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Lock Cylinder Problems

  • Model & Year: 99-03 5-Series
  • Expertise: Beginner
  • Date: February 15, 2023
  • Updated: March 30, 2023
  • Time Estimate: 2-4 hours

Tools Required

  • Basic hand tools
  • Large paperclip

Facilities Needed

  • None

Parts Required

  • Lock Cylinder, from 9/98, p/n 32-32-1-095-822 (optional)

Getting Started

The ignition lock cylinder located on your steering column may grow problematic as age and wear accumulates. For example, your key may intermittently jam in the cylinder. This is a serious problem.

If your key cannot be removed from the lock cylinder after turning off the engine, this typically indicates a faulty shift interlock cable. This cable locks the auto transmission gear selector in the "P" position. It can be accessed by lifting up the boot surrounding the shift lever. This issue has been addressed by others.

However, in my case, the key was intermittently "locked out" of the cylinder and could not be inserted. Only after much struggle would the lock cylinder finally relent and accept the key. Oiling made no difference. Locksmiths were unable to help.

I discovered there is a mechanical switch on the side of the lock cylinder causing the problem. This switch works in connection with the steering wheel lock system, and activates after key removal. It seems to function as part of lock security by engaging a gate or flap to prevent unauthorized tools (such as a screwdriver) from being inserted into the lock. It also provides a "click" sound when the key is turned to the accessory position.

Bypassing this switch solves the problem.

Afterward, this feature will no longer operate. But it's unlikely you'll miss it since it's relatively unknown. It does not affect the steering wheel lock mechanism.

NOTE: This procedure is also applicable to E36 3-series (plus Z3) and E38 7-series built from 9/98-on. Earlier models used a different lock part number which may be similar. If your cylinder won't turn at all, you will be forced to buy new. Remove old cylinder by either drilling it out or replacing the entire column lock carrier.

If your key can turn the lock cylinder, see procedure next.


Lock Cylinder Removal

1) Lower and extend motorized steering column fully, then remove the plastic covers surrounding the column.

2) Disconnect battery (to avoid drawing power while key rests in "accessory" position).

3) Remove lock cylinder as illustrated in this brief video:

Lock Cylinder Repair

4) Service lock cylinder as illustrated in this brief video:

5) Return lock cylinder to steering column (after re-installing security ring) by holding down cylinder retainer arm while inserting cylinder into its "keyed" location on steering column. Press inward firmly (bump the cylinder with palm of your hand).

NOTE: If necessary, coordinate the position of the ignition switch receiver slot (inside steering column) with the lock cylinder by using a long screwdriver to turn the steering column gear.

I'm hopeful that BMW owners may be able to service their lock cylinders before being forced to replace them.

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Texas, USA