Product Review: SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer

Custom Tunes and Improved Performance in a Flash

SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer
SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer. Photo © Jonathan P. Lamas

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Back in 2008, I modified my Mustang by installing a performance exhaust system along with JBA headers. To compensate for the changes made to the stock set up, I invested in a programmer. I researched several different models, at the time, and settled on the SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer. This hand held tuner (which has since been discontinued) overwrites the existing tune on your car's computer and can be customized specifically for your vehicle. It also comes pre-loaded with a several strategies to increase the performance of your Mustang.

A Customized Performance Solution

In 2008, there were several popular programmers for the Mustang. There was the chip style programmer which plugs into the J3 port on your Mustang’s stock ECU. Then you had the hand held style tuner which plugs into your car's OBD-II port. The SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer was of the hand held variety.

There were two popular types of hand held programmers: Strategy Tuners and Custom Tuners. The X3 is a hybrid tuner, which means it has characteristics of both. While some tuners are limited to generic pre-programmed tunes only, the SCT X3 can be custom programmed for your specific vehicle by an SCT dealer. Like the other programmers, the X3 also comes equipped with some general performance tunes for a variety of vehicles, but it's not limited in that regard. My custom tune took into account all the existing modifications on my Mustang, such as the new exhaust and headers.

Another great feature of the X3 programmer is that you can modify the tune to suit your needs. Say you decide to add a cold air intake to your Mustang. The SCT allows you to modify your tune to take into account the new changes. As such, you’re not locked into the one tune set up by your dealer.

In all, the X3 Power Flash Programmer can modify the following parameters:

  • Fuel Type
  • Spark Adjustment
  • Axle Ratio Selection
  • MAF Meter Selection
  • Tire Size Selection
  • Fuel Injector Size Selection
  • Cooling Fan On/Off Temperature
  • Disable Traction Control
  • Two Step On/Off RPM
  • Automatic Shift Control
  • Speed Limiter
  • Idle RPM


Additional Features

In addition to modifying your computer's settings, the X3 programmer has the ability to read and clear DTC trouble codes. I don't know about you, but I think this is great. It saves you the hassle of having to take your car into the dealership just to have them tell you everything's okay.

The SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer also features data logging and monitoring for those looking to truly examine their vehicle’s performance. Data logged information can be viewed through the company's program, Live Link, on a Windows-based laptop or PC. This requires an additional cord (must be purchased separately) which plugs into the bottom of the hand held unit.

In all, the programmer can store up to 3 custom tunes programmed by SCT dealers. Of note, you can only use the tuner on one vehicle at a time. If you want to use it on another vehicle, you'll have to return your existing vehicle to stock using the hand held programmer. Then you can proceed to tune another vehicle. Since custom tunes are for a specific vehicle, you should talk to your dealer before installing one of these on your new ride.

Using the Tuner

Using the SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer is fairly simple. As long as you follow the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. Just remember, you’re reconfiguring your Mustang's on board computer. In all, that's pretty serious business.

The X3 Programmer features a cord which connects the hand held unit to your Mustang's OBD-II port. This is located under the driver's side-dash. With the ignition key in the off position, you start by plugging the cord into the OBD-II port. The programmer features a large backlit display which displays menu options. It will light up when you plug the unit into the port. The tuner itself features up and down arrows, as well as left and right arrows. You use these arrows to navigate through the menus. In all, I found the set up easy to use. It’s pretty simple with easy to follow directions.

To tune you Mustang, you simply go through the options (Program Vehicle, Vehicle Info, Data Capture, etc.) and make the desired selections. When you’re finished making your selections, the X3 will ask you if you want to tune the vehicle. If so, you'll be instructed to turn the key to the on position, which starts the tuning process.

Once the tune is complete, you’re prompted to turn the ignition to the off position again. After exiting from the tune menu, you can unplug the unit from your OBD-II port. Your Mustang is now custom tuned. That was fast.

Final Take: SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer

In all, I really like my SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer. It's easy to use, was moderately priced at $379.99, and it's custom programmed for my specific Mustang. Best of all, I've noticed a positive difference in the performance of my ride after installing the tune. For instance, the shift points on this automatic Mustang have improved, resulting in quicker acceleration and improved performance.

I've used performance chips in the past, and although they worked, they didn't offer as many features as the X3 programmer. With the X3, I can modify my custom tune as I add more performance accessories to my ride. For instance, I plan to add a cold air intake in the near future. My programmer is set up to take that modification into account. I also like being able to diagnose and clear trouble codes. I had a 2001 Mustang that constantly gave me false trouble codes. I spent plenty of time and money at the dealership back in the day having them cleared. The X3 can save time and money. My favorite feature is ease of use. The process is simple.

Although I have yet to dyno my ride after the install, SCT says their X3 Power Flash Programmer provides an estimated 11 RWHP to 4.0L 2005-2008 Mustangs and 17 RWHP gains for 4.6L 2005-2008 Mustangs. The 3.8L Mustangs years 1996-2004 can expect to get 19 additional RWHP, while their 4.6L counterparts can expect 11 RWHP. The best predicted power gain, so far, is for the Shelby GT500. SCT says this programmer can add 57 RWHP to the car's existing output.

To learn more about the SCT X3 Power Flash Programmer, visit their official web site.