In their early 2000 models (up until recently in 2007/08), Ducati motorcycles came with keys that have a specialized anti-theft device. Similar to RFID (key-fobs, electronic strikes), these keys send a unique signal (each key blank will have it's own unique signal) to the motocycle's computer which are required for operation of the bike using the stock ECU.
Black keys are used to start the bike. When the bike turns on it will read the signal from the black key and a valid signal is required before the bike will start.
Red keys are primarily used to program the ECU to accept new signals. It's false that a red key is required for any service on your bike (unless that service is specifically programming new keys into the stock ECU).
Ducati has moved away from the red key and now only uses key cards on 08 and newer bikes.
Lost your red key?
Don't fret! You have a few solutions
Nothing. The red key is only used to program new signals, so as long as you have your black keys, you're OK!
Copy your black keys! You can get a new key cut from a blank (currently $15-50 online) at almost any auto locksmith.
Replace your ECU/Dash etc.. You will end up with a new red key, and a hole in your pocket (this costs upwards of $1000+)
Upgrade your ECU. If you wanted to get into racing or tuning your Ducati, just upgrade your ECU. Depending on your upgrade you may get a lot of bonuses, the main (for the sake of this page) is no longer requiring any special "signal" keys. You can make standard keys now for your bike.
Give it the glue. Glue one of your working black key's to your bike's frame (near the ECU) and you'll be able to make "dumb" copies of your key now, since the radio signal from your black key will always be close enough to be read by your ECU you don't need to worry about makind special keys any longer.
Just be certain that you A) make copies of your black key first and B) be certain your ECU can read your black key from it's mounting point. BEFORE glueing your key to your frame
Lost your black keys?
As long as you still have your red key, you can reprogram your ECU to accept new black keys. Consult your owners manual or service department
Lost all of your keys?
It sounds like your bike may be salvaged or stolen, or you're a forgetful person. Never-the-less, while you have fewer options they're basically the same for if you had lost your red key.
Replace your ECU/Dash etc.. You will end up with a new set of keys but this is rather expensive.
Upgrade your ECU and get a new ignition/dash. Again, this is great if you wanted to get into racing or tuning your Ducati, just upgrade your ECU. Depending on your upgrade you may get a lot of bonuses, the main (for the sake of this page) is no longer requiring any special "signal" keys. You can make standard keys now for your bike, but will also need to buy a new ignition.
Buying a Ducati with no red key
Looking to buy a Ducati? Does it come without a red key and you're afraid of what that means?
Hopefully the information on this page has been useful, you should have enough information to make a fair decision what it will cost "extra" after you buy the bike. While you probably will not get the cost of a new stock Dash and ECU off the asking price, you could easily ask for a few hundred off the blue book value and have a great bike.
I myself have owned a Ducati monster for almost 5 years now, never seeing it's red key once. In fact I've only owned one black key for her as well! Turns out, just paying attention where your bike's key is all you have to do. If you're a mindful person, the lack of the red key should never affect you enjoying your bike so don't fret and get out and ride (or install a performance tuned ECU and ride harder!)
Date added: May 7, 2009