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DIY - E36 Spinning Ignition lock fix
DIY - E36 Spinning Ignition lock fix
Published by BlackBMWs
Post DIY - E36 Spinning Ignition lock fix

So, my new to me 1998 Sport Cali top had an intermittent spinning of the ignition lock when I bought it. When I was doing maintenance today, the ignition would not engage due to the spinning lock. Hard fail. So, off to Ace Hardware to get a few Allen set screws. Lucky it hard failed while I was doing other maintenance, rather than at the company parking lot in 100 degree weather.

The object for this DIY is to insert a 1/4" x 1/4" set screw in place in the housing to make contact with the rotating ignition lock case. Adjust the set screw with just enough pressure to stop the rotation. Not too tight tho, to not deform the cylinder where it won't work.

These cylinders fail over time. There is a tab that secures the ignition lock from rotating. I believe it is designed to break if someone tries to force the ignition with say, a screwdriver. It's a security feature. Too much force, the tab breaks off the housing. Also, if it gets too old, it breaks as well.

In my 95 Sport, I replaced the housing. PITA! In that case, it was necessary as the PO destroyed it trying to "fix" it. This time, I employed this simple fix I read somewhere and modified it to use a set screw instead of a bolt or screw.

Reference only. Use it as you feel comfortable.


So, I took the lower steering column cover off. 1 plastic screw. Sorry about the lousy pic. It was close to sunset and the lighting was a bit off. (Bad photo skills...)

Second, after moving the antenna ring to the side, I drilled a hole with a 7/32 drill bit just under where the antenna ring (Post 95 models) wiring. About 1/8" from the outer lip of the ignition housing where the ignition lock slides in.

Drill slow and carefully. I only needed to go about 3/16" before I broke through the housing and had access to the lock cylinder.

I used a 1/4" x 1/4" set screw with an Allen head. I drilled the hole smaller to have a set screw cut it's own threads.

I used a T-handle allen wrench to apply enough pressure during the thread cutting process.

The 1/4" set screw length proved to be just enough for the antenna ring to be positioned over it.

I adjusted the set screw so I knew the lock cylinder wasn't slipping, then I gave it another 1/8 rotation turn tighter.

Once I figured out how far the screw should be set, I backed out the screw and added a small amount of red Locktite to only the threads, then returned the screw to the optimum depth. The Locktite is so the screw would not back out due to vibration at an inopportune time.

Reinstall the lower cover and vacuum up all the drill shavings.

Enjoy a non-rotating cylinder. Cheers!
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By jonmno on 09-16-2017, 08:08 PM

You fixed the spinning cylinder. Did you later learn that the cross-shaft was broken, maybe, like, already broken, and that was what allowed the key cylinder 'pin' to shear and break off. It looks to me like the cylinder mechanism comes to a hard stop at the ignition starter 'crank' position. To turn further than that, the steering wheel locking cross-shaft to the electrical portions of the start switch (on left hand side of steering column) must be broken and could then turn 360*. I don't want to put this back together and then take it apart again to did deeper! Would be grateful for your follow-on comments. Thanks, JN
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By BlackBMWs on 09-17-2017, 03:05 PM

Hi Jon! No I did not make that observation as I was looking for a temp quick fix until I could order a replacement cylinder. Once the lock cylinder itself was replaced, I had no further issues.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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