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> Car / Engine Won't Start, Yellow CODE light is illuminated in the instrument cluster
GialloEvo94
post 19th April 2010 15:07
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There have been a number of individual questions and answers relating to this particular problem in the past but no definitive one-stop-shop guide on what to actually do to troubleshoot and resolve the problem so I thought it was finally about time I knock one up so that in future anyone answering a query about this problem can just post a link to this FAQ.

If you are having problems starting your car and the yellow CODE light in the instrument cluster is remaining illuminated when you turn the key the first click "MAR" position (it should extinguish itself within 0.5 seconds) then it is the factory fitted Alfa CODE immobiliser that is preventing your car from starting. While it is quite possible that there are also other issues, then there is no point whatsoever in looking at any other potential non-starting causes that people might suggest (i.e. crankshaft sensor, fuel pump, fuel cut-off switch, spark plugs, injectors etc. etc.) until you resolve the problem with the CODE immobiliser first.

The reasons for the immobiliser remaining active and the CODE light staying illuminated will be one of the following:-
  1. The main 30A fuse for the electronic ignition has blown
  2. Corroded/oxidised/loose electrical connections in the BBoB (Black Box of bo****ks)
  3. Bad electrical connection(s) to the CODE immobiliser ECU
  4. Damaged transponder chip pickup aerial
  5. One or more keys "forgotten" by the CODE immobiliser ECU
  6. Data corruption in the CODE immobiliser ECU
The first thing to check is the 30A fuse that is housed in the bank of fuses mounted to the right-hand side suspension turret (as looking into the car from the front). Just remove the caps to get to the fuses to check and/or replace them.

If that isn't the problem then the next thing you should try is your other red key and/or also the burgundy Master key (if you have one). If any of those work then it means that the original key you tried has been "forgotten" by the CODE immobiliser and will need to be reprogrammed back into the system for it to work again (you will need the Master key in order to do this). The programming procedure can be found on pages 10-14 of this document. If none of your keys will start the car then continue reading this post for a cure.

The most common cause of the CODE light remaining illuminated and the immobiliser failing to de-immobilise the car is bad connections in the relays and fuses situated around the battery which are shrouded by removable black plastic covers. These are more commonly referred to in the Alfa 145/146 community as the BBoB (Black Box of Bo****ks, for reasons that will become apparent from this post). The location of these relays and fuses mean that they are open to the elements and also vulnerable to water and other crap being chucked up from the road underneath. This results in the connections becoming corroded/oxidised over time and eventually becoming bad enough that they are no longer reliable. Putting critical electrical components in such a vulnerable position was a really bad design decision by Alfa but unfortunately we are stuck with the problems/headaches this can cause and just have to deal with sorting out the problems with this if and when they arise.

Inside the BBoB, one of the relays and one of the fuses is the "Main Engine Relay" (a description of the fuses / relays on a plastic top CF2-engined Alfa 145 / 146 can be found HERE). The Main Engine Relay powers up things like the ECU, engine sensors, and more importantly the CODE immobiliser ECU. If either the Engine ECU or the CODE immobiliser ECU do not receive power quickly enough, or do not receive power at all (due to bad connections in the BBoB) then the car will remain immobilised with the CODE light in the instrument cluster illuminated.

The cure for this is to either completely rewire the BBoB, or to clean up the existing connections:-
  • A complete rewire involves cutting the wires right back and crimping or soldering on new wires/connectors with heat shrink sleeving while also cleaning up the blade connectors on the fuses and relays themselves to remove any oxidation/corrosion. The final step is to re-assemble everything.
  • Cleaning up the existing connections involves removing the spade connectors from the relay/fuse connection blocks and cleaning them back to shiny metal using something like scotchbrite, steel wool or a fine wet & dry paper. The key here is to get the connectors as clean as possible so there is as little evidence left as possible of any corrosion/oxidation. The most important areas are where the spade connector actually "grips" the blade connector on the relay/fuse. Once this is done, the spade connectors need to be squeezed back together slightly so they will create a tighter grip on the relays/fuses. The blade connectors on the relays/fuses also need to be cleaned in the same was using scotchbrite / steel wool / wet & dry before re-assembling everything.
When re-assembling, make sure you use a liberal amount of electrical contact grease or Vaseline on both the spade connectors and the relay/fuse blade connectors which will increase conductivity of the connectors and help to prevent moisture getting in which would just cause corrosion/oxidisation to build up again.

Another thing to note is that in the past, some people have cleaned up the BBoB and then come back saying that the car still won't start for exactly the same reason (CODE light still remaining illuminated). Only when we have managed to convince them to go away and try again (on one occasion twice), has it then fixed their problem. This is because the first (or second) time a good enough job wasn't done cleaning up the connections so it is very important that you put in the time and effort to do the job properly so you are 100% certain that all the connections in the BBoB are 100% reliable again and that they are definitely no longer the cause of any starting problems.

If after doing this the CODE light still remains illuminated then the next thing to try is to re-seat the connections to the CODE immobiliser ECU. This can be found behind the dashboard trim panel directly to the right of the steering wheel (on right-hand drive cars). Once this trim panel is removed, you will see some relays above which will be a yellow box. This yellow box is the CODE immobiliser ECU. There are two electrical connector plugs going into this so to re-seat them simply unplug and plug them back in again. Then try starting the car again. You can see some pictures in this post.

If the car still can't be started due to the CODE light remaining illuminated then the problem will either be that ALL your keys have been "forgotten" by the CODE immobiliser (very rare), or that the data stored in the CODE immobiliser ECU's NVRAM has become corrupt (also rare but known to have happened if there has been a freak spike on the power line). If the CODE immobiliser data has become corrupt, one thing that sometimes works is to completely disconnect both battery leads and tie the leads together for 5 minutes so the metal parts are touching. Then reconnect them to the battery and try starting the car again. If that doesn't work and you have the Master key then you can try going through the reprogramming procedure again (see pages 10-14 of this document). If that fails then you will either need to get a brand new CODE immobiliser ECU (expensive), you will need to get your existing CODE immobiliser ECU "virginised", or you will need to get the NVRAM of the CODE immobiliser ECU re-written with data that matches that transponder codes in your existing keys. The latter two options require some specialist equipment and knowledge (not something an Alfa dealer will have or be able to do) so you will need to go to one of the specialists that can do this who are listed in this post.

Hopefully this guide will be helpful to people with this starting problem smile.gif


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NaanBread
post 19th April 2010 15:20
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fantastic write-up! thumbup.gif

you make it sound so easy laugh.gif


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black 146
post 19th April 2010 16:06
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thanks for takeing the time worshippy.gif worshippy.gif worshippy.gif worshippy.gif
to do it


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Mot
post 18th September 2010 12:12
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Hi People

I am new to this forum and I think it is a great one.

I bought a beat up 145 Clover [hole in sump, hole in radiator etc] busy fixing it up.

It would not start been pushing and prodding for the last week at fuses and connections with negative results.

Along comes my son taps the starter motor a few times with a longish iron bar and hey presto it starts.

Starter motor faulty. huh.gif
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Johnny
post 22nd January 2011 12:33
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I limped through my MOT this week with just two tyres and a brake pipe needed so I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Almost immediately however my occasional key code light problem became a permanent issue and the car has been immobilised for the last couple of days. I've cleaned the BBoB within an inch of its life and had no success whatsoever then stumbled across this thread last night.
I got the dash panel off, reseated the ECU connection as recommended and hey presto. A fully functioning Alfa! So simple that my wife could have done it, so quick that I did it while waiting for a cup of tea and so obscure that in a million years I would never have found it without this thread. Thank you VERY much. I'm off out now to drive my relatively cheaply MOTed car and ensure there is always a Philips screwdriver in it somewhere in case I ever need to do it again...

This post has been edited by Johnny: 22nd January 2011 12:34
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simon88wilson
post 16th December 2011 14:20
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had this issue this past week after driving in torrential rain. after rewiring, reseating etc, it turned out to be that the main relay in the BBOB had failed, it had got ridiculously soaked so i swapped it out and started perfectly. gotta once gain wonder what alfa were thinking putting them where they are!

This post has been edited by grimacingreaper: 16th December 2011 14:21


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NaanBread
post 16th December 2011 18:02
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why has no one thought about wiring them in some kind of waterproof electrical sealed box?


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bl4desman
post 14th December 2012 16:25
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Also check the green 30Amp Maxi fuse towards the top right of the engine bay. It's under a plastic cover and right next to a blue 60amp fuse under a plastic cover.

Comment added by GialloEvo94 (16/12/2012): Thanks for highlighting this. I've now added it as the first thing to check in the original post.


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Mot
post 26th December 2012 09:52
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Hi
Thank you for your post on the key code. I went through suggestions and by touching the two battery terminals together the car started, [which of course I thought was a stupid suggestion]. I just want to thank you again and to every one on this forum a Happy Christmas Day. worshippy.gif
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pescifranca
post 21st March 2015 17:25
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Thank you guys!
Same thing as Mot in the previous post!
You helped me even in 2015!

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billyleung_146
post 23rd July 2017 20:37
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Hi,

This post is great! Much better than the manual.... My 1997 146 2.0Ti's problem is that suddenly the immobiliser intermittently cannot be deactivated. That means, if I turn the key 10 times, for about 7-8 times the yellow key light remains ON and the car won't start. I have cleared all the fuse slots and relay slots as suggested. I dismounted the dash last year and I remember the connectors to the yellow box was as good as new. Could it be the antenna in the ignition barrel that had been degraded? Anyway to check this ?

Thanks! worshippy.gif

This post has been edited by billyleung_146: 23rd July 2017 20:41
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Ganz
post 23rd July 2017 20:53
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In typical forum style I'm gonna add my 2 pence worth. I'd check the relays. My immobiliser wouldn't demobilise. It was a relay. Try swapping the relays around to see If it works. Checking the windings around the ignition is pretty easy enough with a multimeter.

This post has been edited by Ganz: 23rd July 2017 20:54


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shpuncik
post 23rd July 2017 21:13
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QUOTE(billyleung_146 @ 23rd July 2017 21:37) *
Hi,

This post is great! Much better than the manual.... My 1997 146 2.0Ti's problem is that suddenly the immobiliser intermittently cannot be deactivated. That means, if I turn the key 10 times, for about 7-8 times the yellow key light remains ON and the car won't start. I have cleared all the fuse slots and relay slots as suggested. I dismounted the dash last year and I remember the connectors to the yellow box was as good as new. Could it be the aerial in the ignition barrel that had been degraded? Anyway to check this ?

Thanks! worshippy.gif


The least you could do is to test continuity of the aerial coil and resistance with multimeter. However can't provide any values you should be expecting (my guess reasonable value should be about 18ohm). For further testing you'll need diagnostic equipment like MES and check live data in ECU for key detection, code negotiation.
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billyleung_146
post 24th July 2017 04:28
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Thanks Ganz, is it those relays around the battey?

Thanks shpuncik, I am just wondering, my car didn't came with the master key, if one day, touch wood, the alfa code box is dead, what can I do....?
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shpuncik
post 24th July 2017 08:38
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QUOTE(billyleung_146 @ 24th July 2017 05:28) *
Thanks Ganz, is it those relays around the battey?

Thanks shpuncik, I am just wondering, my car didn't came with the master key, if one day, touch wood, the alfa code box is dead, what can I do....?


should check service manual, but as far as I remember master code is stored in engine ECU. Car key/immo specialist can always read ir from it and make new key. Or sometimes there is possibility to disable immo for ever - but still you'll need equipment to read ECU dump and make some modifications to it.
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billyleung_146
post 27th July 2017 07:00
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Update:

I changed all the relays around the battery (Main, secondary, fuel pump and VVT) and the response of the Alfa code light was back to normal.
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Ganz
post 27th July 2017 23:27
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QUOTE(billyleung_146 @ 27th July 2017 08:00) *
Update:

I changed all the relays around the battery (Main, secondary, fuel pump and VVT) and the response of the Alfa code light was back to normal.


thumbup.gif - I'd replace the faulty relay as it will be controlling something else. I had a thread on this a while back about the relays:
http://forum.alfa145.com/index.php?showtop...2861&hl=yay It's a long thread.. so I thought I'd jump to the solutions :

"Researching into this a bit more it transpires the original relays in the BBoB on the 145 are "single pole, single throw" relays and although the ones from Halfords were 5 pin, 12v 30amp relays, pins 87 & 87a are not joined together like they are on the original Bosch ones that were fitted to my 145. This meant that the Halfords relays only power one circuit as opposed to the originals which potentially can power two circuits (correct me if i'm wrong): This makes the Halford relays "single pole, DOUBLE throw" relays (I've no idea why they are called double throw, haven't Googled that yet!). "

I ordered the correct single pole single throw relays off eBay and replaced two of the original Bosch relays with new ones.

If you have a look at my relays in this pic http://forum.alfa145.com/index.php?act=att...st&id=17377 you can see the ones I replaced (the black ones). The original Bosch ones I have kept but always carry two new replacements in the boot just in case ninja.gif

This post has been edited by Ganz: 28th July 2017 00:09


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dante giacosa
post 1st September 2017 12:32
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Hey Ganz-

DPDT (double pole double throw) relays, would be two independent wipers (switch lines/commons) toggling between a pair of contacts each.

So a proper DPDT relay would have six contacts, aside from the coil.

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Ganz
post 2nd September 2017 23:10
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QUOTE(dante giacosa @ 1st September 2017 13:32) *
Hey Ganz-

DPDT (double pole double throw) relays, would be two independent wipers (switch lines/commons) toggling between a pair of contacts each.

So a proper DPDT relay would have six contacts, aside from the coil.


Hi Dante

DPDT..? If you are referring to my post I talked about SPDT (single pole Double throw) and SPST(Single pole single throw) not DPDT.

Attached File  SPDT.jpg ( 31.46k ) Number of downloads: 67


Attached File  SPST.jpg ( 31.45k ) Number of downloads: 95


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