Z3 spinning key/lock barrel fix

Andyboy

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Jun 2, 2019
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Fixing a spinning key in a Z3 / E36 steering lock is very easy and virtually free. Over time, the outer plastic bit on the barrel wears and can no longer engage in the alloy outer casing. It's designed so that if the lock barrel is forced, the plastic bit just mentioned breaks off leading to the key just spinning.

Pull the lower column trim shroud off and twist the EWS antenna black plastic ring around a few degrees until you expose this lower bit.

X marks the spot where you drill using a thin drill bit. Get the key and lock barrel back to where it is with the key removed (position 0) and drill where the X is. You'll feel the drill go though the soft alloy outer casing and then into the lock barrel outer casing. Leave the drill bit in there for a second and try the key - it will have stopped spinning in the barrel and will work as it should. Use a short, thin screw and gradually wind it into the hole, trying the key every few turns. When the key won't turn, you've gone too far so wind it back until it operates smoothly.

That's it, fixed.

You can countersink the hole in the outer casing and wind in a screw so that the screw head does not prevent the EWS antenna from being returned to where it should be. This means you can remove the screw and remove the lock barrel, should you want to. Or you can cut the screw head off, either is fine. Removing the lock barrel will then involve drilling out that screw (you won't).

I've done this job 10-15 times now on various E36's and it's a permanent fix. You might think your lock is okay, but try inserting the key halfway and try to turn it - you'd be surprised at how many lock barrels are worn and will try to spin. You can of course buy a new lock barrel from BMW, but that costs a bit more than a small self tapper.
 

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Jack Ratt

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Good tip Andyboy
 

Dino D

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Timely threads as mine is starting to spin occasionally.
Thanks
 

mrscalex

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Good write up - thank you. You might want to change the title to make clear this is for the ignition barrel.

The spinning key in the door lock fix is quite different to this.
 
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