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E36 M3 (1992-1999) {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999


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Old Wed, Jun-21-2017, 11:16:16 PM   #1
Jrrrrrrr
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Default spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

This is another spin on the dreaded spinning-ignition key that happens to e36s. Often its a broken keeper in the the ignition barrel that causes the whole ignition lock cylinder to spin. In my case, I came out one morning to start my car and found that while the ignition lock cylinder had a normal range of motion, turning the key did nothing. In essence, no mechanical motion was being transmitted from the lock cylinder to the ignition switch. Unfortunately, BMW put an under-engineered tin-aluminum pot metal cam in the ignition lock housing to connect the ignition lock cylinder to the ignition switch.

Here is the offender in its sad, inevitable, broken state:



Perhaps this piece is under engineered and weak as some sort of anti-tamper, anti-theft measure. On the other hand, having owned German cars for years and years, I would half wager this is a case of BMW pinching pennies in strange ways that ultimately cause the car to need an expensive tow down the road.

If you have a spinning ignition key problem, your first step really is to remove the whole ignition/steering lock housing and have a better look. While not e36 specific, this DIY does a good job in showing and explaining all the steps to remove the ignition/steering lock housing. Removing this housing is a pain and there's no way around it. The biggest time-consumer is going to be removing the OEM shear bolts either by chiseling, or by cutting a groove in them as the above DIY author did. The housing's retaining circlip is also a pain and is pretty thick, so GOOD circlip pliers are a must.

Once this housing is out, you can spend about $150 to replace it. Realoem says there is a cutoff at 6/98, so be aware of that. My car is an 11/98 for what its worth.

http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/show...diagId=32_2427

On the other hand, if the cam piece looks like it does in my photo above, you don't want to wait for shipping or spend way too much to replace a part that shouldn't have broken in the first place, read on.

With the housing on your work bench, you need to remove the ignition lock barrel. This is kind of tricky. This video does a good job of explaining how and I found the best tool for the job really was a bobbie pin:


note: be sure to keep your ignition key in the lock cylinder while it is removed from the housing. I don't recall if the key even comes out, but this is general advise when removing a lock cylinder in order to avoid springs and tumblers falling out of the cylinder.




With the ignition barrel removed, you next have to decide whether or not to keep the steering lock parts. Honestly, I chose to remove them because I have an idea that the steering lock likely contributed to the cam breaking. You know how when the steering lock is engaged there is extra resistance to turn the key from OFF to ACC, and it won't turn at all if you don't turn the steering wheel as well? Especially if someone tried to caveman the key from off without turning the wheel, I forsee the cam breaking again. If on the other hand you park on the street daily in sketchy areas, you might want to keep the steering lock.


So, with all that out of the way, the actual fix here is repairing the pot metal ignition cam with JB weld. Yes, due to the fact that the part is made of pot metal, and not steel like we would hope, JB weld works great to bond the broken pieces together. Take note of the orientation of the two broken pieces because alignment is crucial. A liberal amount of JB weld is advisable, and allow to cure for 24 hours as per JB weld's instructions.



With the repaired cam, its time to slip it back into the ignition housing. Be advised, its tricky, but straight-forward if the keep the steering lock parts. In my case, I removed the steering lock parts, so it was easier. Be sure to remember the cam's spring. Be sure to grease the cam and spring.



One can then put the ignition barrel right back in, but I advise waiting until the ignition housing is back in the car in order to aid aligning the ignition barrel with ignition switch. I used some M8 x 1.25 torx bolts I had on hand to bolt the housing back in. I don't recall that the length of the bolts is critical, but 25-30mm long bolts should be the sweet spot. Now is also a great time to replace the upper steering shaft bearing or grease your old one. I was planning to replace this bearing anyway and the P/N pictured below was right on for me.







When its time to put the ignition barrel back in, don't forget the white plastic bushing thing that goes between the ignition barrel and the pot-metal cam. This is needed for tolerance. If you forget this piece, the ignition barrel probably won't engage the cam and you'll need to remove the barrel again, which sucks. The ignition barrel snaps right in place in the housing and you can then reinstall the ignition switch. If you did everything right, the key will turn the cam and thus turn the ignition switch without notchiness or binding. In my case, I was lucky enough to get it done on the first try and the key turns smoothly and without notchiness like it should. I also replaced the ignition housing's retaining circlip with a universal metric clip from the hardware store. IIRC the circlip is 32x1.5mm but don't get mad if I'm wrong because its been over two years. Here is the key-sensor aligned with the ignition lock cylinder:




This little fix saved me a bunch of money and - knock on wood - has held up without any issues for over two years and thousands of key turns. Honestly, getting the ignition housing out of the car is 3/4 of this job. Hopefully this info helps someone.
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Old Thu, Jun-22-2017, 05:34:26 PM   #2
Schmills
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

I've seen this happen now on 2 e36's (a 97 and a 99). Both with about 150k and 180k Miles.

Having now purchased a 99 with 174k miles, I feel like I have a ticking time bomb.

Is there anyone that makes a stronger cam? Anything to do to avoid it (doubtful i bet)?
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Old Thu, Jun-29-2017, 07:01:13 PM   #3
CaptainM3
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

I just went through the exact same thing as my first problem with my '95, which I've only had for four weeks. Key turns all the way, electrical power turns on, but no ignition money shot. I considered the JB Weld fix, but for the price and peace-of-mind (of longevity and proper alignment), I just ordered a new one on Amazon for $9.00. Bross Part# BSP14. Looks and feels identical to the factory part. Two days (shipping) and 30 mins later, I'm back on the road.
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Old Fri, Jul-07-2017, 03:07:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

i just made mine push button start in the ash tray to fix the issue.
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Old Sat, Jul-08-2017, 01:58:43 AM   #5
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

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Originally Posted by pat-b View Post
i just made mine push button start in the ash tray to fix the issue.
Mine spins a couple times on rare occasion

I thought it could be due to antenna. Or ignition switch ? I have a 11/97 m3

Hopefully. Don't have to go through this anytime soon
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Old Sun, Jul-09-2017, 08:43:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

Quote:
Originally Posted by pat-b View Post
i just made mine push button start in the ash tray to fix the issue.

How did you do that. Please provide details.

Thanks
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Old Mon, Jul-10-2017, 02:20:57 AM   #7
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bmwpower603 View Post
Mine spins a couple times on rare occasion

I thought it could be due to antenna. Or ignition switch ? I have a 11/97 m3

Hopefully. Don't have to go through this anytime soon
Your issue sounds like the little break-off security tab on the ignition cylinder is snapped off because some gorilla tried to turn the key before it was fully inserted. The little tab (looks like casting flash) breaks away so someone can't turn ignition with a screwdriver.

The reason it only spins on rare occasion is because most of the time you're probably pushing the key in far enough so it doesn't spin. If you don't quite get the key in all the way, the cylinder will spin.

The solutions to this issue are to live with it, replace the tab with a tiny screw, or replace the ignition cylinder. In increasing order of cost.
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Old Sat, Jul-22-2017, 06:01:12 PM   #8
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptainM3 View Post
I just went through the exact same thing as my first problem with my '95, which I've only had for four weeks. Key turns all the way, electrical power turns on, but no ignition money shot. I considered the JB Weld fix, but for the price and peace-of-mind (of longevity and proper alignment), I just ordered a new one on Amazon for $9.00. Bross Part# BSP14. Looks and feels identical to the factory part. Two days (shipping) and 30 mins later, I'm back on the road.
Great find. I wish I knew this option existed at the time I needed it. But then again, I don't recall ever finding this Bross reproduction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by haus View Post
Your issue sounds like the little break-off security tab on the ignition cylinder is snapped off because some gorilla tried to turn the key before it was fully inserted. The little tab (looks like casting flash) breaks away so someone can't turn ignition with a screwdriver.
I hypothesize that forcing the key to turn also contributes to wear that makes the ignition cam break on these cars. With the steering lock engaged, this cam is restricted from turning. So if the driver doesn't know you're supposed to turn the wheel just a tiny bit to release the tension on the cam from the steering lock, before you turn the key, that surely will lead to material stress in this under-engineered pot-metal ignition cam.
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Old Wed, Oct-18-2017, 06:44:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

so I just want to clarify because the pics dont work anymore... at which point does it require replacement of the entire housing
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Old Wed, Oct-18-2017, 07:24:32 PM   #10
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Default Re: spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap

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Originally Posted by bmwstephen View Post
so I just want to clarify because the pics dont work anymore... at which point does it require replacement of the entire housing
I replaced the entire housing when the key wouldn't turn past position 2.
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Discussing spinning key problem - repair the ignition switch to lock cylinder cam for cheap in the E36 M3 (1992-1999) Forum - {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999 at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)