Wednesday 6 February 2008

Citroen Xsara Central Locking

After a flat car battery, my Citroen Xsara (2003) remote locking fob (PLIP) stopped working.

After searching on the internet, I found that if you hold the Lock button down for more than 10 seconds whilst the key is in the ignition, it will marry back up to the car and everything will be fine. Well, it didn’t work!

I went into Dutton Forsharw’s in Preston, and was told that sometimes after a flat battery, the car ‘forgets that it has central locking’ - that didn’t make sense to me as it was the fob that was messing me about. The guy took the fob away and came back telling me that it could not be married up to any car, and I’d need a new fob at £140.

I’ve been using the key in the lock for the past week, and today, the car central locking stopped working completely. This is a real problem as it is now impossible to lock the boot!

I found a sequence on the Citroen Owner’s Club Website, thanks to Andy which tells you to:

  1. Put the driver’s window down, lift the bonnet and ensure all equipment is switched off.
  2. Ensure all doors are closed and remove key from the ignition.
  3. Wait for 3 minutes, disconnect the vehicle battery and wait 15 seconds.
  4. Reconnect the vehicle battery, wait a further 10 seconds (do not open doors.)
  5. Switch on the side lights through the driver’s window.
  6. Switch on the ignition and check system’s functionality.
  7. Hold lock button on key down for 10 seconds.
  8. Remove key open & close door test central locking system
  9. Start the engine and complete the system’s check.

I went through this sequence, and lo-and-behold, the central locking works again. The fob, however, even with a new battery still doesn’t work.

All I can think is that the car computer holds many parameters in RAM, and if the battery voltage gets low, this RAM gets corrupted. When you re-charge the battery, the computer doesn’t reset, and it is possibly this faultily operating computer that talked to my key fob in swaheli and trashed it.

Unplugging and re-connecting the battery enabled the computer to start working correctly.

I’d suggest that whenever a battery in a Citroen gets very low, the computer should be re-set by disconnecting and re-connecting it before doing anything else.

If I’d followed the charger instructions properly, I’d have disconnected the battery to charge it anyway!

Fixing the Remote

I took the car into Dutton Forshaws in Preston, and they told me that the remote was broken, and I’d have to buy a new one. This seemed strange - how could letting a car battery go flat break the remote?

I was only passing through Preston, so took my car into my local Citroen Dealership in Letchworth and asked them. They told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the remote, and took the car to the service garage to take a quick look. The guy came back about 10 minutes later with a puzzled look on his face, and suggested that it needed to be brought in for a full service, so I booked it in.

On driving out of the garage, I noticed that the indicators didn’t work - neither did the wipers, nor the headlights … I took it straight back, and the puzzled guy took the car back. 5 minutes later, he cam to me and told me that the lights, and wipers were now working fine … and by the way, so was the remote!!

He had done a full reset of the computer - this is something quite fundamental, and does not appear to happen normally when the battery is removed. I have no idea what this reset is called, but suspect that they are reluctant to do it as the car also looses some other important parameters (perhaps learned engine tuning parameters?).

Anyway, the car is now working fine!

My lessons learned -

  1. Follow the instructions properly on how to reset your car after a flat battery.
  2. If the daft car repair man tells you something is broken - something that was not involved in the original problem, go get a second opinion.
  3. Make sure absolutely everything is reset in the computer, and you may get your keys to work.
  4. Use the Letchworth Citroen Repair Centre - they are extremely helpful and considerate.


  1. I had more or less same experience:
    1. remote not working BUT Central locking WORKING IN MANUAL MODE
    3. went to Citrien Palmers in Watford, they tried to re-code the key without success. After this, the central locking didn't work at all (not even in manual mode). I told the guys to make it work at least the way it worked before (manual). They said it did not worked like this anyway (I could not belive it...). They said that their best enginner was on the job (a contractor) and suggested that it may be some wiring problems. I agreed to come back another time and if any fault with wiring/mechanical I would pay otherwise they will do it free (big argument with them).
    5. As I was driving away NOTHING WORKED on the dashboard. went straight back told them - you guys must be crazy to think I was driving the car in this condition before.
    6. The guys from Citroen were gone for the day so one guy from Peugeut rebooted the computer and ALL WORKED FINE (remote, manual, dashboard etc.)

    Lesson learned:
    - Avoid Citroen Palmers Watford
    - get them to aknowledge what IS WORKING BEFORE any repairs done.

  2. I have xsara 1.4 (03 plate). I was driving along when the battery warning light came on, the the airbag warning light swiftly followed by the ABS light. I wasnt far from home and when i got there i switched off and restarted it struggled but started. When I got out the C/L didnt work from the fob. Assuming a flat battery i tried to remove it to put it on charge but couldn't get the thing out! when i reconnected i heard a beeb so thought perhaps its resetting so i followed the reset procedure as per the manual but nothing. The car turns over but wont fire up....Any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated

  3. Hi,
    I have the same problem with a xsara break 1.6, central locking is working manually but not the remote fob, i bought a second hand car i dont have any code for radio, transponder and key.
    can i still disconnect the battery for full reset or i will lose the radio working?
    my many thanks in advance.

  4. I just bought a xsara 02 with the central lock not working. I just tried the above instructions. WOW the central locking is working.from the key and inside the car. I am now safe and secure. However the key fob is still not working. But Im half way there BIG THANKS

  5. I brought a mk1 (99) just over a week ago with a MIA central locking and thought would just be a fuse/relay. I wonder if this could be same problem as have tried everything else.

    Cheers bud

  6. I have run a Citroen Xsara Picasso1.6 HDi for 2 years and I have done about 12000 miles everything is great and I am pleased but the auto central locking has never worked from the key fob. I have always had to
    lock it by a key turn which works all doors fine... well last service the mechanic ( non citroen ) turned my auto lights off in an Service and MOT inspection .. I had to turn and reset the autolighting wihich was easy...
    low and behold wireless central now works by key depression I am like a kid with a new toy , lock unlock lock unlock ... join the 21st Century wow..
    hope this helps someone .Albert

  7. Hey, I am an owner of a Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 hdi 04 plate. The central locking on my vehicle does not work on key fob or key. The door locks rotate 360 degrees when attempting to rotate the keys. Due to this, I have no possible way of entrering my vehicle. How can I gain entry to my car again? Please can anybody help? If so, please contact me at 07547589278. I will phone you straight back.

  8. Remote fob wasn't working, just went through process to initialise remote after changing battery in fob. Whilst the key is in the ignition & engine running, press either the Lock or Open button down for more than 10 seconds. Tried this and fob working again, although doesn't seem to have the same range as before, I have to be next to car for it to work but work it does.

  9. I actually had the same problem and initially thought it was the battery. After reading about it I realized that could be it just needed resetting. I checked the manual and its very simple, just put the key to reset in the ignition and turn it on, press any button from the key for at least 10 seconds and that´s it. Mine is working fine now and hasn´t fail since.

  10. Ive had same problem manual locking works , but key fob won't to re sinq it , key in ignition on , press unlock once , then lock once, key out, unlock once then lock twice , it worked for me , so give it a try

  11. My xsara Picasso 2008 the central locking in not working even the manual way. It locks only drivers door not the other three doors. And I changed the battery on key too. Can anyone help please

  12. I just took the battery out for recharge and now have no way to lock the back doors :( Does anybody know the secret how to lock them without cenyral lock?

  13. Just tried the key in the ignition and hold lock key for ten seconds with the ignition on and it worked! Thank you very much for the info! Had'nt worked for a few years! Great blog! Thank you!

    1. Your remote must be very unique
      By & large getting a xsara remote to work again like that has a very high failure rate

  14. Thank you. i held the fob for 10 sec as you instructed and my central locking is now working fine. Thank you .

  15. Thanks for the help above. Citroen Xsara Picasso 2001 diesel
    I started car and held the big button for 10 seconds while running, turned of and removed key and now works perfect.

  16. Thank you for the information. It has helped me and sorted the primary problem. But people should go to Car Body Repairs Dublin expertise for a usual check if there is any other problems.