Saab Key Debacle

Posted June 26th, 2012

Now that Saab is practically out of business those who own a 1999 or newer model had better not lose their keys.

In 1999 Saab introduced an immobilizer system that uses a transponder key. The RFID of the transponder is stored in what’s called the TWICE module. When you start the car the keys RFID is compared to what is stored in the TWICE module and if there’s a match the car will start. No match and the car won’t crank never mind start.

In 2003 they started using a Smart key or a plastic key with the remote keyless entry incorporated into the fob. The CIM module became the place where the key ID was now stored.

In their infinite wisdom Saab engineers decided a known key must be present to program additional keys. Thus if you lose all your keys there’s no way to add a key to the TWICE or CIM. In both cases the module must be changed or removed and sent out to have a RFID written to the eprom. This turns into a time consuming and costly effort for a lost key. Quotes of over $1000 for a no key situation are not uncommon and that doesn’t include the tow.

Currently there’s an issue with the availability of key blanks. With the traditional dealer supply chain no longer in place these keys have become a commodity. Luckily the 1st generation blanks contain chips that are reusable. Old used keys are being cannibalized for their chips. The chips are installed in aftermarket shells which can be cut to fit a new car, then the chip is programmed into the TWICE module.

The Smart version chip however gets ‘locked’ to the car that it’s programmed into. Recently some folks have developed a method to ‘unlock’ the chip, but the Smart key body is made of a rubber that doesn’t stand up very well. The used keys condition can be less than acceptable for resale.

We try to maintain a stock of spare keys and TWICE modules here at EKeys4Cars. It becomes more difficult each passing week. We recently found a source of Smart keys and purchased (10) for over 2 times what we use to get them from the dealer. We have yet to find a source for 1st generation blanks, but do have some remote head keys left in stock and we’re reshelling used keys as we get them. Also we have (4) or (5) TWICE modules remaining for lost key situations.

Bottom line is to protect your Saab keys. By all means don’t lose them and shop around for a spare  to keep in case of emergency.

2 Responses to Saab Key Debacle

  1. Scott McDaniel says:

    The dealership gave me 1 key. It randomly will not crank or start leaving me stranded. Im assuming the key is dying. What are my options??? I drive a 2002 saab 9-3 se

    • joann says:

      Scott, the problem is the communication between the chip and the antenna. The key is inserted into the ignition through the center of the antenna. The chips inside the head of the key are notoriously weak as far as transmitting a signal. This is a function of the distance from the antenna and the strength of the RF field.

      There are two different configuration keys. One where the top half contains the chip and the other where the side half contains the chip. We have better luck with the keys where the chip is contained in the side cover.

      I’ve heard of many an antenna being changed, but I don’t know what percent of the time that is a good fix. When you get in a situation where the car won’t crank, make sure there’s no interference between the key head and the antenna like a house key or a workout club tag.

      If it still won’t start you can lift the antenna by pinching in at 3 and 9 O’clock and lifting up. The antenna will come free of where it mounts in the center console and lifting up brings it into closer proximity with the chip. This will usually allow for a good read and a successful start.

      You can always separate the halves of the key head and place the chip right up against the antenna. DON’T LOSE THE CHIP> I repeat, DON’T LOSE THE CHIP.

      Good Luck.