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Ferrari 550 Alarm Remote

       I’ve been a FORZA subscriber for many years and always look forward to the “Shoptalk” column—until now, though, I’ve only read it for pleasure! I have a 550 Maranello I bought five years ago. It’s been completely trouble-free but now I have a problem I’m not sure how to solve. When I was playing with my 3-year-old son in the back yard, he somehow scooped the key and fob out of my pocket and tossed them into our pool. I fished them out quickly but it was too late for the fob, which hasn’t worked since. I’ve now been told I can’t simply replace it without “the red fob” or the alarm code, both of which apparently came with the car when new, neither of which I ever saw. I only had the one key and fob. My questions are as follows: 1) Is the red fob real, and if so do I need it? 2) Where do I get one and/or the code? 3) If I have the code, can I start the car without a replacement fob?


Great questions! The alarm systems found on the F355, 360, 456, 550, and 575M are generally reliable, easy to diagnose, and get the job done. The main downside of Ferrari’s alarms from this era is their focus on internal security, which makes servicing and programming remotes a long process and limits repair options.

The red remote is real—very real. (That said, on new replacement remotes, this red “master” remote is now black.) It is the gatekeeper for the trio of remotes, and is paired to the two black remotes, and no others, via a secret code.

When a new 550 Maranello was delivered, the client received a few very important items: two ignition keys, two black remotes, a secret code slip, and a red remote. It was suggested in the shop manual that the client put the code, one key, the red remote, and one black remote in a safe place. This is a great idea, at least until one of two not-sogood things happens: Either the car gets sold and these items are forgotten, or the batteries corrode in the red remote.

The red remote is required when your technician wants to program another set of remotes to the car for diagnostic purposes, with the intent of later programming the original remotes back to the car. Without the red remote, the black remotes will become permanently orphaned once a new set is introduced. Furthermore, the remote programming process, whether manual or assisted by the factory-approved SD2 diagnostic computer, requires the red remote to be activated as one of the first steps. No red remote? No remote programming.

A black remote that took a swim is not the end of the world if you have the other remotes on standby in the aforementioned safe place. However, Ferrari doesn’t sell individual replacements, only a full remote kit, which consists of three new remotes (one master and two slaves) and a new secret code.

Even if all the remotes are missing, all hope is not lost, as the car can still be started with the secret code. The method is outlined in the owner’s manual, and involves entering the code by turning the key in the ignition, waiting, and turning it some more, all while monitoring the dashboard. While it’s a bit cumbersome, this process will disable the alarm and allow the car to be driven until a new remote kit can be purchased and programmed.

Since you say you don’t have the code, things get a little dicey. Ferrari keeps on file all codes that have ever been supplied for your car’s VIN. If all the remotes used on the car since new have come through the dealer network, you can get the code from Ferrari by supplying proof of ownership and paying a fee. But if a past owner bought a used factory remote or turned to the aftermarket, Ferrari will have no record and won’t be able to supply a code.

If this happens, you’re stuck staring down the rabbit hole of buying a complete alarm system—and as you can imagine, factory replacements aren’t cheap!—or trying to hack the original. There are vendors out there who claim they can “jailbreak” the factory alarm and supply cloned remotes, but I have seen both success and costly failure down that path. You can’t simply remove the factory equipment because the car won’t start without it, and while there’s a kit available that bypasses the system and allows the car to start, then you won’t have a functioning alarm. Whenever possible, I prefer to stay with the factory setup.

You can’t simply remove the factory
alarm equipment because the car won’t
start without it.

Any time you buy a new factory remote kit, the remotes need to be programmed. This is easy with an SD2, but there’s also a passive way to do it [IS THIS ALSO OUTLINED IN THE OWNER’S MANUAL?]. Using a series of key cycles, choreographed on/offs to put the remotes in programming mode, and button pushing, you’ll have three brand-new remotes programmed to your car and its new code.

For anyone who buys a new remote kit and still has the original code and red remote, be sure to keep them. This way you’ll be able to program “away” from the new set, and back to the original, if diagnosis is ever needed.

Finally, just like Ferrari recommended in the first place, take the secret code, the master remote, and one slave remote, and put them in a safe place—and don’t forget about them! The factory recommends replacing the remotes’ batteries every six months, which seems excessive to me. Instead, I recommend bringing all three remotes to your shop during your car’s annual service for battery replacement.


Source: Forza Magazine - ShopTalk (April 2019 - By: Jesse Westlake)