What Does Red Key Light Mean On A Harley? Here Is The Answer!

The red key light on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle means an issue with the security system, specifically the key fob or its lighting system. Though this is not a serious issue, most people still panic about it.

If you are one of them, you should know why this light turns on, what to do in this situation, and how to prevent it. So, continue reading to learn about this in detail.

What Does Red Key Light Mean On A Harley

What Does Red Key Light Mean On A Harley Davidson?

As a Harley Davidson owner, you may have faced several issues. And red light activation is one of the most common issues among them. 

This red light is located on the bike’s dashboard, inside the trip odometer. And, when Harley detects an issue with its security system or unauthorized access, it triggers the red key light.

Basically, Harley uses a proximity key fob to activate and deactivate the main system. 

This key fob always emits a signal, and when it comes within range of the bike, the bike’s security system instantly detects the presence of the key fob. 

But, when it fails to detect it, the red key light starts to illuminate. But on Harley models that don’t have a security system or key fob feature, this red light means there’s a problem with the lighting system. 

This especially indicates the brake light. Besides, if you install a light that the bike’s computer doesn’t recognize, the red light on the trip meter may flash.

Also, if the light stays on, not flashing, and the bike starts and runs anyway, it means the bike has received a DTC (diagnostic trouble code). 

Generally, it happens because of the error code in the TSSM of the bike. In this situation, you have to scan your bike’s ECM to identify the issue.

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4 Reasons Causes Red Key Light Activation In Harley Davidson

Behind this red light turning on, there are several reasons. And, if you ask your Harley dealer about it, most of the time they’ll advise you to take your bike to them. 

This will cost a significant amount of money. So, if you have an in-depth knowledge about why this red key light turns on, you will be able to solve it on your own. Here are those reason:

1- Low or dead fob’s battery

The fob is a small electronic device that communicates with the bike’s security system and allows the rider to start their bike. 

But if the fob’s battery becomes low or completely dead, it can’t successfully communicate with Harley’s ECM, which triggers the red key light.

2- Defective control module

The control module, also known as the Electronic Control Unit (ECU), is responsible for managing various functions of the motorcycle. 

And when this starts malfunctioning because of software glitches, wiring issues, physical damage, electrical system failure, etc., it then triggers that red light.

3- Issues with the LED Lights

Much like any other vehicle, Harley Davidson bikes have several brake lights. If any of these lights becomes damaged or doesn’t work as it should, it triggers the red key light. 

Also, if you install an aftermarket LED light, and your bike’s ECM doesn’t recognize it, the red key light will also turn on.

4- Faulty brake switch

The brake switch is responsible for activating the brake lights when the brake pedal is pressed. 

If this switch becomes faulty or malfunctions, it can badly affect the functionality of the security system, brake light on and off mechanism, which leads to the activation of the red key light.

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What To Do When This Red Key Light Is Activated?

As a new Harley Davidson owner, you might become worried about its red key light and what to do in this situation. 

But solving this issue isn’t as complex as you think. Here are some solutions you could follow. 

  • Check the key fob battery, and replace it if it’s in low charge or dead.
  • If your bike model has a security feature, check that there aren’t any malfunctions.
  • Inspect all the lighting systems and make sure they all are working perfectly.
  • Check the front and back brake light and replace them if any of them doesn’t work.
  • Inspect the wires and their connections. If found loose or damaged, replace it or tighten the connections.
  • Check if the brake switch is working as it should be.
  • Scan the ECU with a scanner and if it shows any error code, solve it accordingly.
  • If you install an aftermarket LED light, make sure your bike’s ECU can detect it.
  • Add a load equalizer to the system to turn the additional light you added to your bike.
  • You can reset your bike’s computing system.

Finally, if any of the methods don’t solve the issue, then take it to an expert mechanic or Harley dealer.

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How To Prevent The Possibility Of Red Key Light Activation In Harley Davidson?

There is an old saying: “Prevention is better than cure”. And this speech doesn’t not only mean our health, but also our everyday use of machines and vehicles.

If your Harley starts showing the red key light, be sure that you will have to spend money to fix it, even if it’s just a little. But, if you follow some tips, you can easily reduce the possibility. 

Here are those: 

  • Always use the correct key fob and change it’s battery regularly
  • Inspect the bikes security system on daily basis
  • Regularly lubricate all the necessary places
  • Change any faulty parts immediately
  • Always follow the proper starting procedure
  • Try to solve any problems even a minor one

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Can I Fix This Issue Myself, Or Do I Need To Get Help From A Mechanic?

Yes, you can. But you should have a clear idea why this issue occurs and how to solve it. 

In the previous section, we discussed this in detail. So, if you read those attentively, hopefully, you can solve it without any previous experience. 

But also remember that, in some serious situations, you have to take help from an expert.

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Even after reading this article, you might have some unanswered questions in your mind. So to get all those answers, read this FAQ section. Here, we tried our best to answer the most frequently asked questions.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix Harley Davidson’s Red Key Light Issue?

Since, a red key light appears on Harley for different reasons and requires different amounts to fix. But, depending on the issue, it can cost you from $10 to $200 for a minor to major service.

Can You Drive A Harley Davidson When Its Red Key Light Is On?

Technically, you can. But it is not advisable to do so. Because it can cause various performance issues and leave you in an unsafe situation. So it is better to get the problem fixed by yourself or a qualified mechanic.

How Long Does It Take To Resolve Harley Davidson’s Red Key Light Issue?

Mainly, the time required to resolve the P1511 Harley code depends on the problem. If this error occurs due to some minor issue, it will take 1 to 2 hours to resolve. But any major issue may take days to resolve.


So, finally, remember that bikes are complicated machines, and any malfunctions with them can take you to your death. 

So, always be careful about their behavior, performance, and issues. Never neglect even a minor issue. 

If possible, regularly have your bike inspected by a qualified technician, and always ride and maintain it according to the user manual and an expert’s advice.

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