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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 04-04-2009, 09:45 AM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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Signs of a failing ignition switch?

Although these electrical gremlins are occurring on my 97 E38...the E39 can be afflicted with these odd/mysterious electrical gremlins as well. This is the reason I'm posting the video I made on the e39 forums I frequent as well as the e38 forums. I ordered a new ignition switch and it will be here next week. If I'm wrong...then I guess I'll look like a big fool!

It started with the DSP control unit...it went blank at the beginning of this week. Then mid-week, the airbag light illuminated on the dash, then the rear sunshade started moving real slow, then stopped working.

Then the MLF steering wheel buttons stopped illuminating and when I went to blow my horn...it didn't work. I then remembered that if you pull down the sun visor and open the cover to the mirror and odd things happened...the culprit is usually the ignition switch (yes, odd connection). I even mentioned this back in Oct/2007 after reading about it on one of the e39 forums: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/430961

I know that the sun visor test sounds odd...so I made a short video this evening after work just to show how unbelievable the connections are of the components that are affected by the ignition switch. And no...it is not a prank (that's why I waited until after April 1st).

You can see the steering wheel move up/down when I open the mirror cover on the sun visor, and the interior lights fade on/off...and the radio shut off:

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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg

Last edited by QSilver7; 04-04-2009 at 11:34 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-04-2009, 11:15 AM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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I wonder if BMW designed that specifically to confuse people….

Good luck!
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  #3  
Old 04-04-2009, 11:35 PM
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I'm currently having these same issues. Altough mine consist of only a intermintenly failing radio, airbag light, and the steering wheel controls do not work nor do they illuminate. Oh, and also my cruise control will not turn on. I also suspected a failing ignition switch and will be changing it out soon.
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  #4  
Old 04-05-2009, 08:44 AM
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BlackBMWs BlackBMWs is offline
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Q, got a pic of the ignition switch? Looking now in RealOEM for it.
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
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  #5  
Old 04-05-2009, 09:02 AM
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jermiester1 jermiester1 is offline
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If the problem still persists after replacing the ignition switch, here's another thought. Check the battery. Low battery voltage also generates strange electrical gremlins. Also clean the battery terminals. I had some electrical issues that a simple cleaning of the battery terminals fixed. Good luck.
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  #6  
Old 04-05-2009, 10:47 AM
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ashton540 ashton540 is offline
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Well in my case, I know it's not the battery. I just replaced it over the winter. A bad ignition switch sounds right to me.
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  #7  
Old 04-08-2009, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackBMWs View Post
Q, got a pic of the ignition switch? Looking now in RealOEM for it.
I just picked my replacement up at lunch today...and I don't have my camera with me...but I can show you the diagram...and some pics from David C who did an excellent write up on e38.org (same switch and steering column etc).

Ignition switch is #2 in diagram (found in the main group "STEERING" & sub group "STEERING COLUMN" diagrams)...there's different part nbrs for different years & models so always check the database for the correct part nbr for your model:




DavidC's ignition switch write-up: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/244045

Ignition switch:

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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #8  
Old 04-08-2009, 04:35 PM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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Q thanks for the tip and going to the trouble of posting a video and parts diagram! That is crazy what is going on there...BTW, does anyone know the solution to starting the car, and it continues to crank the starter for ever? My car does this once or twice per year for about 5 years now.
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  #9  
Old 04-09-2009, 01:32 AM
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ashton540 ashton540 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 540 M-Sport View Post
Q thanks for the tip and going to the trouble of posting a video and parts diagram! That is crazy what is going on there...BTW, does anyone know the solution to starting the car, and it continues to crank the starter for ever? My car does this once or twice per year for about 5 years now.
I'm havig the same issues as q silver's 7 and have been suspecting the ignition switch for sometime now and am glad he did this vid cause I felt like ppl thought I was crazy when I would tell them what my car was doin. Now I have evidence. And I can tell you that it has never once stopped my car from starting. The most annoying thing is sometime the radio will not come on when I start the car and I will have to restart it. Qsilver, post up the results when you get the new switch in.
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  #10  
Old 04-09-2009, 07:27 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Q,

Just curious how much you paid for the Ignition Switch?
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  #11  
Old 04-09-2009, 07:31 AM
dboy11 dboy11 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jermiester1 View Post
If the problem still persists after replacing the ignition switch, here's another thought. Check the battery. Low battery voltage also generates strange electrical gremlins. Also clean the battery terminals. I had some electrical issues that a simple cleaning of the battery terminals fixed. Good luck.
Plus one here...I replaced mine and all those issues went away
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Its Going To Cost How Much???????
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  #12  
Old 04-09-2009, 07:35 AM
dboy11 dboy11 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 540 M-Sport View Post
Q thanks for the tip and going to the trouble of posting a video and parts diagram! That is crazy what is going on there...BTW, does anyone know the solution to starting the car, and it continues to crank the starter for ever? My car does this once or twice per year for about 5 years now.
If you turn your key into the start position and let go it will stay in the starting position until the engine starts....its kind of freaky IMO...why its designed that way I don't know
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  #13  
Old 04-09-2009, 08:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Q,

Just curious how much you paid for the Ignition Switch?
I got it for $44 + tax. I'm going to try to install it sometime this weekend.

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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #14  
Old 04-09-2009, 09:00 AM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dboy11 View Post
If you turn your key into the start position and let go it will stay in the starting position until the engine starts....its kind of freaky IMO...why its designed that way I don't know
Hard to say what was the impetus behind the one-touch (auto-start) feature...but it was introduced during the time BMW was integrating the EWS II system. Only the V8 & V12 models got this feature:


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The (auto start) conveniece start feature is mentioned in the last paragraph in the far right column in the owners manual:

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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #15  
Old 04-09-2009, 09:54 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Thanks Q!

Good to know ahead it is not that expensive $44 for the ignition switch.

My car runs fine so I am not to replace it yet.

But my question is: does this problem ever strand you or does it give enough gremlin problems as warning signs? This way I have time to replace it.
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  #16  
Old 04-09-2009, 09:58 AM
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BlackBMWs BlackBMWs is offline
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Thanks Q, I remember seeing a write up a few months ago on this topic and that's the same part. Thanks for posting this topic!

Quote:
Originally Posted by QSilver7 View Post
I just picked my replacement up at lunch today...and I don't have my camera with me...but I can show you the diagram...and some pics from David C who did an excellent write up on e38.org (same switch and steering column etc).

Ignition switch is #2 in diagram (found in the main group "STEERING" & sub group "STEERING COLUMN" diagrams)...there's different part nbrs for different years & models so always check the database for the correct part nbr for your model:



DavidC's ignition switch write-up: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/244045

Ignition switch:

__________________

1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

BMWCCA# 160411
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  #17  
Old 04-09-2009, 12:05 PM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
...But my question is: does this problem ever strand you or does it give enough gremlin problems as warning signs? This way I have time to replace it.
My personal experience and from what I've read on various forums...this particular part hasn't been known to strand anyone.

It is mainly the cause of a lot of weird electrical gremlins. Like in my case I never had an issue with the car starting. The DSP control unit was the 1st thing I noticed (it didn't come on at all when the radio was turned on...or it went off a few miles down the road). Then the rear sunshade started operating real slow then quit. The same day the rear shade didn't go down, I noticed that the airbag light was on.

That's when it all clicked and I started checking other things like the horn didn't work, and the steering wheel buttons didn't work either...I then pulled down the sun-visor and opened the mirror's cover and the steering wheel moved upward, the radio shut off, and the interior lights came on. When I closed the mirror cover, the steering wheel went back down, and the interior lights went off.

So, most often, a failing ignition switch causes lots of weird (seemingly) none associated electrical gremlins.
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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #18  
Old 04-09-2009, 12:26 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Thanks Q,

Don't you love those horror Hitchcock movies hehe?

Thanks again.
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  #19  
Old 04-11-2009, 12:55 PM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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New Ignition Switch fixed all the electrical gremlins

Quote:
Originally Posted by QSilver7 View Post
Although these electrical gremlins are occurring on my 97 E38...the E39 can be afflicted with these odd/mysterious electrical gremlins as well. This is the reason I'm posting the video I made on the e39 forums I frequent as well as the e38 forums. I ordered a new ignition switch and it will be here next week. If I'm wrong...then I guess I'll look like a big fool!

It started with the DSP control unit...it went blank at the beginning of this week. Then mid-week, the airbag light illuminated on the dash, then the rear sunshade started moving real slow, then stopped working.

Then the MLF steering wheel buttons stopped illuminating and when I went to blow my horn...it didn't work. I then remembered that if you pull down the sun visor and open the cover to the mirror and odd things happened...the culprit is usually the ignition switch (yes, odd connection). I even mentioned this back in Oct/2007 after reading about it on one of the e39 forums: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/430961

I know that the sun visor test sounds odd...so I made a short video this evening after work just to show how unbelievable the connections are of the components that are affected by the ignition switch. And no...it is not a prank (that's why I waited until after April 1st).

You can see the steering wheel move up/down when I open the mirror cover on the sun visor, and the interior lights fade on/off...and the radio shut off:

Okay, got a chance to tackle the ignition switch this morning in the E38...and as you can see in the NEW video...all the previous issues have disappeared and everything works correctly now.

It took about 1 hour to do the job, not because it was difficult...but taking the time to disassemble and reassemble stuff, making sure you put stuff back correctly, etc...you always drop a screw, or need to go get another tool to do the job etc. On a scale of 1-10...this is probably a 2 or 3.

Here's the video that shows everything is back to normal after replacing the switch:

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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #20  
Old 01-06-2010, 03:01 PM
eddiie71 eddiie71 is offline
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Lol

U R not alone its my turn to change my switch, ugh.
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  #21  
Old 01-23-2010, 11:06 AM
rabi rabi is offline
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Airbag sign and transmission failsafe prog

Hello:
I have airbag sign on problem now in my 2002 525i with 70K miles. The cruise control is not working in addition to the airbag sign. Is that common? Radio off and steering wheel up and down when you open any of the mirrors on sun visors. Dash board light changes etc.
I have these symptoms for last two months and was driving to work and back only. Yesterday i was going on a long drive (100 miles) and wanted to cruise and tried it several times but it did not work. However, after a while "Transmission, failsafe prog" sign came on. I had to come back from half way. I started engine a few times after that and the Transmission failsafe sign came once only. I am seriously considering to change the ignition switch at my earliest opportunity now. Is there anything I should be worry about to fix??

any hint would help. BTW, I have not tested for any error code yet.
-Rabi
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  #22  
Old 01-23-2010, 01:38 PM
JasonSC540ia JasonSC540ia is offline
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Im 99.9999% sure its ur ignition switch (same syptoms on my car). Its cheap and very easy to replace.

Fix it.
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  #23  
Old 01-23-2010, 02:13 PM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rabi View Post
any hint would help. BTW, I have not tested for any error code yet.
-Rabi
Yes..my hint would be to follow the DIY instructions (there's a clickable link) in posts #7 & repeated in the quote in #16

Cant' get any easier...its simple to do with a few tools (read the DIY first then you'll know if you have everything you need).
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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #24  
Old 03-09-2010, 05:01 PM
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shenecke shenecke is offline
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Un-foking believable! I had the same symptoms radio turning off, steering wheel raising and none of the buttons on the steering wheel working. Did the passenger mirror trick and radio off, wheel raises! Bad ignition switch. Cost me about $80 for the switch, 1 hour and it fixed all the problems. Took the old one apart and it did'nt even look that bad. No pitting on the contacts, just a little black carbon on them. I never would have guessed it was bad just from looking at the contacts.

Kudos to whom ever first diagnosed this problem and the cure!
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  #25  
Old 11-04-2010, 10:08 AM
gbird gbird is offline
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Hi did you have any problems with the hazard flashers and the turn signals?
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