Trouble shooting issues with the Steering Lock Housing and related components (e32/e34/e36), including the EWS Security Systems
Symptoms that will be addressed:
Inconsistencies in the steering wheel lock mechanism.
A lack of response when the key is rotated to various positions in the Ignition Barrel/Cylinder/Tumbler (the thing you stick the key in and turn to start the car).
Inconsistencies in the rotation of the Ignition Key.
Automatic transmission gear shift stuck in park.
EWS failure – electronics work, but engine won’t start.
If your Tumbler or Ignition shaft is broken, removing the Tumbler is the first step. Demonstration starts at 1:51 and contains instructions on how to remove the Security Ring and Ignition Barrel.
At one point I attempted to remove a Tumbler with no key. Per one suggestion, I drilled a hole to the lock button through the Steering Lock Housing to compress it manually, but it did not work. After that, I drilled into the front to gain access to the mechanism, only to learn that a key has to be physically inserted and turned to the exact right position, or the lock button WILL NOT compress.
After you remove the Key Tumbler, you can look inside to see the groove on the end of the Ignition Shaft that the Tumbler inserts into.
The Ignition Shaft is a long (mostly metal) piece that when turned:
deactivates the Steering lock,
turns the plastic Ignition Switch mechanism to start the car and activate electronics,
(on the assembly for an automatic vehicle) it compresses the Interlock Cable Button to unlock the Automatic Gear Shift.
Interlock Cable screwed into the Lock Housing for an automatic:
You can see on this Lock Housing for a manual, the hole for the Interlock Cable is blocked:
I used long nosed pliers to remove the end of the Ignition Shaft that had broken off, and you can see that it broke in the middle of where the plastic assembly that compresses the Interlock Cable Button is located if it is automatic. You can see where part of the plastic assembly is still inside.
The next image is of the remaining piece of the Ignition Shaft with all of the loose components that broke off removed. (You can see the small metal button that the plastic assembly on the Ignition Shaft compresses when you turn the key from the off position If you have an automatic transmission.) The Interlock Cable only exists in automatic cars for the purpose of restricting the Gear Shift to Park when the Ignition is in the Off position.
I believe that the EWS II system uses the connection between the Ignition Shaft and the Gear Lock Cable to send a high frequency to the DME. This means that if the Interlock Cable isn’t plugged in, the EWS II Security System will not allow your engine to start. Please note, this also means that if you use a Steering Lock Housing or an Ignition shaft from or for a manual transmission vehicle in an automatic car, your car will not start unless you have the EWS II deactivated.
In many cars with the EWS Security Systems, using a delete chip is one of the only ways to disable it.
I believe it is also possible to deactivate the EWS by altering or installing a compatible pre EWS DME and cutting certain wires. Information on the subject is cloudy due to varying combinations of DME and EWS systems in different years and models.
It is important to note that as far as I know, the only way to replace a broken Ignition Shaft is to replace the Steering Lock Housing which the Ignition Shaft is part of. The dealer offered to match the best price on EBay of about $150.
The other option would be to replace the Ignition Shaft itself, but I have not heard of anyone else attempting to do so. I made a personal attempt at removing and reinstalling a working and intact Ignition shaft on a Steering Lock Housing that had been removed from a manual transmission 1992 325i (e36). The following image is of the components of the Ignition Shaft assembly after forcefully removing them from the Steering Lock Housing with a pair if pliers. Note that the Ignition Shaft from a manual BMW does not have the plastic assembly found on the one for my automatic.
This includes the Ignition Shaft, a spring, and a tiny metal rod. When I looked inside the Housing where the Shaft came out, I can see the Steering Lock mechanism that the Shaft interacts with.
At this point I concluded that the tiny metal rod probably fits into the tiny metal hole in the bottom portion of the L on the Steering Lock. I was unable to find information on reinserting the Gear Shaft assembly into the Housing, and I eventually gave up on the hope of ever having it properly reinstalled without more thorough understanding of the mechanism.
( WARNING: if you have a new or used Steering Lock Housing out of a vehicle with no Tumbler in it, DO NOT manually turn the internal Ignition Shaft too far clockwise. I did this, and it got permanently locked in the wrong position, rendering it useless. It would not turn back, and was clearly never made to be turn that far- and I warn you, it took very little pressure with very little resistance to turn it too far. The fact this happened is the only reason I risked forcefully removing the Ignition Shaft in the first place.)
This is an image of the position the a Shaft was in after it had been turned too far clockwise.
Moving on, we have this useful Source for Steering Lock Assembly removal and replacement demonstrated on a ‘92 750iL (the e32, e34, and e36 all use the same Steering Lock Assembly) which contains in this order:
summery of required tools -
photo tutorials for the removal of the:
Steering Wheel and Airbag,
Turn Signal and Other Stalk Controls,
Ignition Switch and Ground Wires,
Lock Housing Bolts (how to create grooves with a Dremel tool for bolt removal) and Housing Cover,
Snap/Lock Ring (using Lock/Snap Ring Pliers,
Bushing and Plastic Guide Bearing,
Steering Lock Housing Assembly -
photo reference for the installation of the:
Steering Lock Assembly,
Column Lock Ring (using an Expanding Clamp)
In regards to the reinstallation of the Lock Ring on the Steering Column:
If you don’t have an expanding clamp, you will have to have someone hold the steering column out while you use the Lock Ring Pliers to put the Lock Ring back on. To get a good enough grip, we used a wrench and the center steering wheel bolt.
If your Steering Lock is acting up or sticking but the rest of your ignition, steering, and EWS system are fine, there is the option of permanent removal of Steering Lock function: