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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 09-29-2012, 05:07 PM
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Fudman Fudman is online now
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DIY: E39 Door Lock Actuator Replacement

The following is a DIY to replace the front door lock actuator. This is a relatively easy DIY (about a 5 or 6 out of 10) but there are some tricks to doing it quickly and properly. It took me 4 hours total including time spent to document the procedure and two hours to troubleshoot why the lock button did not work at first . Refer to http://tis.spaghetticoder.org/e39/ for additional drawings. The Bentley is mostly useless.

The usual disclaimers apply. Use this DIY at your own risk and peril. Always disconnect the battery before handling the airbag module. Safety first!

Part #67 11 8 352 165 Door Lock Actuator VDO/Siemens ~$54 from BMAparts

Tools
1. #2 Philips head and small flat blade screwdriver
2. T10, T20 and T30 screwdrivers
3. Small pick set (Harbor Freight)
4. 10mm socket
5. 3/8" extension bar
6. A good small flashlight with a clip

1. Remove the front door panel. Follow the BSW directions on YouTube for e39 front door speaker installation.

a) Remove the Philips head screw inside the front vent tunnel

b) Pick the cap off the screw cover and remove the T20 screw behind the door handle

c) Pull the door panel off by pulling outward to disengage clips. Work your way around the entire edge.

d) As you pull away the panel, work the door handle through the opening.

e) Unplug the speakers and door lamp

f) I did not disengage the window control cabling so I just left the door panel laying across the door opening.

g) Pull the door clip off the post by squeezing the tines and pulling. Put the clip onto the door panel to facilitate reassembly

2. Remove the speaker module Remove the three Phillips screws that hold the bass speaker cabinet, unplug and remove.

3. Remove the airbag module - Disconnect the battery. Disconnect the power cable by pushing in the yellow tab and moving the entire plug assembly to the right, off the bracket. Then squeeze the plug and remove from the socket. Remove the three 10mm screws and remove the entire airbag assembly. Per the TIS, some models have four screws.

4. Gently peel vapor barrier back (TIS R51 0257). I went about halfway, which was enough. Bend the vapor barrier back and tie off to the steering column to keep it out of the way.

5. Refer to TIS 51 21 090 for removing the door lock.

a) Open the small hinged door that covers the actuator cable connector. Use a small screwdriver to open the restraining tabs (arrow) and open the door. Remove the actuator cable connector by pulling downwards (arrow) on the outer frame (TIS R51 0258). It should follow the curved arcs and then allow the plug to be pulled off.

b) Disconnect the Bowden cable white nipple (arrow) located against the outer door panel side by using a pick to push the spring-loaded arm up (it rotates) (R51 0259). In the space below, insert a AA battery or the end of a 3/8" extension arm to hold the arm up. This creates slack in the Bowden cable. Use the T10 screwdriver and insert it into the small opening on the end of the nipple (arrow). Don't force it. It will wedge tight and then rotate the nipple counterclockwise 90 degrees. This will free the cable nipple from the arm. Move the entire cable, including cable guide free.

c) Remove the three T30 screws that hold the locking assembly to the door (TIS R51 0488). These have locktite on them, so the initial force required is high. Remove the upper T20 screw near the lock button.

d) Unplug the lower cable connector from the locking assembly and disconnect from the locking assembly (TIS R51 0487). A small restraining tab on the locking assembly holds the cable in place.

6. Gently work the entire locking assembly downwards. The connection to the door key takes a little bit of persuasion to come free. Work the lock button through the foam and the entire assembly comes free. Work the attached door handle through the opening and follow the locking assembly out the lower opening in the door.

7. The entire locking assembly, including the actuator and the attached door handle are now free of the vehicle.

8. Remove the back panel from the locking assembly by removing the T20 screw (arrow).

9. Remove the old actuator (TIS R51 0262) by bending the locking panel out with a small screwdriver and lifting the actuator up and out. The slot is where the locking tab engages.

10. Reassembly This is the part that is not described anywhere. When you replace the actuator, make sure the two center tabs (arrows) are aligned like so. For some reason, if you do not do this, the lock button does not go up or down when the actuator is triggered.

11. Install the actuator into the tabs.

12. Before inserting the locking assembly, plug the cable assembly in place, reconnect the battery and check for proper function (door button goes up and down). You will need to manually close the door latch (to simulate a closed door) for this to function. The first time, I did not check for proper function and my lock button did not go up or down AFTER reassembly. It took over two hours to troubleshoot this issue, disassembling and reassembling the unit several times before I figured this out.

13. Ensure the outside door handle connector is facing downward to facilitate re-engagement.

14. Insert the locking assembly into the lower door opening. Lead with the door handle and cable. This should come out of the old opening. Wiggle the locking assembly onto the door handle connector. It is engaged when the screw holes become visible. Insert on T30 screw to hold the unit in place. Replug the connector to check for proper function. If OK, close the door. Reconnect the lower cable.

15. Reconnect the Bowden cable using the disassembly procedure in reverse. Make sure the cable guide goes into its proper location.

16. Install the T30 screws using Loctite (blue) and the T20 screw.

17. Reinstall the vapor barrier using silicone caulking.

18. Disconnect the battery before reconnecting the side airbag. Reinstall the airbag module, reconnect the cable and reconnect the battery.

19. Reinstall the speaker module and reconnect all cables

20. Reinstall the door panel.

21. Enjoy the working door locking mechanism!

I have attached a .pdf file of this DIY with pictures.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf BMW E39 Door Lock Actuator Replacement.pdf (764.4 KB, 1920 views)

Last edited by Fudman; 09-29-2012 at 05:22 PM.
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  #2  
Old 09-29-2012, 10:16 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Fantastic! I looked in the bestlinks under /door locks and /actuator and I didn't find anything like this on the door lock actuator replacement - so - as I am wont to do, I added the line below to the bestlinks so that others, in the future, will more easily find Fudman's wondrous DIY above.

- How to properly maintain a door lock (1) & a DIY for how to replace the front door lock actuator (1) & how to disable automatic door locks (1) (2) and how to take apart an E39 front drivers side door panel (1)

EDIT: This related thread was posted just now:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiko530 View Post
My driver door will not lock. Every time I press the lock key in the middle panel or lock/unlock on my key I hear a whirring noise coming from the lock area but the piece won't go up or down and the door remains unlocked. I suspect (after doing a search here) that it's the actuator but didn't find any threads that referenced the whirring noise so I was hoping someone could confirm for me that that is the issue before I take the door apart.
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Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 10-05-2012 at 09:37 AM.
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  #3  
Old 09-30-2012, 04:29 AM
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FINAL NOTES:

If your door lock seems slow coming up or going down or fails to properly lock or unlock, that is a symptom of a failing actuator. Another symptom (if you don't watch your lock buttons) is if your car alarm seems to go off periodically. The alarm, for some reason, becomes supersensitive if a lock fails to engage. If you notice these symptoms, fix your actuator soon. In doing my research, those that did not replace their failing actuator had to destroy their door panels to access a failed actuator, as the door cannot be unlocked manually or remotely when an actuator fails in the locked position. You don't want to wait too long on this repair!

And when reinstalling the door panel, use part 4 of the YouTube video sequence. You must slide the top part of the panel down, then push the center to engage the clip, then work your way around the edges to engage the pin clips.
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Old 09-30-2012, 09:22 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Thanks Fudman.
Great Job.

------
Just to digress: I remember replacing the lock actuator on a friend's 2003 Mercedes E320.
It was a nightmare job!
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  #5  
Old 09-30-2012, 11:25 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Thanks again Fudman, I will be using this DIY sooner than later because I've noticed that the front passenger door lock occasionally (about once in a half-year) fails to lock or unlock.

Question about step #12.

You mention temporarily reconnecting the battery to test operation of the new actuator. Won't this result in an SRS fault code & light if the airbag isn't also re-connected?

-------

Aside: Anyone dissected one of these actuators? I opened up a failed gas-lid actuator (also VDO) and the only things in there were a white plastic slider and gearwheel powered by a little motor that looks almost like the kind you'd snap into one of those little toy cars ....

Last edited by pleiades; 09-30-2012 at 12:20 PM.
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  #6  
Old 09-30-2012, 11:36 AM
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  #7  
Old 09-30-2012, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
Question about step #12.

You mention temporarily reconnecting the battery to test operation of the new actuator. Won't this result in an SRS fault code & light if the airbag isn't also re-connected?
It didn't for me. I just reconnected the ground, tried the actuator and then disconnected it again before reassembling the airbag connection.
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  #8  
Old 10-01-2012, 06:55 AM
rdl rdl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
FINAL NOTES:

If your door lock seems slow coming up or going down or fails to properly lock or unlock, that is a symptom of a failing actuator.
... stuff deleted ...
I'd like to clarify what is meant by slow.

With my car the locking/unlocking does not ocurr simultaneously on all 4 doors. There is a definite cascade of the actuators moving. The time difference from first to last is 1 second or less. The manual locking buttons seem to pop up or down at the same speed; none ever stick or move "lazy." I've never had an actuator fail to lock or unlock. The sound pattern of sequential operation has been consistent over time since I bought the car.

I had assumed that the seqential operation was as designed. After reading Fudman's description I'm no longer so sure.

Is my car's behaviour consistent with others?
Should I be concerned, or not?
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  #9  
Old 10-01-2012, 07:25 AM
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I believe this a problem that grows slowly by degrees. My initial observation was that my drivers lock button was the slowest ("lazy") to lock or unlock. I never gave it any thought. Then it began to occasionally fail to lock or unlock. Again, just an annoyance as this would occur on a monthly basis. Then it began to occur on a weekly basis, making it more of an irritant but not enough to make me do anything about it. Until I began to research this problem. Then I found threads like this: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...+lock+actuator Clearly, waiting until the lock actuator fails is the wrong approach. I had no intention of jamming an awl through my door panel so I decided to fix the problem. But there is no DIY for replacing the e39 door lock actuator. Hence, this weelend's exercise.

From everything I've read, the actuator rarely dies suddenly. Failure occurs over a period of weeks or months. I would wait until your lock actuator actually fails to go up or down before doing this repair. Once this symptom occurs, impending death of the atcuator is near. Hitting the key remote repeatedly will eventually get the door to unlock. Once this happens, don't lock your door until you can effect a repair. The part is only $50 incl free shipping from BMA and the repair can be done in less than 2 hours. Hence, there is little reason to procrastinate as the consequences of a complete and sudden actuator failure are quite painful.
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Old 10-01-2012, 12:04 PM
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doru doru is online now
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To RDL: when my passenger front door actuator bit the dust, that one closed slower compared to the others. before it was: hit the central locking button followed by one "clang" and all doors were locked.
then about 3 months ago, the sound was "clang"- "clang" in a fast succession - kinda like you said: cascading, but only that one (pass door) after the first 3 locked/unlocked simultaneously.
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:30 PM
rdl rdl is offline
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Fudman and Doru - Thanks for your replies.
After Fudman's reply this morning I started thinking I did have a problem. After Doru's reply and my experience below, I'm certain that I did.

So earlier today I went out and lubed the lock and latch mechanisms with a different technique. I set the latches in the closed position and used a thin aerosol lube, brand name "SuperLube" made by Synco. I found 3 locations one can insert the straw around the latch hook. I worked and wiggled the straw as far back into the mechanism as I could manage. I gave each location a 2 second squirt. Then cycled the actuators a few times. After a few hours I cycled the lock actuators again a few times and then repeated the lube process.

All 4 doors now lock & unlock simultaneously.

In the past I have given the latches in the doors a brief squirt of lithium grease from an aerosol can around the latch edges. In hindsight, I don't think I ever got much grease back into the mechanism. Further, the grease probably wasn't wicking into the tight corners. The doors would latch and open smoothly, but apparently the lube wasn't reaching the locking mechanisms.

BTW, in spite of the slightly hokey name, SuperLube seems to be a good quality product. GM recommends it for lock cylinders and it has worked well for me in that application over the years. It appears to do nicely for our locking mechanisms too.

I'll monitor the locks and report long term results in a few months.

EDIT: I forgot again to compliment Fudman on his DIY. Detailed procedure, good pictures and tips on the tricky parts that are not obvious until one has fiddled for 15 minutes wondering if this #$%^&* thing is supposed to come apart at all.
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Last edited by rdl; 10-01-2012 at 01:37 PM. Reason: Compliments to Fudman
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  #12  
Old 10-02-2012, 06:24 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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I am not sure my habit has anything to do with this....

I am one of those "old-school" people who open door mechanically, yes I insert the key and rotate the cylinder CCW to open the door.

I think when you use the remote feature, it has to travel through quite a few circuits with the final item being the door actuator. So after 1000's times using the remote feature on the key fob, the electrical portion of the door actuator wears out.

By opening the door mechanically, the door actuator will last virtually forever.
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
I am not sure my habit has anything to do with this....

I am one of those "old-school" people who open door mechanically, yes I insert the key and rotate the cylinder CCW to open the door.

I think when you use the remote feature, it has to travel through quite a few circuits with the final item being the door actuator. So after 1000's times using the remote feature on the key fob, the electrical portion of the door actuator wears out.

By opening the door mechanically, the door actuator will last virtually forever.
Not sure how accurate this is.
The only door with key is the driver door. On my car, it was the passenger door actuator that failed.
Also, mechanical or not, once you lock the car with the key (mechanical), and if the othe doors were open, the actuators are engaged and will close them. Some other people had rear door actuators fail on them - again, no key on those.
Some others experienced gas door actuator issues. Again, no key.
I talked with my indy about this, and he told me that the remote locking/unlocking has nothing to do with actuator failing. He said there are old BMW's with similar (or identical) actuators that last forever, others failed on cars with less than 2 or 3 years. It's a hit and miss aparently. Maybe some dirt/debris finds its way in there and make the actuators works harder, i don't know.
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:57 AM
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Cam, you have a point. If you never use the actuator, then the actuator should not fail (in theory). If you look at the pdf I wrote up, on step 10, the green hole is where the door key linkage mechanism goes into. The locking and unlocking of the door using the key is via a mechanical linkage in step 13 (I erroneously labeled this the door handle connection, when in fact, the Bowden cable is the door handle connection). However, if the actuator fails in the locked position, you cannot unlock the door, even manually using the key (see the thread I referenced). Hence, the actuator plays a critical role in the ability to lock and unlock of the door lock mechanism. I believe that this is related to the tab position in the door locking mechanism pictured in step 11. In one of those positions (center tab either even or back of the other tabs), the mechanical portion of the door locking mechanism is disengaged (probably an anti-theft feature). Once the actuator fails in that position, you are SOL. So, to be safe, you should never ever use the remote locking (either key or button inside the car). However, I am all about convenience!
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:25 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Mr. Fud, I found an e34 door actuator rebuild diy over on that other forum.

http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1596941

Does it look like the e39 versions can be opened up non-destructively? Those motors are awfully inexpensive, so I have to wonder if they were still being used in the e39 actuators.
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Old 10-03-2012, 07:02 PM
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Not sure. I can check my old one tomorrow. I would guess you could repair the old one. I am not entirely sure what the failure mode was, e.g. motor, gearing, etc. But I am not into electrical repairs and just opted to spend the $50. Those motors remind me of my old slot car motors...
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:21 AM
YinD YinD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
I am not sure my habit has anything to do with this....

I am one of those "old-school" people who open door mechanically, yes I insert the key and rotate the cylinder CCW to open the door.

I think when you use the remote feature, it has to travel through quite a few circuits with the final item being the door actuator. So after 1000's times using the remote feature on the key fob, the electrical portion of the door actuator wears out.

By opening the door mechanically, the door actuator will last virtually forever.
I am in agreement with Doru on this... I don't believe the lock mechanism is mechanical internally. I was reading the pdf that RDL posted in #6 on this thread http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=649707

The lock cylinder activates the locking via magnetic strips and sensors, not a mechanical arm.

That being said, you are activating a separate motor, which may be the reason why it works while the remote may not.
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:46 AM
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The .pdf that rdl posted was for an X5. If you compare the X5 door locking mechanism on pg 16 to the picture of the e39 door locking mechanism in my .pdf, they do not look alike at all. Hence, I think we have an apples to oranges comparison here.
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:55 AM
YinD YinD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
He said there are old BMW's with similar (or identical) actuators that last forever, others failed on cars with less than 2 or 3 years. It's a hit and miss aparently. Maybe some dirt/debris finds its way in there and make the actuators works harder, i don't know.
I would believe that it could be from that piece of foam that is surrounding the lock tab in Fudmans picture on step #4.

I work for a manufacturer and we did the same thing to eliminate a rattling noise... only to find out that the foam restricted the movement and the door was not latching all of the way. (it was the rod connecting the latch to the inside lever. The foam would stick to the metal and bunch up. We implemented a plastic insert in place of the foam. (we actually had to recall those vehicles.)

So I would imagine that may be the culprit.
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Last edited by YinD; 10-05-2012 at 08:06 AM. Reason: dang fat finger, bad typing...
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Old 10-05-2012, 08:04 AM
YinD YinD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
The .pdf that rdl posted was for an X5. If you compare the X5 door locking mechanism on pg 16 to the picture of the e39 door locking mechanism in my .pdf, they do not look alike at all. Hence, I think we have an apples to oranges comparison here.
Ok, I stand corrected... after looking at the picture on page 16, I noticed there is a reference to a tumbler extension. So the hall sensors merely indicate status and drives the other locks to unlock or lock.

I have always been curious on how they designed it so you could unlock all doors from the trunk key... Very complex engineering.
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Last edited by YinD; 10-05-2012 at 08:05 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 10-05-2012, 08:09 AM
YinD YinD is offline
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By the way, thanks Fudman... I have set this up as a "Need to know topic" and am actively thinking about my locks everytime I hit the remote. They are not exhibiting any issues... at the moment...
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Old 10-06-2012, 03:37 PM
Tiko530 Tiko530 is offline
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Massive thanks for the write-up Fudman!! I replaced my driver door actuator just now, wouldn't have been able to do it without your instructions. Most bothersome for me initially was disconnecting the Bowden cable connection, it's a hard to reach spot and visibility is very bad, would've taken me a really long time to figure out how to get it disconnected without your descriptions.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:40 PM
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It's now my turn to tackle this on my 528i 45K . My rear left actuator died on me yesterday. The problem was that it failed in a couple of weeks. No time to do some reseach and now the door is closed shut. I have no intention on drilling any holes so i will try open the door panel with the door shut. I have opened it several times with it open, but closed, is a different story. Somehow i then need to make my way through to unlock the door manually so that i can get going.

I understand the basic physics behind the actuator but i still failed to understand the reason for the mechanical opening of the door from the inside fail too. Opening from inside has the dual lock mechanism which to my understanding does not require any "power" which therefore should bypass the actuator.

All the posts i read say it is the actuator, but i am still not certain. I do here a "click" when i put my ear at the door which excludes relay issues.

Is there another part which fails other than the actuator? If no door handles work, (all other 3 doors work) is it still the actuator? Even the internal dual lock depends on the electrical actuator?

Thanks
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Old 10-16-2012, 04:20 AM
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Your symptoms certainly sound like an actuator failure although it is difficult to know without actually seeing your door. This is why you must repair an actuator BEFORE it fails completely. Otherwise, you cannot open the door. And without an open door, you cannot remove the door panel. What I would suggest is that you bang the door with your fist about six inches below the lock button. Then try and unlock the doors with your key. If your actuator has one more unlock activation left in it, you might get it to unlock. This is a Hail Mary but worth a try.
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Old 10-16-2012, 05:04 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 12,852
Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
Actually, even with the door closed, there is a way to open it (to replace the actuator) with minimal damage to the door panel.

See the posts by cabinetman2:

HELP! Passenger Door locked!
http://wwww.bimmerfest.com/forums/sh....php?p=5341047
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