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Everything You Need to Know About Replacing Your Sea-Doo Key

Why do things disappear? From socks that go missing in the dryer to your own wallet. They just walk away, I guess. Your Sea-Doo is no different, things will disappear for no good reason.

You wouldn’t believe the times customers reach out, wondering about getting a new key. The most common question that pops up is, “Can you just copy the key?” Well, let me clear this up – a Sea-Doo key isn’t like your regular keys that you can easily duplicate.

You see, the key is not ordinary; it’s a digital one. To get a new key, the whole watercraft needs to cozy up with a dealership’s computer! Unfortunately, there’s no way to mimic or copy an existing key. If you need a new one, the whole watercraft has to make a trip to the shop for key programming.

Now, you’re probably wondering about the cost, whether you need a special key, or if the machine needs a charged-up battery for this magic to happen? Hold on tight because I’m about to answer all those questions and more in the info below! Let’s dive in and demystify the world of watercraft keys and programming!

Why Is Power Sports Security So Important?

I have noticed that when people lose their keys, they often ask why such a thing is needed? Why can’t they have a simple key, or why have any key?

Thieves love stealing power sports vehicles, from ATVs to jet skis and everything between. There is a huge market to either sell them to unknown buyers or part them out online.

The great thing about Sea-Doo, or BRP, who also owns Can-Am, is that the wrong key makes the vehicle a dud. You can’t bypass it without the proper computer and software! This makes them less of a target than other brands. It’s a huge pro for Sea-Doo!

I still suggest getting a lock to keep the Sea-Doo secured to the dock. Or have a lock for the trailer to lock it down.

The Types Of Keys

Sea-Doo has two types of keys, and both types can have many different shapes. One key is a simple kill-switch style and the other is a digital.

The digital key came about in 1996 and has changed once, it used to be metal contacts, but now the next gen style uses an RF signal. The digital keys need to be programmed to the Sea-Doo and done with special software and hardware found at the dealership.

The kill-switch style is a simple rubber tab, or the newest style is a plastic clip with a magnet. They can be found on models before 1996 and even today on some Sparks. These keys don’t need to be programmed, and you can buy them online.

How The Digital Keys Work

The digital keys have a chip inside, and that chip has a set of numbers unique to that fob.

When a key is programmed to the Sea-Doo, that set of numbers is added to a slot in the computer. You have 8 to 16 slots depending on the model and year, so you can have 8 to 16 keys, with 8 being the most common.

The Sea-Doo knows to read the key because there is also a magnet in there. This magnet tells the Sea-Doo to shut off if it’s taken away, as the keys also work as the kill-switch in case you fall off. (It’s basically a reed switch, often seen in home security systems, to determine when a window is opened)

The key needs to be programmed by special software and hardware that the dealership has. This often done with a laptop, the dealerships will require you to bring the whole Sea-Doo to them!!!

They can come to your home at an extra charge. The process is quick, and many dealerships can squeeze you in, especially if you bring the Sea-Doo to them.

Can You Bypass It?

The honest truth is that you CANNOT bypass a Sea-Doo digital key. I know people try, but the stuff that controls the keys is hardwired into the computer.

If the Sea-Doo doesn’t use a digital key, then any non-digital key will work.

The key is a theft deterrent. The Sea-Doo’s in the crate are not programmed, and no key will work. The Sea-Doo needs to be programmed by the dealership computer and the keys added if you want it to run. (The software is called BUDS, it’s what the dealership uses)

You can turn off the DESS (digital encrypted security system) function of the Sea-Doo, but you need the dealership to do it with their software and hardware. Once off, the non-digital-keys can start the Sea-Doo.

Lost Your Key? Here’s How To Get A replacement:

Most Sea-Doo owners can get a replacement key for a Sea-Doo by taking the PWC to a dealership and asking them to program a new key.

If your Sea-Doo uses a non-digital-key, you can buy the keys online. An example is a Sea-Doo Spark key that is NOT digital (Amazon Link Ad).

Digital keys can also be bought online too, but it’s best to buy it from the dealership or repair shop so you don’t buy the wrong one! With so many styles of digital keys, I’m seeing people buy the wrong keys now.

All Sea-Doo’s made after 1996 and are not Sparks, will have a digital-key. Some Sparks do have a digital-key, you can tell it’s a digital-key because it will have a white plate that says “Sea-Doo” like in the image below.

Older Sea-Doo’s have the style below that are digital:

Sea-Doo replacement key

The digital keys need to be programmed by a dealership or repair shop with the correct software and hardware.

You will need to bring the whole unit to the dealership and the battery must be charged. They can NOT duplicate a key, and they can NOT help you if you have the VIN. The whole Sea-Doo has to be hooked up to a computer and the keys added.

The Cost to replace and Program A New Key

Missing Sea-Doo keys can easily be replaced or reprogrammed if it gets lost. Things happen and keys get lost.

But what is it going to cost you? The key can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on whether it’s a digital key or not, along with its style.

The dealership may charge extra for labor to program the key or to do a house call. Here is one dealership’s costs.

What The Multiple Color mean

Why do Sea-Doo keys come in different colors? Below, I listed what each color means.

  • Yellow – Normal
  • Green – Learning
  • White – Old learning color.
  • Black – Normal, but used in higher-end models.
  • Orange – Rental.

All keys are the same, but labeled different with what they’re meant to do.

Since all keys are the same, you could program the learning keys to be fast, but you must have the dealership do it with their computer. I would do this all the time, I would make a customer’s learning key fast because they would never use the learning mode.

They don’t include the learning keys anymore, and only do one key per unit. I find most people would lose the learning key anyway, but you can still get them if you want one.

You can Program Multiple Sea-Doo alike

Can you program the Sea-Doo alike? You can program two Sea-Doos alike, so all keys will start either machine. But you need to let the dealership know to do this, and both units need to be there!

I would try to do this for customers who got two or more units from me because it’s not too difficult to do when prepping the units at the same time.

Acquire a Key Without going To The Dealership?

Do you really need to bring the whole Sea-Doo to the dealership to get the key programmed? Unfortunately, you do, there is no other way.

You need special software and hardware to program a digital key.

I understand this can be a problem if you don’t live near a dealership.

The good news is that there are other companies that sell programmers. Many 3rd party repair shops tend to use these programmers so they can program the Sea-Doo. The CanDooPro is a DIY option.

You could also buy the actual BUDS that the dealerships use (Amazon Link Ad) and program your own keys, reset your own maintenance lights and see any fault codes.

If your Sea-Doo is made before 2002, you’ll need to use the CanDooPro.

Replacing the Tether?

The tether, or string, that connects the key to you and the Sea-Doo is the first thing to wear out.

Over time, it stretches out and can crack, so it begs the question, can you simply replace the tether?

Sadly, you can’t just replace the tether. It’s more of a safety issue than anything else, and Sea-Doo doesn’t just see the cord. You will need to buy a whole lanyard. If the tether is worn out, your life jackets are probably worn out too, so it’s a good time to replace them.

DESS Post Problems

If you’re having trouble with the engine starting, you put the key on, and it does not come alive, you may think you need to replace the key. Sometimes it’s not the key, but the DESS post it attaches to.

The DESS post reads the key and knows when the key is on and off, so it can shut the engine off if you fall off.

The DESS post uses a type of reed switch which detects the magnet in the key to let it know to power everything up and read the key. These reed switches are simple, but can wear out. You’ll know it’s bad when you put a magnet up to the DESS post and the machine doesn’t respond.

The older keys had metal contacts on the lanyard and DESS post itself that would read a ROM chip. Corrosion would cause odd readings and errors. There was even a time when the DESS posts were just a fraction of a millimeter too big and made it hard to put on and read. The modern gen style of keys are vastly better and more reliable, but still use the reed switch, so they can wear out.

These reed switches don’t fail a lot, you might have to replace yours once, maybe twice. But it is something to keep in mind if you’re chasing a ghost of problems.

AirTag

If you keep losing your keys, one option is to use an AirTag attached to it. An AirTag works off other iPhones near it to update its location. It’s not a GPS locator, but it’s better than nothing.

If you’re within 30 feet of the AirTag, you can use a modern iPhone to locate it within inches. If you’re over 30 feet, its location will be updated when an iPhone comes near it and does it securely.

So if you have trouble with losing the keys, getting an AirTag can be a huge help. You will need to get a case so you can attach it to the key.

Author

Steven

I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created StevenInSales.com in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.

Comments

  1. I have a 1999 Sea Doo Bombardier GTI. We bought it used, and it had no key. A local shop has an after market programmer that says they can program key for it if it was the metal and not the plastic. How do I find that out?

    Reply
    • Sea-Doo had two keys back then, a DESS key with the metal pins and a regular rubber key that was only a safety lanyard, that is what they’re probably talking about. You can only program the DESS version that has the metal pins inside the cap of the key. A 1999 Sea-Doo GTI will have a DESS key that needs to be programmed.

      Reply
  2. I have a 2004 bombardier rxp supercharger and some one stole the key. we live in copperopolis ca and the dealership we bought it at in lodi has shut down. I need this to do my job cleaning bathrooms at lake melonas. I was told I could buy a mpem. is that a good idea and for the cost would I even be able to install it myself?

    Reply
    • I would look for another dealer. Those programmers are not cheap and often break due to Sea-Doo releasing patches as they don’t like those devices.

      Reply
  3. Thankful I found your website. It has been incredibly informative. We are looking to buy our first Jet Ski (used). Do you think a 2012 Sea Doo GTI-130-SE, 59 original hours with a Triton aluminum trailer for $6500 is a good price? Would you recommend this model? We would like to use it eventually for tubing etc.

    Reply
    • As of now (APRIL 2020), KBB watercraft says retail is $5,700 and for a Triton Single Used I would expect $500. The price is not too far off for that many hours. I would get the VIN and call up your local dealership to make sure all the warranty items are done on it. Other than that the GTI’s are a great buy.

      Reply
  4. I have a 2008 seadoo speedster 200 430 hp boat. I’ve lost the keys. Do you know if a can just purchase any of the dess lanyards? I know I have to take the key and boat to get programmed. I just wasn’t sure if I needed a special key since it is for a boat and not a jet ski.

    Reply
    • For that model, any of the Sea-Doo watercraft DESS keys will work (not the RF ones). The trick will be to call a dealer ahead of time to make sure they can still program that boat and to see if they have the keys in stock.

      Reply
  5. My son lost the 2005 3D seadoo key.. what shall i do or where will i ask or go to have a new key.. what nearest location to go to get a new key.. i live in Lancaster Ca…thank you i appreciate your help

    Reply
  6. How do I tell if my seadoo has dess. Or do they all have it. It is a 2004 gti std 720 and I just lost the key in the river

    Reply
    • Pretty much anything older than 1996 will not have DESS. But a way to know is the post where you plug in your key will have metal connectors on it.

      Reply
  7. Help! Lost key to 2000 Bombardier Seedoo. Our dealer in town could not get us another. Said computer did not go back that far. What am I supposed to do?

    Reply
    • This is a tough one. Older Sea-Doo (2-strokes) used an old handheld computer to program keys. Over the years these handhelds have started to fail and only a few dealerships even have one that works. Sea-Doo did come out with a computer adapter but it also has faded away. The best thing to do is call around to all dealerships to see if they can program 2-stroke Sea-Doos. Also, call other repair shops since they may have an aftermarket programmer that works with 2-strokes. Other then that there is not much you can do.

      Reply
  8. Can you please confirm if a 2016 sea do spark 3up model can also get a leaner key.
    I see yes on some forum’s but our local dealer said never seen one.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Only the Sparks with iBR had the option for the learning key. They did have an option to get a DESS key installed on a Spark without it, but I think you only got the fast key.

      Reply

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