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Old 07-31-2011, 04:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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"Smart" Ignition Key

I just acquired a 2002 C320 estate wagon with only one "Smart Key" supplied at sale. That seems like a recipe for disaster to me!

I have not yet checked with the dealer, but am asking here first. I tried a "Search" for "Smart Key" and found nothing useful.

Can I buy a used smart key, or a new one off ebay (OEM Mercedes W203 Door Ignition Smart Key C230 C320 CLK | eBay) and have it programmed by my dealer?

What is a "Smart Key Case?" It LOOKS just like the above item, but costs only $34 (2000 2001 2002 2003 Mercedes Benz C320 Smart Key Case on eBay!)

I would also need a metal key and have it cut to work in my door? (2000 2001 2002 2003 Mercedes Benz C320 INSERT Key | eBay)

Some of this new technology leaves me a bit cold.

Thanks-
Bob
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You might want to take a look at this:

Everything you ever wanted to know about DAS

Basically, the electronics in your car were irrevocably programmed at the factory with the unique serial numbers of the 24 possible keys assigned to it. Only the MBZ Parts Dist. Center knows what they are and can create new keys with those serial numbers. There are urban legends of "some guy" with "some hacked equipment" that can program keys, but I have never seen any bona fide evidence of this. basically, the only way to get a key is to order one from a dealer. The key comes with the fob and the hard metal key.

The items you see on eBay are best used to replace broken key cases. It's very easy to pull the electronics out of your key and insert it into an empty case. Note that the electronics from your black plastic key won't fit into the new style chrome cases (except that there are eBay sellers with aftermarket cases that will hold the old style electronic circuit boards).

Anyhow, go order a new key from the dealer. Take your vehicle registration and ID to the parts counter and they will help you. If you ask nicely, the parts guy might cut a few dollars off the price and you can get it for right around $200.
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Old 07-31-2011, 09:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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OK, I hear you on the Dealer-Only programming of the key.

This part is supposed to be the ACTUAL electronic unit (not just the case): OEM Mercedes W203 Door Ignition Smart Key C230 C320 CLK | eBay

It's a MB Part Number: 203-766-41-06-9999

Can the dealer program IT for a modest fee to work with my car, or does it have to be the RIGHT key (one of 24), and THEN be programmed?

The ad says the dealer gets $200 for this item.

Just curious.

Thanks
Bob
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Old 08-01-2011, 06:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The dealer cannot program a key to your car for any fee. While it may be technically feasible with some electronic equipment somewhere to either reprogram a key to transmit one of the 24 codes already assigned to your car's DAS, or reprogram the DAS for another key, the dealer doesn't have this. Like I said, there are legends of "some guys" with "some special electronics" who can do this, but again, I haven't seen any evidence of this. Your only option is to have the dealer order a new key.
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Old 08-01-2011, 06:13 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You said, "The dealer cannot program a key to your car for any fee."

OK, so the dealer is not the one who programs the keys, so all keys have to come from MBUSA or a higher authority?

So they do not start with a MB Part Number key-they manufacture one from scratch just for your car using proprietary electronic components, so the brand new smart key for sale on ebay, MB Part# 203-766-41-06-9999, is absolutely useless I gather.

The used-car dealer selling me my car said that the MB dealer in FL wants $229 for the "blank" smart key, plus $125 to program it, plus tax. The title is not yet in my name, so the dealer can take the title assigned to them to get MB to provide a key.

I guess that means they ORDER a programmed key based on the electronics already in my car?

Sorry for the questions, but I want a second key (in case the transporter loses the ONLY key when they deliver my car from FL to me in TX), and $229 for the unprogrammed "key" plus another $129 (almost $400 w/ tax) just is awfully expensive.
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Old 08-01-2011, 06:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rudeney View Post
The dealer cannot program a key to your car for any fee. While it may be technically feasible with some electronic equipment somewhere to either reprogram a key to transmit one of the 24 codes already assigned to your car's DAS, or reprogram the DAS for another key, the dealer doesn't have this. Like I said, there are legends of "some guys" with "some special electronics" who can do this, but again, I haven't seen any evidence of this. Your only option is to have the dealer order a new key.
It can be done, there are people here in China who do it for a fee but I would not trust it to work properly for the long term. What you are saying is correct he should stick with the dealer for keys.
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Old 08-01-2011, 06:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You said, "The dealer cannot program a key to your car for any fee."

OK, so the dealer is not the one who programs the keys, so all keys have to come from MBUSA or a higher authority?

So they do not start with a MB Part Number key-they manufacture one from scratch just for your car using proprietary electronic components, so the brand new smart key for sale on ebay, MB Part# 203-766-41-06-9999, is absolutely useless I gather.

The used-car dealer selling me my car said that the MB dealer in FL wants $229 for the "blank" smart key, plus $125 to program it, plus tax. The title is not yet in my name, so the dealer can take the title assigned to them to get MB to provide a key.

I guess that means they ORDER a programmed key based on the electronics already in my car?

Sorry for the questions, but I want a second key (in case the transporter loses the ONLY key when they deliver my car from FL to me in TX), and $229 for the unprogrammed "key" plus another $129 (almost $400 w/ tax) just is awfully expensive.
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Old 08-01-2011, 06:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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OOPs-

I don't know how I somehow published TWO replies.

I guess I will just have to be resolved to paying 5% of the total purchase price of a nice C320 wagon, or as much as a new set of tires, just for a single key.

Bob
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Old 08-01-2011, 08:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Here's how this works. MBZ has a specialized corporate department that manages keys. When a new vehicle is built, this department's computer "randomly" assigns 24 unique key serial numbers to than VIN. No person ever sees these serial numbers; they are all stored in a secure database and indexed by VIN. The 24 assigned key serial numbers are electronically programmed into a virgin DAS and ECU that are then delivered to the factory, along with two keys (key #1, segment #1, and key #2, segment #1) to be installed into that specific vehicle.

Remember that the 24 serial numbers are matrixed into 8 "key numbers", with 3 "segments" each. While all 8 key numbers can be active at once, only one segment per key number can be used. When a key is lost, it can be disabled by a key with the same key number but the next higher segment number. If all three segments of a particular key number have been lost, the dealer's SDS can be used to disable the entire key number, which will then reduce the 8 possible simultaneous keys to 7.

Once programmed, the DAS and ECU modules cannot be re-programmed through any official means, i.e. not with any equipment the dealers or factory have access to. There are rumors that "someone" has cracked this and has equipment that can reprogram DAS and/or the ECU, but until someone actually shows me hard evidence of that, I will remain skeptical. I know it's physically possible because these codes are just stored on EEPROM's, but there are security features built into these chips, plus the available system interfaces do not include the provision for reprogramming. Reprogramming would likely involve removing chips from circuit boards and using hacked EEPROM programming equipment. This does not sound like an inexpensive nor safe process for expensive MBZ electronics.

Any key that is to work with the vehicle must be programmed to match one those 24 codes programmed into the DAS and ECU. It can't match an existing key's serial number because they keys use rolling codes in addition to the serial numbers. Each time you use the key in the ignition, DAS writes a new random rolling code into the key. If you were able to clone a key, and then if you ever used both keys, the rolling codes would get out of sync and then DAS would disable the entire key number and then neither would work.

The only way to get a new key is to order one from the PDC. They don't ever know the actual serial number programmed, but their computer does based on the VIN in their database. It can program either an additional key number (based on the database records of all keys ever issued for the VIN) or or a replacement key given the key number (1-8) to be replaced.

If you want an additional key, all you have to do is go to the dealership's parts counter with your ID and proof of ownership and order it. It will be delivered ready to use - no dealer programming necessary. That will cost you about $230, and you can sometimes negotiate a lower price. Parts counter employees are usually not on commission and will often discount parts if you ask nicely or build a relationship with them.

If you want to order a replacement key for one that was lost, thus disabling the lost key, you will need to take your vehicle along with ALL available keys to the dealer. A tech will use SDS to determine which key numbers (not serial numbers, just keys 1-8) you have and then check with the PDC to see which key numbers/segments are missing, and then order a new segment for a missing key number. If any key number has had all of its segments issued, the tech can disable that entire key number. This will, of course come at a price, which will be about an hour of labor.

So, if you aren't worried about someone ever finding the lost key and then knowing it goes to your C320 and thus being able to steal your car, then all you need to do is order that $230 new key.
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Old 08-01-2011, 09:41 PM   #10 (permalink)
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"If you want an additional key, all you have to do is go to the dealership's parts counter with your ID and proof of ownership and order it. It will be delivered ready to use - no dealer programming necessary. That will cost you about $230, and you can sometimes negotiate a lower price. Parts counter employees are usually not on commission and will often discount parts if you ask nicely or build a relationship with them.

If you want to order a replacement key for one that was lost, thus disabling the lost key, you will need to take your vehicle along with ALL available keys to the dealer. A tech will use SDS to determine which key numbers (not serial numbers, just keys 1-8) you have and then check with the PDC to see which key numbers/segments are missing, and then order a new segment for a missing key number. If any key number has had all of its segments issued, the tech can disable that entire key number. This will, of course come at a price, which will be about an hour of labor.

So, if you aren't worried about someone ever finding the lost key and then knowing it goes to your C320 and thus being able to steal your car, then all you need to do is order that $230 new key."

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OK, so if the selling dealer in FL goes to the local dealership, for $230 he can order an additional key for my car (it will come from MB "PDC", whatever that stands for) that can be mailed to me here in Texas, where the car is being shipped. I guess I could also wait until I get the car here, and assuming the only key isn't lost enroute, which would make getting it off the transporter difficult, I could take the title or registration (when issued) to MY local dealer and order the key myself. I wonder why I was told it would be $229 PLUS another $125 to "set it up?" I don't think I will go to THAT dealership!

And no, since the car is being shipped 1200mi from where the key was presumably lost (I'm assuming it HAD 2 at one point), I am not too worried about anyone finding the lost key and stealing the car.

It just amazes me that some manufacturers go to ALL of this trouble and expense (which we pay for) to make cars that much more difficult to steal.

My Dodge Cummins truck ($60k new-more than the Benz) also has a transponder key, and I got one from the dealership as a clone of the one I had in 20 minutes flat for $37. Sure seems simpler, and no one's stolen it yet.

Thanks for the explanation; it makes paying that much money a little easier to take.

I wonder why someone is selling a new, un-programmed smart key on ebay since no one can possibly program it to work with a car?

This also makes me more dedicated to NOT losing one of the two keys I have to my Mercedes Sprinter van that also has a transponder key. I guess my '03 SLK is the same (like the Sprinter, it has a cut-key to operate the ignition, but contains a chip)?

Bob
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