DIY: Emergency way to start your car should you have SPINNING KEY SYNDROME!!!!!! - 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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  #1  
Old 02-03-2009, 09:39 AM
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DIY: Emergency way to start your car should you have SPINNING KEY SYNDROME!!!!!!

First of all thanks to any of you who gave me help or have provided help to others on other forums. But yesterday I was plagued with the dreaded "spinning key syndrome" some Bimmians have faced. E36, E39, what have you.

I am placing an order for a new tumbler from the BMW dealer. I found a way to start the car. USE THIS IF YOU EVER GET STUCK OR NEED TO GET SOME PLACE... LIKE WORK!

1) Remove lower kick panel under steering wheel. You'll need to pop off the wood trim panels on both the left and right side to gain access to the screws.

2) Remove upper steering column trim piece

3) Disconnect negative terminal off battery in trunk. Use the 13mm BMW-supplied open end wrench in your tool kit.

4) Position your head in the drivers floor well and look up towards the steering column. You're going to see two HEX bolts. I used an Allen key to loosen the TWO bolts. One is facing down towards the floor, the other is facing 90 degrees towards the drivers door. Once you take those out, you should be able to remove the wiring harness which is blocking the two tiny bolts you'll need access to next.

5) Now that you've removed and pushed the wiring harness out of the way, take a small, thin-bladed screwdriver and LOOSEN (not remove) two tiny, tiny flat-headed bolts. I used the flat end of a bobby pin and carefully turned counter-clockwise. Loosen them JUST enough until the ignition switch pops out. The IGNITION SWITCH is the part that the KEY/TUMBLER turns in order to start the car. This MODULE will drop down and it will dangle. Thick wires are connected to it. A bunch of red ones, green, black, etc. This is your ignition module. If you look at it, you will see where the key/tumbler turn it to start the car.

NOW THE IMPORTANT PART

To start the car, insert your key in the ignition. This will let the attenna ring around the key tumbler detect your electronic KEY.

Next, take a flat headed screw driver, a fairly big one, and now start the car by inserting the screwdriver in the notch in the ignition module and you will see you use it JUST like your key.

Voila, you're on your way.

Here to help.

Off to work I go!
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  #2  
Old 02-03-2009, 11:17 AM
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So, the battery is still disconnected?
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:46 AM
erkinak erkinak is offline
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So, the battery is still disconnected?

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Old 02-03-2009, 11:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erkinak View Post
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:57 AM
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I wrote that in literally 60 seconds before going out the door to work. Forgive me
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Old 02-03-2009, 12:17 PM
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The "Spinning Key" thing has happened to me a few times, but what causes it??

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Old 02-03-2009, 03:54 PM
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the ingnition switch has a little flat shaft, that is inserted into the actual part the turns the car on.
glad you got it fixed. i knew once you got it out, it would be a snap. talkin to you last, and it was late here for me. but for some reason i couldn't explain what you did, is what you needed to do.
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Last edited by lild; 02-03-2009 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 02-03-2009, 03:57 PM
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Take a picture or better yet a video. I want to see this.
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:03 PM
FitzLA FitzLA is offline
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Sounds easier to just rent a car and get that one fixed. But whatever floats your boat.
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:28 PM
Waveho Waveho is offline
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My key always spins in the ignition...unless you push and turn. Is that not normal?
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Waveho View Post
My key always spins in the ignition...unless you push and turn. Is that not normal?
I can say without a doubt that my 2003 e39 never did that.
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  #12  
Old 06-25-2009, 10:41 AM
Al3x Al3x is offline
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1) Remove lower kick panel under steering wheel:
There are four Philips head screws holding this panel this panel onto the upper pedal cover



There is one Philips head screw on the left side of the dash hiding behind a plug I had to dig out with a dental tool.




You'll need to pop off the wood trim panels on both the left and right side to gain access to the screws.
I just grabbed both sides of the trim with my fingers and pulled straight out


I used a small dental tool type hook to pry this side off since it was in a tight spot


Remove two Philips head screws behind the wood trim on the left side


Remove one Philips head screw behind the wood trim on the right side


Be very careful when removing the lower kick panel from behind the tabs of the dash bezel, my tabs broke due to being brittle (age and poor quality of plastic?). They were also stuck to the panel.


2) Remove lower steering column trim piece:
One Philips head screw


Squeeze these tabs together and push out to detach the lower column trim from the leather boot


3) Disconnect negative terminal off battery in trunk. Use the 13mm BMW-supplied open end wrench in your tool kit.

4) Position your head in the drivers floor well and look up towards the steering column. You're going to see two HEX bolts. I used an T-30 torx bit (some have used Allen wrenches) to loosen the TWO bolts.
One is facing down towards the floor,


the other is facing 90 degrees towards the drivers door.


Once you take those out, you should be able to remove the wiring harness/bracket which is blocking the two tiny bolts you'll need access to next.

5) Now that you've removed and pushed the wiring harness out of the way, take a small, thin-bladed screwdriver (I used a precision screwdriver), peel away the red rubbery coating/seal and LOOSEN (not remove) two tiny, tiny flat-headed bolts.


Loosen them JUST enough until the ignition switch pops out.

The IGNITION SWITCH is the part that the KEY/TUMBLER turns in order to start the car. This MODULE will drop down and it will dangle. Thick wires are connected to it. A bunch of red ones, green, black, etc. This is your ignition module. If you look at it, you will see where the key/tumbler turn it to start the car.


I then replaced the lower kick panel leaving the lower steering column piece off for access to my temporary key hole.

NOW THE IMPORTANT PART
To start the car, insert your key in the ignition. This will let the antenna ring around the key tumbler detect your electronic KEY.
Next, take a flat headed screw driver, a fairly big one, and now start the car by inserting the screwdriver in the notch in the ignition module and you will see you use it JUST like your key.


Voila, you're on your way.

Thank you very much to synenergy52 for his detailed write up on this.
Now I can putt around till my parts come in!
Another note, just make sure you have your registration in the glove box and your Driver's License just in case you get stopped by the police and they wonder about your new "key".

Last edited by Al3x; 06-25-2009 at 11:04 AM.
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  #13  
Old 06-25-2009, 01:38 PM
Darkflame808 Darkflame808 is offline
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As soon as I read the first part referencing wires I thought this was gonna be a how to hot wire a bmw post. LOL!

Thanks for sharing. I guess if your a budget bimmer driver this would definitely be better then forking cash over to a rentacar company. Plus you don't want to be caught in a rentacar when people know you drive a bimmer.
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Old 06-25-2009, 02:43 PM
Al3x Al3x is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkflame808 View Post
As soon as I read the first part referencing wires I thought this was gonna be a how to hot wire a bmw post. LOL!

Thanks for sharing. I guess if your a budget bimmer driver this would definitely be better then forking cash over to a rentacar company. Plus you don't want to be caught in a rentacar when people know you drive a bimmer.
All true.
I have 3 other vehicles to use, but this is my favorite and I needed to get it in the garage.
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  #15  
Old 09-18-2009, 07:11 PM
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Thank you Al3x for the assist with the photos. I'm sorry for being so lazy!
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  #16  
Old 09-18-2009, 08:09 PM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edgar620 View Post
Take a picture or better yet a video. I want to see this.
Just an FYI: there is a video of accessing the ignition switch and starting the car...it's up on youtube and was done by Cliff (visionbmw)...also, you don't really need to remove the wood trim and dash panels to access the switch...you can just undo the upper and lower "clam-shells" that are the top & bottom covers over the steering column...there's a great write-up on www.e38.org on how to change the ignition switch if anyone needs a quicker way to access the ign switch.


Thanks to Cliff for a really good DIY video:

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  #17  
Old 05-13-2010, 09:54 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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I read this post with great interest, thanks all for this nice DIY.

The $1M question is: what is the cure for "spinning key syndrome", new tumbler?
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  #18  
Old 05-13-2010, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by FitzLA View Post
Sounds easier to just rent a car and get that one fixed. But whatever floats your boat.
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  #19  
Old 10-09-2011, 07:56 AM
lacortedaniel lacortedaniel is offline
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THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH.... I had to replace the steering column and after putting everything back the key just spun in the lock. Of course all the windows and sun roof were open and I could not get anything going on.... did your trick and moved the car so I could work on the problem I created. Removed ignition switch and fiddled with teh silver lock deal that sets into the switch and turned it towards the sky and POP the steering wheel locked and the key and ignition worked fine. ??? whatever all is well. BUT THANKS for the trick. DSlack
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  #20  
Old 03-04-2012, 04:24 PM
DonHemi DonHemi is offline
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Question donhemi

ok i get it and first of all thank you so much for the thread 1 question how do I get the tumbler out if the key is just comming out please forgive me for sounding so dumb
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