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BMW M328i, Spinning Ignition Barrel Fix

One last thing I needed to fix, so that the car would reliably start, was the ignition barrel. Sometimes it would free spin, and wouldn’t start the car.

I had encountered the issue a couple of times, including once on the drive home after taking ownership of the car, when I stopped to take some photos. That was a “oh god, what have I gotten into?!” moment. You turn the key and instead of turning the ignition switch, it just free spins in the barrel. It will turn over and over without doing a single thing. Generally if you turn it back to where you started, take the key out and try again, it worked.

Problem is, it can get worse. It’ll either get to a point it will never start, or it will fail to turn off and the car will remain running.

With the starter now fixed, this was next on the list of things that would stop the car starting. I was reminded of this when during testing of the starter yesterday, the key decided to free spin.

Initially I had the great idea of removing the barrel so I could install a screw into the housing

To remove the barrel you first remove the EWS transponder ring with a flat blade screwdriver. Carefully lever and pop it off. Then remove the rubber o-ring behind the ring.

The theory on the next part is to use a straightened bobby pin or paperclip, and to insert it into this little hole, when the key is inserted and turned to the first “radio” position, and the barrel is meant to pop out

I tried and tried but couldn’t get the damn thing to work, so in the end, I chose to leave the barrel installed.

Instead, I grabbed a drill and whacked a hole in the bottom of the housing. I know from much research that where the hole is would go straight into a recess in the barrel. When a screw is inserted, it would lock the barrel and stop it from spinning. I started with a 3mm bit, and stepped up to 4mm for the final hole. The aluminium is quite soft, so easy to drill, and a coarse threaded screw will thread in easily without needing to be tapped.

And in went the random screw I found in my collection

I probably should’ve used one with a smaller head, but it just fits. Now test that the barrel no longer spins freely. Thankfully one of the keys that came with the car doesn’t seem to work, and would cause the barrel to spin every time. With the screw installed, I cannot spin the barrel anymore. The key still doesn’t work.

Reinstall the o-ring and the antenna. This should completely cover the new screw

With that taken care of, I could finally reinstall the lower trim that had been out of the car since December, finally making it look like a respectable car again.

Now, *touch wood* I should have a car that starts every time, not when the starter or ignition feels like it.


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