles daily.
Today’s best Launch X431 V Pro price:
3 Best Scan Tools with ECU Coding Full Comparison Chart
|Number of service functions|
|DESIGN & HARDWARE|
And that’s it for my reviews!
I really hope you found the information on ‘ECU programming’ and ‘ECU coding’ helpful, and that you can find the perfect scan tool that fits your needs and budget. Happy scanning!