DIY - Saab Knowledge Base

What to Do if You Lose Your Saab Car Keys?

Saab 9-3 key fob

The key to the car is no more than it was twenty years ago. It used to be no wonder if you could open and turn on a neighbor’s Volkswagen with the keys to your Golf 2. Today, the keys are better made, but the main element of protection against vehicle theft or copying the key is not the mechanical production itself, but an electronic chip that contains a code that corresponds to the code of the electronic engine control unit.

With Saab cars, the keys have been much more complex for a long time, and everything is in the function of improving security. That is why, starting in 1995, Saab started installing immobilizers in cars with alarm systems and appropriate electronic keys.

What is an immobilizer?

The main goal of this device is to protect the car from theft. It does this by interrupting the electrical circuit that ensures the operation of the ignition system, fuel supply and starter. It is equipped with a more advanced intelligent system as opposed to an alarm.

Any immobilizer consists of the following elements:

  • Electronic control unit – Its task is to process the signals generated by auto nodes, decrypt and give the necessary commands based on such data.
  • Electronic relay – Its functions include the interruption of electric current, through which the launch of vehicle units is started.
  • Fuel valve – They are often installed on new system models to block the supply of gasoline or diesel fuel to the system.
  • Ignition key.

Do not lose the key (key-fob), because without it the car will not start, because the recognition takes place on a chip built into such a key. Of course, the most important advice for all Saab car owners who need to remember about immobilizer keys and remote controls is: “Always have a spare key available“.


Older models of Saab cars

The good or bad news is that owners of Saab cars manufactured in 1994 and earlier will not have any major problems because these cars do not use an alarm system in the style of an immobilizer based on a coded key. The good news is that it is easier to get a new spare key, and the bad news is that this is worse due to the possibility of car theft.

However, only some Saab 900 and Saab 9000 models had a built-in protection called “Saab Guard” which was an early rather “primitive” anti-theft system and did not use a remote control. Since 1995, Saab has been installing immobilizer alarm systems in its vehicles, and these vehicles have come with a separate keyless entry remote control. Through the Tech2 diagnostic device, this add-on was paired with the car, and the classic key has no security features.

Saab keys

Saab 9-3 2003-2011

However, certainly the most numerous and most represented model of Saab car is currently Saab 9-3, so in the following text we will deal with the keys for this model. Only with the Saab 9-3 model, which was introduced in 2003, new modern features were added to the alarm system.

The most important difference compared to all previous keys was in the new key-fob, which hid a traditional metal key, but was not needed to enter and start the car. Depending on the model and the level of equipment, it has also become possible to remotely open the windows or the roof of the convertible model, to activate the so-called Hello lighting and activate the panic alarm.

Most owners of these Saab cars have 2 key-fobs and those cars are added exclusively through a specialized Tech2 device, and also at least one of these must be correct and functional.

The biggest problem occurs if you lose both keys or neither of these keys will be able to be read by the car when inserted into the ignition switch. In that case, the CIM module must be replaced along with 2 new Genuine Saab keys.

CIM Module

Here we explain in a few words how CIM and key-fob work. Inserting the key in the ignition switch will wake up the Column Integration Module (CIM) and unlock the steering column. The key can then be turned past LOCK to OFF and then to ON and ST. The key is blocked mechanically so that it can only be removed in LOCK position. As soon as the key is inserted the ignition switch module (ISM) will continuously send key position to the CIM. The CIM then conveys key position to the P and I-bus. The engine control module (ECM) is responsible for the starter motor being activated in ST position.

Ignition Switch Module, ISM
Ignition Switch Module, ISM

Main task of Ignition Switch Module, ISM

The ignition switch (ISM) is linked with the column integration module (CIM) and the
steering column lock (SCL) and has the following uses:

  • Send the transponder code to CIM via the communication cable for identification.
  • Send the key position to CIM via the communication cable for forwarding to the buses.
  • Send the remote control ba ttery status to the ClM via the communication cable in order to display a battery warning on the SlD.
  • Prevent the key being turned from LOCK to OFF before the transponder code has be approved and SCL unlocked.
  • Prevent the key being turned from OFF to LOCK before the car has stopped and the selector lever has been moved to P (aut).
  • Release the SCL locking pin via a direct lead prior to locking the steering column after a command on the communication cable from CIM.
  • Find out via a direct lead from SCL that the locking pin is in unlocked and released position and send it to CIM on the communication cable.
  • Illuminate the key positions.
  • Provide a number of units with battery voltage via a direct lead in certain key positions

The metal part of the classic key is easy to copy, but the problem is in the electronic part located in the key-fob housing. However, if you have one key-fob left and you want to make a copy, you will need a new key-fob that can then be programmed – A new Saab key can be purchased and learned to the vehicle.

Also, one very important thing – a total of 5 keys can be connected for one Saab 9-3, and all these keys must be programmed within 5 minutes. If you are not sure how many keys are connected for your Saab 9-3, you can check it with a simple procedure. To see the number of keys programmed to the vehicle with the car stationary and the key ON press the TRUNK button on the remote control. The number of programmed keys will be displayed on SID.

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