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jackplicet 10-02-2012 11:45 AM

Possible starter motor problems
Hi Folks,

I am the proud owner of a 2003 530i BMW. This automobile has never given me any problems except for the normal replacement of brakes, battery, and filters.

Until recently, I have never experienced any mechanical problems. For the past month, I have noticed at most five times that I have had to turn the ignition key more than once to get the car started. Then, the engine starts immediately. Normallly, I have to turn the key just twice to get the car started. However, last Thursday, (September 27), for the first time since I noticed this problem, I had to turn the key three times to get the car started.

I have taken the car to my BMW mechanic and they cannot duplicate my problem. The car starts right away after just one turn of the key.

Is my problem a starter motor problem, an ignition key problem, or something else?

Thanks for your help.

john@eac 10-02-2012 12:33 PM

It would be really hard to say. It sounds like the ignition switch but that is only a guess. You need to pay close attention to what is happening at the time . Is the engine cranking or do you have to turn the ignition 3 times before it cranks. Does it just click or sound like the starter hits hard but doesn't crank.

jackplicet 10-02-2012 06:08 PM


Thanks for your response to my post. Regarding your question, when I turn the ignition switch, absolutely nothing happens. The engine doesn't crank, there isn't any sound from the starter motor, and there isn't any clicking anywhere.

This morning, I had the battery replaced because it was five years old. This did not solve anything because the starter problem re-ocurred in the afternoon. This time, nothing happened when I turned the key the first time, but the engine started when I turned the key the second time.

Is it possible that something has gone bad with the ignition key? I am thinking of using the spare key to see if this solves my problem.

Thanks again for your help.

john@eac 10-03-2012 06:01 AM

I would definitely try the spare key. From what I have seen if it is the security system having a problem you would hear a click. If it is the ignition switch you would not hear anything. It sounds to me that you have eliminated the starter and the battery.

rdl 10-03-2012 07:03 AM

Aren't electrical intermittent problems the most frustrating!
Your problem could be any of the faults noted above, or a couple more. See these links for info on the the starting process and by inference, potential faults.

A defective key is possible (actually the security chip in the key head, which by the way is completely independent of the remote lock/unlock buttons.) Try another one for a while to see if the problem disappears.
If you have the skills and a voltmeter, a test probe on the starter solenoid trigger circuit would help separate problems with the starter solenoid/motor itself vs ingition switch/EWS systems.

I've seen a couple of threads describing an intermittent "no starter action" problem such as you describe being caused by a failing ring antenna around the the ignition EDIT: switch not key as in original post. When the ring antenna doesn't read the security code in the key, the EWS module won't trigger the starter to try to engage and turn the engine. The repair was reported to be an easy DIY and ~$50 for the part.

GroupBquattro 10-03-2012 02:29 PM

I had a similar issue some years ago with one of my cars. Started Ok, drove to point B, try to come back home and nothing. Turned the key and no crank, no nothing. Push starting did the trick, and the car would be all right for months. Then again all dead. A friend got underneath with a hammer and hit the starter once. Car started immediately. Of course I changed the starter motor anyway after that.

jackplicet 10-04-2012 07:36 PM

Hi Folks,

This afternoon (October 4), I decided to start using my spare key since earlier in the day, I had one incident where the car did not start the first time I turned the key. It started immediately after I turned the key the second time.

Since I started using my spare key, I have attempted to start the car seven times and it has started on the first key turn every time.

I am now wondering if the ignition keys on 2003 BMW's have a limited useful life. My car is nine years old and I have been using the original key since I purchased the brand new car in 2003.

Any thoughts on the possibility that my original key has reached the end of its useful life?

Thanks again for your help. This forum is fantastic. I use it all the time with great results.

timarnold 10-05-2012 06:34 AM

I did have the same issue with my X3. The problem was random enough that changing the battery and trying the other key seemed to fix the problem, but eventually and randomly the problem reoccurred.
If using the other key really fixes it, great, but I am pretty sure it's the ignition switch. It is not (in BMW terms) very expensive and is a pretty simple DIY.

jun 12-30-2012 06:36 PM

I've been having this same issue on and off for some time now. I just don't drive the car that often to have it fixed. If it is the ignition switch, does anybody know where to find the DIY and parts needed? Thanks.

edjack 12-30-2012 09:51 PM

Yeah, try searching this forum.

AnotherGeezer 12-31-2012 06:23 AM

I had the exact same problem. Replaced the master key and it has never reoccurred.

jun 12-31-2012 06:28 AM


Originally Posted by AnotherGeezer (Post 7280793)
I had the exact same problem. Replaced the master key and it has never reoccurred.

How much $$ are we talking about when you replaced your key?

AnotherGeezer 12-31-2012 06:35 AM


Originally Posted by jun (Post 7280804)
How much $$ are we talking about when you replaced your key?

I paid $160.00 from the dealer which is pretty much the only place to get one.

jackplicet 02-22-2015 06:29 PM

Engine will not crank problem has returned
Hi Folks,

My "engine will not crank" problem has returned. Previous posts by me indicated that the problem went away during October 2012 after I replaced the original ignition key with the spare key. During October 2012, I had also replaced the battery which was five years old.

Tomorrow, I plan to call my mechanic to see what he has to say about the problem. I will probably have to have the car towed to his shop since the engine will not crank regardless of how many times I turn the key.

Is it possible that the spare key has gone bad? Is it possible that the 2 1/2 year old battery suddenly went bad. It was working well until I noticed yesterday evening that although the engine started immediately, the crank did not seem to be as fast as usual. I then drove the car to a function and afterwards had to call AAA when I experienced the "engine will not crank" problem. When a jump start by AAA didn't work, I had the car towed home.

Thanks for your help.

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