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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 03-29-2009, 11:07 AM
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synenergy52 synenergy52 is offline
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E39 Ignition Switch, Tumbler, Housing Install Complete. Tips and observations!

I finished the install of my ignition housing, switch, and tumbler. I am sorry I did not take any photos. The only camera I have is very expensive and I didn't want to risk damaging or dirtying it! But I'll be as detailed as possible.

I had the dreaded spinning key syndrome. I came home from work one day and tried to shut off the car and the key came out, but engine running. After messing around a bit, I figured out how to start the car by inserting my car key, or a flat-bladed screwdriver into the ignition SWITCH which had to be dislocated from the ignition housing. Waive the key by the transponder (The circular plastic ring around the ignition key hole) and you'll hear a little click. This means the car verified the correct key is IN or AROUND the ignition. Proceed to start by turning ignition switch. This was a temporary way for me to drive until I ordered the parts needed.

So after a month of starting my car with a screwdriver, I decided to bite the bullet and take on this repair.

These are the parts I bought, and the prices from Tischer BMW (getbmwparts.com) they apply to my 97 528i 10/97 build. Yours may be different, but not likely if you have an E39. *NOTE: PropellerHead indicates this part is different on some E39s, namely the V8 models with the comfortstart feature* To be safe, plug your vin # in to wherever you purchase from.

32320002723, Ignition Tumbler, $100.78
61326901961, Ignition Switch, $44.12
32301093572, Ignition Housing, $82.32
32311157967, Fracture Bolts (I think $1.50 each or something?) MAKE SURE YOU GET THESE!

The tumbler has to be coded, and you'll need to provide your driver's license and registration to any BMW dealer who orders this part for you. It will fit your key and your key only.

Kudos to Tischer BMW for their outstanding service and lightning fast shipping. It took about 5 days from the time I ordered for the parts to arrive to me all the way in California. Absolutely outstandidng!

Tips/procedures.

Undo negative terminal from battery in trunk by using a 13MM open end wrench. You can use the one in the BMW tool kit. Place a cloth or blanket between the cable and the negative post. You don't want the cable falling back onto the terminal. This is important due to the airbag removal you're about to do. I tried to discharge any remaining electricity by waiting 10 minutes and flicker the interior light switches, headlights, etc. (JUST TO BE SAFE)

Remove steering column trim/panels. Two bolts holding it on, one top one bottom. Remove steering wheel. This is done by unscrewing two T-30 TORX bolts. I used a Torx T30 screwdriver. The bolts are behind the steering wheel, one on the left and right sides. You may want to do this with the car on as you'll need to turn the steering wheel left and right to gain access. DON'T remove all the way with the car on, just break them loose enough so the airbag/cover can be pulled. The bolts are stubborn but with enough force they WILL break lose. Keep trying. They release the airbag/cover which allow you to get to the main 17mm bolt to release the steering wheel.

Don't fully remove the airbag cover just yet! There's 3 wires connecting the radio controls, horn, and of course the airbag. Carefully release all 3 wires. The airbag/cover will come free. Place in a safe area BMW logo pointing down. Just put it far away where animals or other small children won't chew on the wires or anything.

Ok now you'll see your dirty grimy and dusty steering wheel guts. Get a breaker bar or torque wrench and a long 17mm socket. It's better with an extension. Once 17mm bolt is removed the steering wheel will come out. There's cables underneath which attach to the steering wheel. I think two of them. Release them carefully. There's a ribbon cable inside the steering wheel, make sure that does not come out. place wheel in a safe place after removed.

You'll need to remove the blinker/windshield wiper control stalk (one piece) next. It's clipped on both sides of the housing. Just take a screwdriver and firmly tap it. It should come out. I let it hang--couldn't figure out how to remove it. Just be careful not to put any unneeded force on it while it hangs. Also remove the black cable on the back of the housing with a 13mm open end wrench. This is the cable which putting the car in park engages so you can remove your key.

If you ordered all 3 parts you can remove the housing with the old tumbler inside it. NO NEED TO DO THIS UNNECESSARY STEP of removing the damn tumbler with some stupid special "tool" or paperclips, etc. You're going to discard the housing/tumbler as a unit. Toss it.

OK now the ignition switch is held on by two tiny bolts using a flat-bladed precision screwdriver. Point the screwdrivers blade towards the sky under the ignition switch. Two bolts holding these to the ignition housing. There's also a bracket held on by two allen key bolts. This holds the ignition switch to the ignition housing. Remove those two bolts as well and shove it to the side (the bracket).

Ok here's where you'll have to be clever. There's probably TEN billion ways to do this but this worked for me. The FRACTURE/SHEAR bolts. Everyone said this is the hardest part--WRONG. It was actually quite easy. I'll describe the hard part later on.

I took my $40 costco drill and a small bit I bought from home depot, ALONG with a small, sharp chisel I also bought from Home depot and hammered out the bolts. The chisel is the size of a thick pencil. About 7" long. Take your small drill bit and drill an INDENTATION into the shear bolts. Just enough so where you strike it with the chisel it will catch on. This isn't necessary but makes the job easier. Once you engrave two tiny divets into the bolts. Take your chisel, point the corner of it into the bolt and angle your chisel to where if you strike it, the bolt will turn counter-clockwise! It will take a few very hard strikes to bust it loose. I used WD40 to penetrate the bolts about 8-10 minutes prior. This helped a lot. You'll start to see the bolts turn. Then with medium force just consistently tap the bolt. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap and it will drive out. The bolts are very soft so the chisel digs in nicely. You may not even need to use the drill bit. But I did and it worked. Continue to unscrew the bolts by hand. Toss 'em.

EASY.

Don't pull the housing just yet. A slip ring is preventing the housing from sliding out towards you. Look on the very edge of where the steering wheel mounts. You'll see a ring which looks kind of like a key ring. It almost makes a complete circle... about the size of a nickle. This is holding the housing on. THIS IS THE TOUGH PART.

Here's how I did it.

this will require two hands and concentration. BE CAREFUL not to damage or MAR the steering wheel spline (The part where the steering wheel slips onto!) It's extremely fragile and the slightest impact will mar it, preventing the steering wheel from slipping back on) ask me how I know!

With one hand take your thumb and hold the slip ring firmly into place. With the other take a VERY thin flat bladed screw driver and shove it between the slip ring and twist and push it in. Not much force is needed. You'll see the ring LIFT just enough to slip the screwdriver in near where your thumb is. Remove your thumb from where you were pressing. Hopefully the ring didn't budge and you can stick another screwdriver where that space opened up. Then carefully twist the ring off using your screwdriver. This was a ROYAL pita. ONLY technique which worked for me.

The rest is easy. Various parts and rings slip off. BE CAREFUL to pay attention to which way they go on. Take pics if needed. The housing comes off now. CAREFUL. Don't throw away the housing just yet! There's little parts attached to it including a bearing which you'll need to transfer to the new housing. A bearing and a plastic clip. Pry em off with a screwdriver. Easy.

Take your car key, place it inside your new tumbler. Turn is just enough so you hear a click and the little protruding metal arm on the tumbler goes back in. This will allow you to slip the tumbler into the new housing. Make sure you line the tumbler up correctly with the housing. There's a tiny notch on both pieces to align. Easy. Click in.

OH NOES you can't remove your key? Don't fret. On the back of the housing you'll see a threaded opening. Take a small screwdriver and gently press down on the tab inside the opening. This will release the key. This is what is engaged when you put the car in park as mentioned earlier.

Slip new housing on with all new parts. Install top plate with new shear bolts. Torque em snugly but not enough to shear the heads off. You'll reach the specified torque when the heads shear off. Just don't shear the heads off until you're certain you did everything right. Otherwise you're back and square 1.

Now here's another TIP.

You'll now need to put the snap ring back on. Take your 17mm steering wheel bolt and put it back on the column. Don't tighten it al lthe way. Just thread it a few times.. I did this to pull the steering arm towards me while i put the snap ring back on. You'll see what I mean when you do this. Youll grab onto the 17mm bolt. It works great.


Snap the ring back on in its little groove. Use your screwdriver and start at one end and slowly work around to the other end. PATIENCE.

Install everything back in reverse order.

It now works like new.

Only gripe I have is the part Tischer sent me wasn't manufactured correctly. The area where you attach the ignition housing bracket and associated BIG heavy rubber block (no idea what this is or what it does) was not threaded. So I couldn't put back those two allen bolts. This isn't tichsers fault as they did not make the part. I will call Tischer Monday and see what they can do about this. This means my ignition switch isn't as tight against the housing as it should be. I ziptied it for now.

Sorry for the lengthy write up just trying to be as detailed as possible and help other BMW owners who may have had this problem. If you have an E39 and this hasn't happened to you yet, bookmark this.

Feel free to ask any questions.
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Last edited by synenergy52; 03-29-2009 at 08:10 PM.
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  #2  
Old 03-29-2009, 11:21 AM
andyffer andyffer is offline
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Old 03-29-2009, 11:39 AM
PropellerHead PropellerHead is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by synenergy52 View Post
Yours may be different, but not likely if you have an E39.
Ignition switches will differ from Automatic to Manual and from 6 to 8's.

The automatic transmission 540 is a great example. It will allow the driver to turn the ignition and immediately let go. The key will be held in place until the car is fully started and it will then return to the normal operating position. "Comfort start" I think they called it. V8 E53 X5's and 7's from the era share the same feature.
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Old 03-29-2009, 06:51 PM
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Thanks that sounds good.
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Old 03-29-2009, 07:06 PM
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chivas chivas is offline
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post this on the FAQ and make a note of what prop said.
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Old 03-29-2009, 07:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PropellerHead View Post
Ignition switches will differ from Automatic to Manual and from 6 to 8's.

The automatic transmission 540 is a great example. It will allow the driver to turn the ignition and immediately let go. The key will be held in place until the car is fully started and it will then return to the normal operating position. "Comfort start" I think they called it. V8 E53 X5's and 7's from the era share the same feature.
i want to add this to my 540 though i can just see the living hell it could do.
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Old 03-29-2009, 08:01 PM
PropellerHead PropellerHead is offline
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i want to add this to my 540 though i can just see the living hell it could do.
I have wanted to do it for the longest time so I could then change to a 3.15 and see if cruise started working.
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Old 03-29-2009, 09:17 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Having the comfort start in one of two cars you regularly drive is a royal pain in the arse .

Thanks for the good write-up. I'm sure it'll happen to me soon….with my luck….
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Old 06-22-2009, 07:19 PM
Al3x Al3x is offline
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Great write up. Thank you.
The same exact thing happened to me yesterday.
Got a couple of questions, how do I go abouts using my car key, or a flat-bladed screwdriver in the ignition switch? How do I dislocate it from the ignition housing?
Just need a temporary fix time my parts come.

TIA
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Old 06-22-2009, 07:40 PM
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ganesht ganesht is offline
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thanks for the great write up, but no pics for us visual guys?
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:43 PM
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synenergy52 synenergy52 is offline
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Sorry pics would help, but here is the ignition switch you turn with a flat-bladed screwdriver in the event of an emergency (needing to drive to work until the parts come). Stick your screwdriver in the white part in the middle. Turn gently as if you're starting your car but MAKE SURE your key is in the ignition first or the car will not start. The key will communicate with the vehicle's ECU allowing the car to start via the ignition switch/screwdriver. You'll hear a little "click" as the car reads your key.. This is what your key turns every time you start your car. A shaft goes from the ignition tumbler through the steering column and to this piece. Parts break in between which is what causes the car not to start, and the key to keep spinning. The connection is broken between those two parts (tumbler and switch)to be safe, replace them all. Not TOO hard to do in 3 or 4 hours.
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Last edited by synenergy52; 06-24-2009 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:43 PM
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synenergy52 synenergy52 is offline
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Old 06-25-2009, 10:47 AM
Al3x Al3x is offline
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Pics have been added to the "Emergency way to start your car" thread:
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=343263

I will post pics of the complete housing and tumbler install once I get my parts.
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Old 02-05-2010, 09:40 AM
lknjk2 lknjk2 is offline
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Ignition tumbler replacement

NEED HELP!

bought new tumbler and housing to replace locked ignition, got the new housing on trying to insert new tumbler it goes in but then i cant turn the key...then i did turn the key but just a little then it, im also able to remove tumbler easily I cant figure out whats wrong!!!! PLZ HELP
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Old 11-28-2010, 02:01 PM
JKosner JKosner is offline
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problem

i read your article about the complete install you did and found it very helpful! a few months ago my 540 went into an ignition lock and could not get the key out. so i took it to bmw here in town and they messed up the tumbler so bad that it would just spin. i ordered another one and they i am attempting to install it. i got the old one out but the problem i am running into is i cant get the cylinder to lock into the column . the paper clip isn't working. i got the service Manuel on the car but it is no help. please call me with your suggestions.

Jim Kosner
(309) 363 2284
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:28 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Originally Posted by JKosner View Post
please call me with your suggestions.
Do you really want to post your full name and phone number in the clear on the Internet?

I'd suggest you leave that for a private message; but, then again, I'm trying to be as anonymous as possible here and you're obviously not worried about stalkers.

Anyway, I hope these threads may help you:
- IGNITION SWITCH FAILS: ignition switch that fails causing electrical problems (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11)
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Old 11-29-2010, 05:31 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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For starters, whether you drive a VW, Audi, Volvo BMW etc. made from 1980 through 2005 or so (except for models fitted with "Push-Start" after 2006), the Ignition System in the Steering Column contains 2 devices:

1- The "Ignition Switch" located to the LEFT of Steering Column: this is basically a simple device connecting 0, 15, 30, and 45 (cranking).
BTW, I think 15, 30 and 45 refers to the angle of the key in the tumbler, and funny enough, many Euro auto circuits refer to these as 15, 30, 45 etc.

2- The Key Tumbler (where you insert the key) is a dealer-specific item, i.e., you need your VIN number to get the correct tumbler from the BMW dealer.
* This part is both mechanical and electronic.
* The mechanical part is the tumbler portion, similar to your lock at home.
* The electronic part is the EWS system.
* Even time you turn your key, it turns the "Ignition Switch" located to the LEFT of Steering Column to start the car.

* Many of these Key Tumbler is installed with Shear Bolts for theft prevention.

I just did my 1998 Volvo V70 Key Tumble and outlined the use of 1/32" Nail Set and Trim Hammer to chisel the shear bolts out here FYI.
Similar trick for E39:

http://www.matthewsvolvosite.com/for...hp?f=1&t=34472
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Old 05-13-2011, 08:27 PM
barneyhyphen barneyhyphen is offline
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Small "tip", for what it's worth....

Gettiing the small snap ring back in the groove just behind the splined part of the column can be real tedious because you have to pull and hold the column as hard as you can, whilst you attempt to force the split ring in the opposite direction.

What I did was pull the column out as far as it will naturally come, without any force or effort. slide the aluminium on to the column and snug it up against the column bearing, then slide on the snap ring and snug it up against the aluminium collar. Now, slid two ring spanners over the splined part of the column. The spanners should be of sufficient size to fit snugly over the column (17-18mm) AND, together, their combined thickness (depth) on the column should extend approx 1/2" beyond nthe end of the column.

Now, holding the spanners in place, start to screw in the center steering wheel bolt (NO steering wheel). As the shoulder of the bolt tightens down against the surface of the top spanner, the bolt will start to "pull" the coulumn through the spanners, forcing the snap ring down the column and into the groove.

No need to thank me.

BH
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