P0513 – Incorrect immobilizer key

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By Reinier (Contact Me)
Last Updated 2017-01-11
Automobile Repair Shop Owner
CodeFault LocationProbable Cause
P0513 Incorrect immobilizer key
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Immobilizer system

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Table of Contents

  1. What Does Code P0513 Mean?
  2. What are the common causes of code P0513 ?
  3. What are the symptoms of code P0513 ?
  4. How do you troubleshoot code P0513 ?
  5. Codes Related to P0513
  6. Get Help with P0513

What Does Code P0513 Mean?

SPECIAL NOTES: Code P0513 indicates an immobilizer related problem, and while modern automotive security/anti-theft systems have reached a high level of sophistication, the downside of this is the fact that sloppy maintenance/servicing procedures, unauthorized modifications to the electrical system of vehicles, and ill-considered attempts to “reset” the PCM by disconnecting the battery to “clear” unrelated trouble codes all have the potential to trigger the security system, which can cause the vehicle to be effectively immobilized.   

In light of the above, non-professional mechanics are strongly urged to read the section in the application’s manual that deals with the security system before attempting to diagnose ANY security system related trouble codes. Failure to gain at least a basic understanding of the operation of the security system of the application being worked on could lead to misdiagnoses, many hours of wasted diagnostic time, and the unnecessary replacement of parts/components/control modules. Worse, though, extensive, and often-fatal damage to the applications’ electrical system can also (and often does) occur as the direct result of unwarranted, ill considered, or sometimes-totally unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures.    

The fact is that most immobilizer related issues can often be resolved without having to take the vehicle apart, in a manner of speaking, and in many, if not most cases, the problem can very often be resolved simply by replacing the batteries in the key(s), reprogramming the key, or by reprogramming the  PCM or other controller. However, non-professional mechanics should note that generic code readers seldom have these capabilities, meaning that if suitable equipment is not available, the better option is to refer the vehicle for professional diagnosis and repair.

Also, note that due to significant design differences between the security systems of the major car manufacturers, this guide cannot provide detailed diagnostic and repair information for code P0513 that will be valid for all applications under all conditions. However, the generic diagnostic/repair information provided here should enable most non-professional mechanics to diagnose and repair code P0513 on most applications. END OF SPECIAL NOTES.    

OBD II fault code P0513 is a generic code that is most commonly defined as “Incorrect immobilizer key”, and is set when the anti-theft / security system on a vehicle does not recognize a key or key fob when attempts are made to either open/unlock, or start that vehicle.

While the specifics of anti-theft systems vary between applications, most systems share some common characteristics or operating principles, with the foremost being that all systems rely on the fact that several control modules need to interact successfully both with each other, and collectively with the key, before the fuel injection and ignition systems can be enabled.

In practice on most applications, the PCM (Powertrain Control Module), PIM (Powertrain Interface Module), and the BCM (Body Control Module) all need to recognize the key, in the sense that these modules can all “read”, or decode the heavily encrypted security code that is programmed into the key. However, this initial interaction represents only the first “layer” of protection; a second “layer” requires that all affected modules interact further via the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus system to verify that all modules have recognised not only the key, but each other as well. Put in another way, the security system needs to “know” that all affected modules have recognized the key, as well as each other, and that all affected modules “know” this, regardless of whether the key is used to unlock a door, or whether the key is inserted into the ignition lock.

Only when all the affected modules have recognized the key as well as each other, will the PCM enable the fuel injection and ignition systems to allow the vehicle to be started. Thus, if an event, malfunction, or failure occurs that interrupts the interaction of affected modules both with each other and/or with the key, code P0513 will be set, the security warning light will be illuminated, and the vehicle will be immobilized.

The image below shows the construction of a typical transponder key. Note the location of the two replaceable batteries (red arrows) in this example. Be aware though that while all transponder keys contain batteries, the actual appearance, construction, and number of batteries contained in the key varies between applications. Refer to the manual for the application to determine the correct battery replacement procedure for that application to prevent damage to the key’s electronic components, which will set code P0513.


What are the common causes of code P0513 ?

Typical common causes of this code could include the following-

  • Run down batteries in the key/key fob (The most common cause)
  • Defective or incorrectly programmed key or key fob
  • Defective ignition lock
  • Damage to one or more control modules (including the PCM) caused by abnormal system voltages
  • Disconnecting the battery for whatever reason
  • Failure to install a memory saving device during a battery replacement
  • Voltage spikes caused by incorrect jump starting procedures
  • Damaged, burnt, shorted, disconnected, or corroded wiring and/or connectors
  • Illegal, or ill-considered modifications of the electrical system
  • Sloppy or incorrect installation of some types of aftermarket electrical accessories, and most notably, aftermarket remote start kits.

What are the symptoms of code P0513 ?

Symptoms of P0513 typically include the following-

  • Stored trouble code
  • Illuminated security system warning light
  • No start condition
  • In some cases, the engine may start, but shuts off after running for two or three seconds.
  • On some applications, the vehicles’ entire electrical system may be shut down if the maximum allowable number of attempts to start the vehicle with an unrecognized key is exceeded.

How do you troubleshoot code P0513 ?

NOTE: As stated elsewhere, diagnosing and resolving P0513 requires a scanner that can reprogram keys and control modules on the one hand, and have the ability to “read” the status of the key on the other. If such a canner is not available, the better option is to refer the vehicle for professional diagnosis and repair.

Step 1

Record all fault codes present, as well as all available freeze frame data. This information can be of use should an intermittent fault be diagnosed later on.

NOTE: Carefully note all other codes that might be present along with P0531, and especially if the other codes relate to system voltage, the charging system, or memory loss in the PCM and/or other control module(s). Both system voltage and charging system issues can cause unpredictable behaviour and/or failures in any part of a vehicles’ electrical system, and it often happens that the failure(s) or unpredictable behaviour occur in the security system. Memory loss in control modules are often the result of disconnecting the battery, or replacing the battery without first installing a memory saving device to keep critical systems powered up when battery power is removed.

Step 2

If other codes are present, consult the manual on the implications of these codes for the application in general, but for code P0513 in particular. Repair those codes that can be repaired before proceeding to diagnose P0513.

WARNING: Be aware that some on applications, the security system features a “lock-out” mode, which disables everything on the vehicle when a set number of attempts are made to start the vehicle with an unrecognised key. Be sure to check on this in the manual before any attempt is made to start the vehicle, since if the system initiates the “lock-out mode”, only the dealer can remedy the situation.

If however, no other codes are present, try to start the vehicle with a spare key. If it starts and all systems appear to be working, replace the batteries in the key or key fob, and then use that key to start the vehicle. If the vehicle starts after replacing the batteries in the key, consult the manual on the correct procedure to clear the code. Note that in some cases, it may be necessary to perform a key-relearning process before the code can be cleared.

NOTE: On some Chrysler applications from the mid-2000’s, the security system uses a 434MHz frequency, which it shares with the Tire Pressure Monitoring System. While this made it easier to set up and calibrate the TPMS system on the assembly line, the fact is that malfunctions in the TPMS system have the potential to influence the operation of the security system on these applications. Therefore, if any TPMS system related faults are present along with P0513 on any Chrysler application, be sure to consult the manual on the relationship between the TPMS system, and the security system.

Step 3

If the vehicle does not start with the spare key, or after replacing the batteries in the key and suitable diagnostic equipment is available, proceed to check the keys’ programming. Most professional-grade scanners will display the status of the key’s programming, in addition to providing some diagnostic tips and tricks.

Professional-grade scanners will also interrogate the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus system for malfunctions and defects that are interrupting the communication between the various modules that control/monitor the security system. Be aware though that actually diagnosing faults in the CAN system requires above average diagnostic skills in general, and expert level knowledge of the application in particular, which means that if the scanner reveals faults in the CAN bus system, the better option is to refer the vehicle for professional diagnosis and repair.

However, code P0513 is more likely to be caused by problems with the key itself, than by issues in the CAN bus system, so assuming that suitable diagnostic equipment is available, consult the manual on the correct procedure(s) to reprogram the key, but be sure to follow the directions EXACTLY to ensure that the procedure is successful.

NOTE: Be aware that the key will NOT reprogram if it is defective in any way. If the key cannot be reprogrammed, have it checked/diagnosed professionally, and replace the key if it is indeed found to be defective.

Step 4

If the reprogrammed key does not start the vehicle, it is possible that the problem is caused by the ignition lock, aka ignition cylinder. However, if the ignition lock had been working flawlessly before code P0513 appeared, and there are no other codes present, consult the manual on the location, routing, color-coding, and function of all wiring that is directly associated with the ignition lock.

Perform resistance, continuity, and ground-connectivity checks on all associated wiring, and compare all obtained readings with the values stated in the manual. If discrepancies are found, make repairs as required to ensure that all electrical values fall within the manufacturer’s specifications. Clear all codes after repairs are complete, and rescan the system to see if the code returns.

Step 5

If the code returns, but all wiring checks out and the key is programmed correctly but the vehicle will still not start, replace the ignition lock as per the instructions in the manual, but make sure that all required relearning procedures are carried out, and completed successfully.

Clear the code after repairs are complete, and attempt to start the vehicle. If it starts and the code does not return after the completion of one complete drive cycle, the repair was successful, and the code is unlikely to return.

If, however, the vehicle does not start after replacing the ignition lock, there is very little else, if anything, the average non-professional can do to resolve the problem beyond Step 5. At this point, the only viable solution is to refer the vehicle for professional diagnosis and repair, which could include reprogramming the PCM and/or other controllers.

There are no known codes that are directly related to P0513. However, if there are other codes present along with P0513, one or more of these codes might serve to pinpoint the possible, or most likely causes of P0513 depending on the application, and the codes present.

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