Key will not turn in ignition so mechanic wants to break the steering lock? - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums

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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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Old 02-17-2014, 09:38 PM
TommyEgo TommyEgo is offline
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Location: Detroit, MI
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 2001 BMW 530i
Unhappy Key will not turn in ignition so mechanic wants to break the steering lock?

He guys, I have an immobilizing issue with my 2001 BMW 530i ignition. It started when at times I would not be able to turn my key in the ignition without wiggling the key around first. This was regardless of if the steering was locked or not. After wiggling a bit the cylinder would turn normally and start the car.

It became progressively worse and now I blame myself for not getting it looked at sooner. Ultimately the key will now not turn at all regardless of wiggling or jiggling. In the process of trying the steering wheel also locked in place.

I read some forum entries where owners were having similar issues in that it may be a bad ignition switch. Maybe that would explain why my battery would occaisionally drain in spite of it being new and having installed a new alternator?

My next step was to troubleshoot the ignition switch but due to the cold weather, my lack of a garage and crazy work schedule, I decided to take it to a foreign car "specialist" and have them diagnose it for an $80 fee. After the car had been there about a week and no contact, I called and spoke to the owner and was informed that they had tried to look at the issue but since the steering was locked they were unable to access the ignition lock? I asked him if they were able to determine if the ignition switch was bad or not, he gave me a vague answer and said they would have to break my steering lock with a hammer and chisel in order to access the ignition lock and he would get back with me the next day with an estimate on any repairs including a replacement steering lock.

I asked him if they could just look at the ignition switch first but his attitude was so crap I just asked him to draw up the estimate but do no work until I reviewed the diagnosis and estimate.

My questions are:

1. Has anyone had an identical or similar issue they can refer to and shed some light?

2. Has anyone heard of having to break a steering lock to access ignition components in the event that the steering is locked?

3. Does anyone know a BMW mechanic in the Detroit Metro area that really knows his sh!t. I could really use an expert in this respect.

Thanks a million. Im so frusturated by what seemed to be a pretty routine fix turning into who knows what.
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Old 02-18-2014, 12:34 AM
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mjalloul11 mjalloul11 is offline
BMW forever
Location: Lebanon
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 1,054
Mein Auto: 1996 528i 1999 MB C240
The ignition switch can be accessed without breaking anything and without removing the cylinder.
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Old 02-18-2014, 04:04 AM
zersys zersys is offline
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Location: Sydney
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 140
Mein Auto: 02' E39 530i Executive HL
Sounds like a **** mechanic. DIY or find someone better. Better to be without a car then have some guy who's really just taking a stab in the dark with your car.

Sent from BimmerApp mobile app
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Old 02-18-2014, 05:09 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 25,236
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Typing /ignition f3 in the VERY best of E39 Links nets this:
- Signs of a failing ignition switch (1) (2) or ring antenna (1) & the BMW TIS for when the ignition switch spins but does not engage (1) & rebuilding a failed ignition switch (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) & what to do if your steering wheel & key cylinder locks in place (1) (2) & the BMW training on the EWS alarm drive away protection system (pdf) & erasing old keys from the locking control module (1)
Please read the suggested threads and add value, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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Old 02-18-2014, 07:02 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 14,362
Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
JimLev wrote some nice instructions on ignition tumbler.
Search for it.
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Old 02-19-2014, 04:14 PM
TommyEgo TommyEgo is offline
Registered User
Location: Detroit, MI
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 2001 BMW 530i
Thanks for the help. Picked up my car today and mechanic said he didnt bother testing the ignition switch because it was obviously the ignition tumber; which couldnt be removed conventioinally thus the need to break off the steering lock mechanism.

I was a little dissapointed as I would think that a good mechanic would take out the guesswork and by process of elimination determine exactly what was wrong with the car. Needless to say I paid the $80 "diagnostic" fee and got outta dodge.

Im definitely going to look for a more qualified mechanic. In the mean time Im gonna look at some of the suggested links and search the forum. Making myself more familiar with this forum will for real save me a lot of $$$ on maintenance.
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