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The Mischievous Ignition Starter Switch. Problems Solved


I thought this little information might help if you experienced some strange electrical maladies, regarding your wipers or the turn signals or parking lights that turn ON or OFF by themselves, for no apparent reason at all, or they might stop working at all. These pictures were taken back in 2016 when I had this frustrating experience.


My guess is that the ignition switch might not have been fully off when the key was turned to the OFF position, I will try to explain;


There are 6 contacts in the switch that have 12 contact surfaces that can get fouled up through time and give an intermediate, false contact. These contacts work in conjunction with the plastic axle that pushes on the 6 copper springs. These copper springs get weaker and slightly bent with time, so it is possible for some of the contacts to be still ON or OFF after you thought you had turned the car off or on, most often due to fouled and dirty contacts in the switch and weaker springs that push the contacts together as well as keeping them apart in conjunction with the plastic axle, respectively.


In the picture you can see the contacts, at the end of the long copper springs and the axle with the lobes that push on the copper springs that are inside the switch. It is clear from the picture, that one of the springs is slightly different from the rest, it is bent and the points are open when they should have been closed. What you cannot see from the picture is, that the contacts where also eroded.


It is relatively easy to replace the starter switch and if you want to see how to go about it, then you can find good video instructions on replacing the switch on YouTube. 


Another related thought is; if the contacts give an intermediate contact after the car was stopped and key removed, then the ECU might not turn OFF and go into sleep mode as it should after 16-17 min. but, instead the ECU and probably the LCM module is constantly running in the background and that can lead to drained battery with in few days.


Sometime later, after the wiper trouble that I had not fixed, similarly strange things started happening to the turn signals. The turn signals would suddenly come on for no reason at all, without touching the indicator stalk, or they stopped working at all. I change the indicator stalk for a new one and the problem persisted. Put in a new wiper motor and still the problem persisted with the wipers. I thought to myself that there had to be some common problem, for both the wipers and the turn signals to go bad, at approximately the same time, but what? Then I read it somewhere, that my problems could be related to the starter switch! Of all things… the starter switch? It had never even entered my mind, that it could be the ignition starter switch in the steering column, but it is logical when you think about it.


After removing the ignition starter switch, that has an old fashioned "contact breaker points system" inside it, I dismantled it and cleaned the points with contact solvent and fine grit sandpaper on the "points" contacts, put it back in place and all my problems vanished and no problems up til today 2021. Later that week I bought a new Ignition starter switch just to be on the safe side.  


I would like to ad; there could have been other things contributing to my problems like for instance; a worn out indicator stalk, worn out wiper motor, bad earth/wire or connection or the LCM (light control module). Unfortunately too often, the LCM takes the blame for other electrical problems, that are not directly related to the LCM (that is in the LCM itself) but the real electrical problems (hysteresis) sins the LCM starts to send signals due to some other electrical failures, as if something was wrong with the LCM and consequently we assume it must be the LCM.


The wiper stalk and wiper motor or anything related to these two stalks on the steering column seldom read the direct fault codes to the fiscal part that has gone bad, but instead it points at the LCM.


It goes without saying that the LCM can go bad for many reasons but often, I think it is the wrong diagnosis to begin with and we go out and buy a new or used one, only to find out that it was just related to the LCM.  I’ll give you an example of my personal last hick up, with the LCM code that happened the other day. I had two fault code readings at the same time; the LCM was not working properly and a HAVAC code (Heater Vent Air Conditioning). It turned out to be the blower heater end resistor "hedgehog" that had conked out.  This time I was lucky to get two codes at the same time, although one was half false, sins there was nothing mechanically wrong with the LCM but something related to the HAVAC.


After having swapped the blower resistor for a new one, (after 24 years of faithful use, it was a PITA to change with large hands) both codes where easily erased and my problems were solved with no more fault codes on the poor LCM or the HAVAC.


From my personal experience when the starter switch went bad on me back in 2016, I got no fault codes at all, directly related to the switch.    





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My 523i Conversions and Maintenance

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