If you are suddenly unable to remove your ignition key from either door of a 2002, do not force it. There is a design problem on the 2002 that I’ve repaired on over fifty 2002 in three years as a Boston locksmith. Not having owned a BMW until just a few months ago, I never bothered keeping track of what model years have the problem. Suffice it to say that if you can’t get your key out, here’s what to do.

The problem lies in the locking/unlocking mechanism of the door. As Diagram 1 below shows (sorry, no diagram was provided), a small cam (b) on the back of the handle cylinder (a) rotates 45° from a center position to move another piece (c,d,e) up and down, thereby locking and unlocking the door.

Solution: The key (no pun intended) to understanding the problem is a basic fact of 95% of all door locks (house, apartment, car, etc.): You can only insert or remove the key in one particular position. Hence, if the key is not in the proper position for removal, you can pull all you want, but you won’t get it out.

What has happened when you can’t remove your key is that piece (c,d,e) has moved slightly to the left (Diagram 2), allowing the cam (b) to slip around the right side of (c,d,e) ending up on top of it (Diagram 3). In this position, the key is not in the right position for removal, and the cam (b) can not go any higher due to design limitations, nor any lower because (c,d,e) is in the way.

Cure: To get the key out, you can choose one of two ways. The longer and more involved (but much less risky) way is to take the inner door panel off, and gently push piece (c,d,e) to the left while gently turning the key from the outside in the proper direction. The cam will slip around to the proper position and the key will come out. Put a small piece of wood (or a screwdriver) for leverage between the door edge and the right side of piece (e), and bend the top (c,d) slightly to the right, making it a little more difficult for the problem to occur again. Put your key back in and test and watch the entire assembly a few times to make sure everything works and you haven’t bent anything too much. Use a little more pressure with your key than you normally would to see if it happens all over again. Then re-assemble the inner door panel.

The other method is quicker because you don’t have to pull the door panel off. However, if you screw up (and it’s easy), you’ll wish you hadn’t tried to save time. Using the wooden handle (or something similar) of a small hammer, insert it into the top of the door between the glass and outside metal frame (chrome piece) and turn the handle to spread the door apart. With a flashlight and two very long screwdrivers, you can then do the same as outlined above. Be extremely careful and gentle or you’ll bend the top of the door (which then won’t seal properly) and/or break your window. Unless you’re patient, have very well-controlled hands, and a lot of guts, I strongly recommend the first method.

Now the Lecture on why it happened in the first place: The key was turned in the wrong direction to accomplish the wanted operation. In English that means the door was unlocked, the key was put in with the intent to lock the door, but was turned in the unlocking direction, probably with too much pressure because nothing was happening. Or vice versa: the door was locked, the key was put in to unlock, but was turned in the locking direction.

Prevention: If you lend your 2002 to a friend (or enemy), tell them, show them, warn them (better yet, don’t lend the car). If you did it, go out and learn what direction to turn the key for each operation of each door.

Author: Mark E. Engelberg