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Thread: Signs of a failing ignition switch?

  1. #1
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    Signs of a failing ignition switch?

    Although these electrical gremlins are occurring on my 97 E38...the E39 can be afflicted with these odd/mysterious electrical gremlins as well. This is the reason I'm posting the video I made on the e39 forums I frequent as well as the e38 forums. I ordered a new ignition switch and it will be here next week. If I'm wrong...then I guess I'll look like a big fool!

    It started with the DSP control unit...it went blank at the beginning of this week. Then mid-week, the airbag light illuminated on the dash, then the rear sunshade started moving real slow, then stopped working.

    Then the MLF steering wheel buttons stopped illuminating and when I went to blow my horn...it didn't work. I then remembered that if you pull down the sun visor and open the cover to the mirror and odd things happened...the culprit is usually the ignition switch (yes, odd connection). I even mentioned this back in Oct/2007 after reading about it on one of the e39 forums: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/430961

    I know that the sun visor test sounds odd...so I made a short video this evening after work just to show how unbelievable the connections are of the components that are affected by the ignition switch. And no...it is not a prank (that's why I waited until after April 1st).

    You can see the steering wheel move up/down when I open the mirror cover on the sun visor, and the interior lights fade on/off...and the radio shut off:



    After replacing ignition switch:

    Last edited by Qsilver7; 08-04-2013 at 10:15 AM.
    (if my grammar, spelling, or sentence structure is screwed up....don't blame me...it's my dang bluetooth keyboard...I try to catch & correct the mistakes...but I may not catch all of them.)

    Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
    2013 650ix GC (Black Sapphire) 1/13 mfg date <<~>> 2014 X5 50i (Space Gray) 11/13 mfg date

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    the E39 symptoms are subtly different but essentially equally strange. now if people would just search we would be in business.
    >'97 528i, 200000 miles, Hella Xenons, 17" Stilauto wheels, Vogtland Drop Springs, Dynomax Race Muffler, Homelink, 540 brake upgrade, 15mm spacers >'65 & '74 MG Midgets BFC OT Lego Club #48 Manual conversion in process!!!



  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by NNY528I View Post
    the E39 symptoms are subtly different but essentially equally strange. now if people would just search we would be in business.
    True to a point. The visor/vanity symptom in concert with the airbag light and intermittent DSP control unit behaviour is pretty much identical to the ignition switch symptoms I had.

    Qsilver7,
    Thanks for your post with the video. I'm going to put this in the FAQ after you post your results. Unless you are.............wrong.

    OT:
    Q,

    What's the story with this photo?
    Last edited by jamesdc4; 04-04-2009 at 04:22 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdc4 View Post
    True to a point. The visor/vanity symptom in concert with the airbag light and intermittent DSP control unit behaviour is pretty much identical to the ignition switch symptoms I had.

    Qsilver7,
    Thanks for your post with the video. I'm going to put this in the FAQ after you post your results. Unless you are.............wrong.

    OT:
    Q,

    What's the story with this photo?
    OMG...I'm

    James, the story behind the pic of the hammer going at the e38 grill kidney grill goes waaaayyy back to Roadfly (I believe)...sometime in 2002. That pic is so old...I don't even remember who it belongs to! :

    But it ties into discovering how to remove/replace the kidney grill. One of the first brave souls that documented trying to replace them...went thru a lot of trouble trying to separate the black slats from the chrome surround. He then consequently separated the new grills he purchased thinking they had to go back in the way they came out...and there are infamous pictures that shows how he went thru all of the steak knives in his kitchen trying to get his new front grills apart:







    After he went thru all the trouble above...we found out that all you have to do is slide the whole unit thru the front of the hood...and VOILA...it snaps into place

    The hammer pic above...was used to indicate how easy it is to REMOVE the kidney grills. All it takes is a quick swift rap to the front of the grill's slats with the palm of your hand...or a piece of wood and a hammer or mallet (with the hood raised of course) and the slats will separate from the chrome surround...and usually none of the tabs break if you do it correctly.

    That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
    (if my grammar, spelling, or sentence structure is screwed up....don't blame me...it's my dang bluetooth keyboard...I try to catch & correct the mistakes...but I may not catch all of them.)

    Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
    2013 650ix GC (Black Sapphire) 1/13 mfg date <<~>> 2014 X5 50i (Space Gray) 11/13 mfg date

    (Past BMWs)
    2006 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) | 1997 740iL (Arctic Silver) | 1999 540iT (Orient Blue) | 1995 525iT (Alpine White) | 1991 735iL (Schwarz) | 1985 325e (Bronzit)

  5. #5
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    Good story.
    I don't think I would've believed you if you didn't have the photos to prove it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdc4 View Post
    Good story.
    I don't think I would've believed you if you didn't have the photos to prove it.
    ..

    Thanks Q for the info and the pics.
    “Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?”
    ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Qsilver7 View Post





    That's hilarious...LMAO!

    '00 540iA with 235k+ on the original TCG's, Vanos and transmission.​*Trans failure at 240k+...RIPieces

  8. #8
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    I had a few of same electrical gremlins that Qsilver is talking about and I brought this up on the forum a while back. Surely it was a few others along with Qsilver who directed me to the begining signs of a faulty ignition switch. I put in a new ignition switch and the gremlins disappeared. How can you go wrong Qsilver, directing others in the right direction. We'll wait for the results after you've changed the ignition
    switch.Good Luck!!!

  9. #9
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    Replaced Ignition Switch & Electrical Gremlins Went Away

    Quote Originally Posted by Qsilver7 View Post
    Although these electrical gremlins are occurring on my 97 E38...the E39 can be afflicted with these odd/mysterious electrical gremlins as well. This is the reason I'm posting the video I made on the e39 forums I frequent as well as the e38 forums. I ordered a new ignition switch and it will be here next week. If I'm wrong...then I guess I'll look like a big fool!

    It started with the DSP control unit...it went blank at the beginning of this week. Then mid-week, the airbag light illuminated on the dash, then the rear sunshade started moving real slow, then stopped working.

    Then the MLF steering wheel buttons stopped illuminating and when I went to blow my horn...it didn't work. I then remembered that if you pull down the sun visor and open the cover to the mirror and odd things happened...the culprit is usually the ignition switch (yes, odd connection). I even mentioned this back in Oct/2007 after reading about it on one of the e39 forums: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/430961

    I know that the sun visor test sounds odd...so I made a short video this evening after work just to show how unbelievable the connections are of the components that are affected by the ignition switch. And no...it is not a prank (that's why I waited until after April 1st).

    You can see the steering wheel move up/down when I open the mirror cover on the sun visor, and the interior lights fade on/off...and the radio shut off:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7gMUrAvcIE&feature
    Okay, got a chance to tackle the ignition switch this morning in the E38...and as you can see in the NEW video...all the previous issues have disappeared and everything works correctly now.

    It took about 1 hour to do the job, not because it was difficult...but taking the time to disassemble and reassemble stuff, making sure you put stuff back correctly, etc...you always drop a screw, or need to go get another tool to do the job etc. On a scale of 1-10...this is probably a 2 or 3.

    Here's the video that shows everything is back to normal after replacing the switch:

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX4ZawxM1X0[/ame]
    (if my grammar, spelling, or sentence structure is screwed up....don't blame me...it's my dang bluetooth keyboard...I try to catch & correct the mistakes...but I may not catch all of them.)

    Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
    2013 650ix GC (Black Sapphire) 1/13 mfg date <<~>> 2014 X5 50i (Space Gray) 11/13 mfg date

    (Past BMWs)
    2006 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) | 1997 740iL (Arctic Silver) | 1999 540iT (Orient Blue) | 1995 525iT (Alpine White) | 1991 735iL (Schwarz) | 1985 325e (Bronzit)

  10. #10
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    I said so, Qsilver, you couldn't be wrong directing others in the rignt direction. Congratulations for a job well done!!!!!!!!

  11. #11
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    Phew.
    I've been holding my breath.
    Congrats!
    Into the FAQ it goes.
    Last edited by jamesdc4; 09-07-2009 at 01:27 AM.

  12. #12
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    faulty new switch

    what are the chances of a new ignition switch being faulty? my horn wasn't working so i changed the ignition switch and now with the new switch the horn doesn't work 99% of the time and now the mlf buttons on the steering wheel don't light up or work at all. bought it from ecstuning.

    i've done the visor test with no signs of a faulty switch
    Last edited by surferbrad; 09-06-2009 at 10:20 PM.

  13. #13
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    This could be the solution to my problem for a very long time!
    http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1272726
    I have tried/replaced numerous parts such as LCM's, instrument clusters and diagnostics from a couple of Indy's and the Freaking Stealer to no avail. I'm tired and frustrated so I'll try and order the switch and see what it does and hopefully that part will cure the malady of of my beloved Touring. I'll let you guys know what the outcome is and Thanks Qsilver in advance!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Qsilver7 View Post

    It started with the DSP control unit...it went blank at the beginning of this week. Then mid-week, the airbag light illuminated on the dash, then the rear sunshade started moving real slow, then stopped working.

    Then the MLF steering wheel buttons stopped illuminating and when I went to blow my horn...it didn't work. I then remembered that if you pull down the sun visor and open the cover to the mirror and odd things happened...the culprit is usually the ignition switch (yes, odd connection). I even mentioned this back in Oct/2007 after reading about it on one of the e39 forums: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/430961

    I know that the sun visor test sounds odd...so I made a short video this evening after work just to show how unbelievable the connections are of the components that are affected by the ignition switch. And no...it is not a prank (that's why I waited until after April 1st).

    You can see the steering wheel move up/down when I open the mirror cover on the sun visor, and the interior lights fade on/off...and the radio shut off:

    Last year I had the EXACT same symptoms in the winter, I thought it was related to the very cold weather and increased resistance in some wires but after some research decided to replace the ignition switch all the gremlins went away. Had I seen this thread earlier I could've confirmed your suspicions earlier but sounds like you solved it on the first try.
    Last edited by CSMBlack-540i; 09-07-2009 at 12:11 PM.

  15. #15
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    Search Function to the rescue

    The Search Function directed me to this post.

    Power to the entire dashboard has been lost on a couple of occasions. Headlights and interior lights work (proving battery is not dead), but the dashboard is totally dark and without power.

    Removing key and reinserting it has treated the symptom, but this post has led to to curing the disease.

    Thanks, QSilver, for having saved another follower.

  16. #16
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    sometimes when i turn my car on
    the hazard lights and the interior lights goes on.
    and i cant lock the car
    if i move the sunvisor nothing happened
    could this be ignition switch?
    96 318is Sport --sold
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    02 540ia Individual GG91507

  17. #17
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    That sounds like something may be wrong with your GM. Or a weak battery.
    (if my grammar, spelling, or sentence structure is screwed up....don't blame me...it's my dang bluetooth keyboard...I try to catch & correct the mistakes...but I may not catch all of them.)

    Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
    2013 650ix GC (Black Sapphire) 1/13 mfg date <<~>> 2014 X5 50i (Space Gray) 11/13 mfg date

    (Past BMWs)
    2006 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) | 1997 740iL (Arctic Silver) | 1999 540iT (Orient Blue) | 1995 525iT (Alpine White) | 1991 735iL (Schwarz) | 1985 325e (Bronzit)

  18. #18
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    ...or ground on drivers door switch.

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  19. #19
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    Just thought I would post my experience. I have a 1999 BMW 540i. A month ago, I started to notice very strange things. Transmission failsafe mode warning, airbags warning light, and brake warning light started to show up. Based on these forums, I checked the visor mirror and amazingly the radio stopped working and steering wheel started to go down.

    I knew that it must be the ignition switch. I had an independent mechanic change it for me and all these problems have disappeared.

    Thanks to all for posting their experiences.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppkgnv View Post
    Just thought I would post my experience. I have a 1999 BMW 540i. A month ago, I started to notice very strange things. Transmission failsafe mode warning, airbags warning light, and brake warning light started to show up. Based on these forums, I checked the visor mirror and amazingly the radio stopped working and steering wheel started to go down.

    I knew that it must be the ignition switch. I had an independent mechanic change it for me and all these problems have disappeared.

    Thanks to all for posting their experiences.
    Thanks for sharing so others don't things we are all crazy when we say "check your visor."

  21. #21
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    My symptoms are: vehicle wont start, no power to radio, no signal from ODB port. Does this sound like possible faulty ignition switch?

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccfgeek View Post
    My symptoms are: vehicle wont start, no power to radio, no signal from ODB port. Does this sound like possible faulty ignition switch?

    2001 530I
    130k
    Did you try the visor test?

    Quote Originally Posted by Qsilver7 View Post
    It started with the DSP control unit...it went blank at the beginning of this week. Then mid-week, the airbag light illuminated on the dash, then the rear sunshade started moving real slow, then stopped working.

    Then the MLF steering wheel buttons stopped illuminating and when I went to blow my horn...it didn't work. I then remembered that if you pull down the sun visor and open the cover to the mirror and odd things happened...the culprit is usually the ignition switch (yes, odd connection). I even mentioned this back in Oct/2007 after reading about it on one of the e39 forums: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/430961
    Last edited by jamesdc4; 10-15-2011 at 05:20 PM.

  23. #23
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    junkdrawer is offline live the life you dreamed BMW CCA Member
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    i just bought a 1999 528i that has some issues but i was up for the challenge and the price was low so i picked it up. the problem i am having is similar to what i see on this thread . the instrument cluster has no power to it accept for the airbag light and one other indicator light (forget which) dome and glovebox lights dont work , radio no power climate control no power, the dash lights up when i turn on the lights but it is all just the backlighting. no actual components are coming on .

    i noticed you guys talking about the sunvisor test and as a matter of fact the drivers sunvisor is laying in the back seat of the car because it broke off and the 2 little wires that go into it to power the light are severed and were touching. i pulled them apart and nothing changed though. i checked the ignition switch and the internals looked brand new. i tried an ignition switch from a 323i parts car i have and no change. do you think that it could have to do with the sunvisor circuity ? is there a main fuse for all of these components that could be out somewhere? I also tried cleaning the contacts inside the ignition switch and that didnt change anything. the battery was low so i took it out for a charge overnight and figured i would see if i could get some feeedback or find a thread that helps me solve this.
    thanks in advance.

    havent looked into why yet but, the car isnt starting either cranks but wont start. i havent started testing everything yet but i do hear the fuel pump priming so i assume its getting gas. i am hoping it just need a crank position sensor. not related most likely but wanted to let you know in case it could be related.
    Live the life you dream of having

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by OnTheFence View Post
    How hard is it to replace the ignition switch?
    Anyone have a DIY ?

    DIY here: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/244045


    1998 Garageworks' E39 Widebody - needs a lot of work, but I'm bringing it back.

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