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Why is BMW not able to replace a key for an E32 7-series

Discussion in 'E32 (1988-1994)' started by bcweir, Oct 25, 2009.

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    bcweir

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    My friend claims that BMW NA told him that the keycode for his BMW E32 7-series has been lost, and that BMW NA cannot provide a replacement key for his vehicle

    I find that odd since I have been able in the past to get a new key for a 1981 BMW 320i, a much older vehicle.

    Can someone enlighten me on how this could be possible when the owner is able to provide a VIN number and proof of ownership?
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    John in VA

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    It may be that he's run across a lazy or uninformed employee at the dealership vs. BMW NA not being able to help.
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    109941

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    Does this key carry an imbedded computer chip or is it just a double sided key like the early E34 5-series?
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    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

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    Just a regular old key with a complex cut. They can replace it. Contact another dealer if there is an issue. Try Tischer.
    AugustneverEnds likes this.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    This is a copy of the email I received:

    I think that anyone who owns a BMW that's outside of the BMW's CPO model year boundaries ought to be concerned about this.

    Think about how very small but very important your BMW car key is. Without it, you cannot start or operate the vehicle, you cannot lock or unlock the doors, nor can you access the trunk or the glove box. Without your key, your precious BMW is a one-ton-or-more paperweight.

    For those of you unfamiliar with BMW's keys, these are not exactly keys you can just run to your local hardware store and have a replacement cut. Home Depot and Ace Hardware can't help you here. They have a different type of cut not easily copied by a locksmith.

    Some have suggested, just grab one more locks off a junker. That's not a realistic solution. First of all, you're not really cheating the Reaper, just stalling him for a while. Secondly, if THAT key needs to be replaced, you're either right back at square one, or you have to produce the VIN number and title to the BMW you scooped the locks from. Secondly, who wants to replace all five locks or carry around two sets of keys?

    The idea that BMW can lose, misplace, or simply STOP making keys for a car more than five years old ought to be of concern to anyone owning a BMW model not currently rolling off a BMW manufacturing plant.

    I ask that my fellow BMW owners put themselves in my friend Kevin's position:

    What if you lost your only key to your BMW, and BMW NA told you they "lost" your keycode, tough luck?

    Please think thoughtfully about that scenario.

    Thank you for your time

    By the way, this is for an E32 BMW 7-series (1987-1994). I hope there are none of you that would think of writing this off as an "old car problem" not relevant to "modern BMW's." Eventually, EVERY BMW becomes an "old car." E32's didn't get computer chips (DWA driveaway protection transponders) in the keys until around the 1993 model year.

    mose121 guest

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    Worst case scenario you have to replace all the lock cylinders and get new keys, but you will still be able to use the car if you can't get a spare key that works with the current set. It's a shame you have to spend the money but you have to understand that that's sort of the price you have to pay to own such an old foreign car. It's going to catch up with you sooner or later. I'm sure there are vital parts for that car that are also NLA that would render the car useless. Good luck with everything though. Sorry about your cituation. I would call BMWNA client relations directly and talk to them though before I spent any money. Maybe they can get auth to cover the parts cost of a replacement lock kit and you would pay the labor to install.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    The price you pay to own such an old foreign car??

    Can you imagine the uproar that would happen if BMW were to cut off all support for the 2002, BMW E30, and BMW E36? The 2002 alone hasn't been produced in over 34 years! I should add there is a DFW (Dallas Fort Worth) 7-series group that are very much in love with their "older, foreign" E38's -- another model that has long been out of production.

    These are cars owned by some of BMWCCA's most active members, as well as some of the most popular models. We're not even counting 5-series cars or roadsters, they themselves largely loyal owners.

    Don't write off members who own older (no longer in production) BMW's. We contribute just as much, if not more, than new BMW owners, some of whom unload them quickly on the used car market before the warranty expires.

    Besides, what if you wanted to hold onto YOUR car past its warranty expiration date? That is the trend nowadays, with newer cars lasting longer and the cost of new cars continuing to climb. More owners are holding onto their cars longer, stretching their investment in their vehicles. In many cases, it's still cheaper to keep an older car maintained than to have to pay BOTH a monthly BMW note AND the collision insurance the dealer will insist you carry (at least initially).

    Try putting yourself in this BMW owner's shoes and tell me if YOU would like to be written off for owning an "older, foreign car." What if it were YOUR car being shut out in the cold, as yours will someday ALSO be an "older, foreign car," if it isn't already?
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    John in VA

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    • Member

    bcweir

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    Thank you John in VA

    John,

    I don't know if my friend is a BMWCCA member or not so I will be calling on his behalf.

    I've also taken note that every car on your list is an older, out of production, BMW. Thanks for looking out for a fellow fan of BMW's older metal.
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    az3579

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    What year is the E32 in question? I have an '87 3er and have had no problems getting a spare at my local hardware store. Is this E32 one without a computer chip? If it has a chip, can't BMW reprogram it? Electronics are electronics...
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    109941

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    The solution is simple, but weird. I faced the same dilemma with my 1989 525i (e34), which I bought used from a dealership with a single key. Since I was too cheap to pay the ridiculous price BMW (~$100) wanted for one of these special keys, I was stymied for quite a while. However, one afternoon, during a business trip to Hamburg, Germany, I was walking thru the shopping district, looking for a nice tavern and came upon a lock smith shop. Germans are very serious about hardware and their locksmiths reflect that obsession. In any event, I showed the locksmith my key, he nodded and showed me a blank (made in Italy). I said "pries", which, hopefully, meant price and he said "zehn" (10) which was deutsch marks at the time. This $5 key works fine but isn't as smooth as the original, which means a rare "giggle" might be required..

    So, take your old key, fly to germany, take a walk to find a beer, but stop at a locksmith, first. That is my recommended solution.
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    BMWCCA1

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    There are many circumstances where BMW North America can't find a key-code record. Most likely it's not lost, it may be they never had it. You mention Denmark in your anonymous quote. Was the car sold in North America? Is it a US-spec car? BMW often didn't get key-codes on tourist-delivery cars back then. Or on cars bought by servicemen and brought back to the USA even if they were built to US-specification. The records just never went through BMW NA.

    Working for a BMW dealership here for almost twenty years, I can tell you I never delivered a BMW without noting the key code and radio anti-theft code in the customer's file. The cars back then came with plastic key-code tags with self-adhesive backing and I'd take one of them and stick it on the customer folder. It was normal for a customer to call me or our dealership with problems first, before trying to get a response from BMW NA, so I always wanted to have that information on-hand for easy access even on a weekend, if the need arose. In the service department, my guys would look-up the key code and radio code for each new customer the first time they visited and make it a part of that record, too.

    So how 'bout checking with the selling dealer for the key code? Or the original owner? Or in the service book. Yeah, I'd usually write the key-code and the radio code (number only with no description) somewhere in the book, relying on a smart owner to be able to interpret it and a dumb thief not be able to do same.

    I'd likely not start complaining about BMW NA until we have the whole story. Afterall, we're talking potentially about a 21-year-old car, but we have little information about the true circumstances, either. The car was delivered originally with the key code. If the original owner or subsequent owners didn't retain them, they should have.

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