Key Spins in the Ignition

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Key Spins in the Ignition or No Response when Turning on the Ignition

  • E36 3 Series
  • E34 5 Series
  • E32 7 Series


When trying to start the vehicle and upon turning the ignition on, either the key will spin in the ignition or the key will turn the ignition like normal but the vehicle won’t turn on.


The problem in these cases is either the lock cylinder and/or the steering lock on the steering column. In the case where the key spins in the ignition, there is a malfunction within the lock cylinder which triggers an anti-theft mechanism only allowing the ignition to spin. The cause is either a worn key or faulty lock cylinder. In the case where when turning on the ignition and there is no response or power to the vehicle, the steering lock is at fault. The steering lock is designed as transitional component that turns the ignition switch and also releases the steering lock at the same time. A malfunction has occurred within the steering lock that keeps the ignition switch from being fully actuated.


  • During this type of repair it is a good idea to replace the lock cylinder and steering lock together due to amount of use and removing the lock cylinder from the steering lock can be very difficult.
  • When replacing these items it is required to remove the steering wheel with airbag and both upper and lower column covers. Find the 7mm screw on the underside of the steering lock; remove it and the two ground wires. Next remove the cluster of switches that are mounted to the steering column in the downward direction but first be sure to remove the plastic retaining rivet and screw from underneath.
  • Now remove the ignition switch from the steering lock by first removing the paint from the screw holes underneath and back the screws out just enough to remove the switch. At this point the only thing that should be on the column is the lock with the cylinder and the wiring harness being retained on the side.
  • There should be two metal rings visible on the steering wheel shaft, one on top of the snap ring and one beneath it. Remove the first ring (it is just setting on top of the snap ring), next remove the snap from the steering shaft and the next metal ring. The steering wheel shaft will slide slightly down inside of the steering column at this point.
  • Now finally there are two shear bolts on top of the column with a bracket retaining the lock to the column. To remove these shear bolts use a small chisel and hammer to knock these bolts loose. Once removed, the steering lock can be removed but maybe be still retained by the wiring harness bracket.
  • Be sure to transfer the plastic bushing from the old steering lock to the new one. When installing the new steering lock new shear bolts will have to be used. The head of the shear bolt will break off when the bolt reaches a certain tightened torque.
  • When reinstalling the snap ring on the steering column shaft there is a special tool that aids in the installation of the snap ring. It is still possible to install the snap ring without the special tool, but it is very difficult.
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