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Sea-Doo D.E.S.S. Key Problems and Their Fixes [Video]

Sea-Doo D.E.S.S. Key Problems and Their Fixes [Video]

The D.E.S.S. key is prone to going wrong, especially on pre-2015 Sea-Doos, which were designed with the old-style cylindrical key post and cup. A defective key causes the engine to keep stalling or even worse, it won’t start at all.

In most cases, key malfunctions are caused by one of the following reasons:

·         Connection issues (D.E.S.S. cup or post is broken or dirty)

·         Wrong programming

·         MPEM (ECU) or other electronic problems

If you want to find out more about these malfunctions and their fixes, this post is for you.

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know under one roof!

Most Common D.E.S.S. Key Problems

Connection Issues

There’s no question that the most common problem with Sea-Doo D.E.S.S. keys is the wrong connection.

This issue is far more common on pre-2015 Sea-Doos, which feature the old style key.

This defective design includes a round plug with metal and magnetic connectors that are prone to breaking, wearing out, or just getting dirty.

If either of these occurs, it typically results in connection problems, which makes the ski hard to start. But even if it succeeds, the engine frequently stalls while riding.

Let’s face it, this is not safe or convenient.

To fix this issue, first try to clean the cap of the D.E.S.S. key and the key post with soapy water. Never use any lubricant on the metal surfaces as they need to be completely clean for a perfect connection.

If cleaning won’t help, carefully inspect the cap. If the metal or magnet pieces inside are worn out or cracked the key has to be replaced.

Even though the D.E.S.S. key post rarely breaks, its metal ring often wears out causing the cup to fall off.

Best practice is to replace the post and the key with the newer claw-style D.E.S.S. clip system, which has been standard on Sea-Doos since 2015.

Unlike the old-style D.E.S.S. cup, this clip provides a much better connection and does not tend to fall off.

If your ski starts with your old key but often loses connection, you can also temporarily fix it with a zip tie. Just make sure not to pull it too hard, since the cup has to be functioning as the engine safety switch.

Also, many Sea-Doos feature a self-diagnostic function to check its D.E.S.S. key, which is more than likely described in the service manual.

Wrong Programming

If you attach the key to the post and it connects properly you should hear two beeps, which means the key is programmed to the MPEM.

If you only hear one beep, it means the key is working and the connection is fine but it isn’t programmed to this ski.

You can reprogram a Sea-Doo key by yourself with a CanDooPro scanner. If it’s not available, your other option is to take the ski to a Sea-Doo dealer or a service shop.

Computer or Other Electronic Issues

As a rule of thumb, if you attach the D.E.S.S. key to the post, you should hear some beeps.

If no beeps at all, it’s a sign that the ski has other electric issues. Sometimes you just need to charge the battery or replace a wrong fuse, but broken or rubbed-off cables can also foul the electric system.

In a worst-case scenario, the MPEM (ECU) of the ski is broken and needs to be replaced. In this case, the key has to be programmed to the new computer.

Also, don’t forget that the buzzer can also go wrong especially on aged Sea-Doos. Don’t forget to check it to make sure that it’s operating properly.

Can You Start a SeaDoo Without the Key?

Can you bypass a Sea-Doo Key by hotwiring? – this is a common question of many riders, and the answer is unfortunately no.

Instead, you can only get around the D.E.S.S. system on certain Sea-Doos by reprogramming their computer.

On these skis, the MPEM can be programmed for a “keyless mode.” In other words, the D.E.S.S. key can be gotten around by disabling the D.E.S.S. function in the MPEM.

Alternatively, the MPEM can also be replaced with a new aftermarket unit that comes with the D.E.S.S. function disabled.

Note that this solution does not necessarily work on every Sea-Doo. Therefore, if you are considering deleting the D.E.S.S. system from your Sea-Doo, refer to your service manual or ask a dealer for further advice.

Interestingly enough, in the ‘95 model year each Sea-Doo had D.E.S.S. capability but this function was not activated in their MPEM. This was also true for some ‘96 models like the HX, GTS, and the SP series (including the SP, SPI, and SPX).

On these skis, the MPEM lacked the D.E.S.S. function, so their key and post worked like a simple shut-off switch.


All Sea-Doos manufactured before 2015 feature the old D.E.S.S. key system, which utilizes a cylindrical key post and a round cup with metal connectors. These metal parts are prone to breaking, wearing out, or getting dirty over time causing connection problems.

In some cases, a good cleaning can help with this issue. But if the metal parts of the key or the post are broken, they have to be replaced and the new key has to be reprogrammed to the MPEM.

Best practice is to replace the key and the post as well with the new claw-style D.E.S.S. system. This design became prevalent on Sea-Doos in 2015.

Thanks to its improved design, the claw-style D.E.S.S. key doesn’t easily wear out and doesn’t fall off the post for no reason.

On certain Sea-Doos, the D.E.S.S. system can be gotten around by reprogramming the MPEM for a keyless mode, or installing an aftermarket MPEM that comes with the D.E.S.S. function turned off.

Note that this trick doesn’t necessarily work on every Sea-Doo.

As the last word, note that the D.E.S.S. key can’t be bypassed by hotwiring, so if your ski doesn’t start with the current key, it will more than likely need to be replaced.

The new key also has to be programmed into the MPEM with a scanner device. If you don’t have one, a service shop or Sea-Doo dealership can also do it for you.