The alternative VCDS VAG scans tools: ELM327, VAG401, Foxwell NT500 and Foxwell NT510

As known, VCDS is by far the most commonly-recommended scan tool for VAG products. Most have it and like it. While Looking around, though, there are a lot of inexpensive, standalone, allegedly VAG-specific tools on the market, in the following parts, there are some experiences with them including ELM327, VAG401, Foxwell NT500 and Foxwell NT510.


  1. ELM 327 Bluetooth adapter

– A lot of folks will never really have a need or do the homework to justify purchasing VCDS. Without educating yourself, VCDS is just a fancy toy.


If all you want to do is pull codes occasionally, get an ELM 327 Bluetooth adapter and use it with your smartphone and the Torque app. I have seen the adapters on fleebay for as low as $14 and Torque app for free or $9 for the non advertisement “Pro” version at the play store. As a plus, the Torque app will pull codes on pretty much any car you have.

– I have the ELM bluetooth dongle which I use to monitor transmission temp on my Excursion.


  1. VCDS or VAG401

VCDS or the VAG401 will pull VW-specific codes. These can be more specific than the OBD-II codes, as the latter are a standard set of codes used by all automakers. The VW codes also, as I understand it, cover control modules that don’t register OBD-II codes (for example, I don’t think you can use an OBD-II reader to pull codes from your radio, but you can use a VAG tool for that).


The VAG401 claims to be able to do pretty much everything VCDS can do. It can read codes, clear codes, read measuring blocks, do output tests, code modules, etc. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the UI that VCDS has. For example, the TDI timing graph tool in VCDS is great for timing your injection pump after replacing a timing belt–I wouldn’t want to do that by just reading numbers on the screen, but numbers on the screen are what you’d get with a VAG401. VCDS has a long coding assistant, breaking out multibyte module coding into individual, documented bits. I expect (haven’t tested this yet) that the VAG401 will do that coding, but you’ll need to look up the bit/byte locations yourself, and calculate the binary/hex conversion.


OTOH, the VAG401 is under $40 on, while VCDS starts at $250. The VAG401 is a compact, lightweight, standalone device that doesn’t need batteries (it’s powered by the car when you plug it in). If all you want to do is read codes on occasion, I’d think it would do fine for you. I’d suspect it would do better than the Torque/bluetooth dongle approach, due to its ability to read the VW-specific codes, though it will cost a bit more.


– I did try using it to activate my fuel pump (2013 JSW TDI), as though replacing a fuel filter. With version 8.41 of the software installed on it, when going to Engine/Basic Settings/035, it runs the pump for about a second and then the pump clicks off. It would seem there’s a bug in that version.


  1. Foxwell NT500

I have a foxwell nt500 from, its vag specific seems to work for me, mine has the uds ecu system on the car so it offers specific options up for you too use, seems to do most things, at the moment im using it to do a soot and ash level readout, i have some dpf problems. i couldnt justifiy the cost of vcds for the amount i would use it, so for the cost of £118, its seems just right for me .


If you hate dragging out your laptop everytime you need to clear a code or do something basic, and you would really like a standalone scan tool that you can leave in my car. Foxwell NT500 is the bad choice. Also Foxwell NT510 which is optional to add more vehicle brands besides VAG vehicles.


Foxwell NT510 same from looks like a very capable tool; for $179 it ought to be. I pulled the trigger on a used VCDS HEX-NET, even though I have no interest in the higher-end diagnostic functions. It should (by the time I’m through figuring things out) allow me to bypass the restriction on the original VCDS, which was running under Windows, and also being a lot handier for doing simple things like running a scan of the complete system, resetting service reminders, running the fuel pump during a filter change, etc. Plus, in the event we should sell the VW, it should also be very sellable.

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The alternative VCDS VAG scans tools: ELM327, VAG401, Foxwell NT500 and Foxwell NT510