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E36 deadlocked door release

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The drivers door on our E36 saloon (4-door) had become deadlocked, and would not release. This meant the door was closed, could not be unlocked from outside, and could not be opened from inside or outside.

Remove the door card. This can be done while the door is closed, although requires more care and persuasion than when the door is open.

With the window wound up, remove the 10mm bolt securing the guide runner to the rear of the door. Once the bolt is out, the runner can drop down and be removed from inside the door. (You need to do this to gain access room to the actuator.)

This pic taken using pure luck because you cannot see what is going on shows the door lock wiring (connector labelled 'A') and the lock levers (circled) with the deadlocking lever labelled 'B'.


This shows another door lock with the actuator - the black plastic box - fitted. The actuator is a push fit on to the top of the door lock and is secure by a plastic locking tab.


This pic shows the door lock and (circled) the deadlock lever.


This shows the position of the deadlock lever in our car.


Theoretically it is possible to remove the power door lock actuator from the top of the door lock while installed in the car, but the position of the deadlock lever secures the actuator to the lock mechanism.

I was able (after a lot of trial and error) to insert a screwdriver under the wiring connector and push the deadlock lever back into the correct position. Sounds easy... Try it. ;)

After that it's 'just' (LOL) a case of releasing everything, removing the lock, lubricating (or replacing) it, and refitting. If you have the chance to plan this I suggest getting a new door lock gasket.

While there, you'll see the other issue facing older locks and handles:


This is caused by a bush wearing away, meaning the movement of the handle becomes looser so you need to lift the handle more than is normally necessary. That in turn leads to the frame breaking as shown. The bush can be replaced but this ^ really requires a new handle. I'll get pics of the offending parts later - having finally got the door open, it's started raining again!

Thanks to Brent - BM World - for his advice and supply of parts.

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Removing the door handle 'officially' requires removal of the door glass. However... The glass can be released from the runner and tilted forward providing clearance for the handle to be removed. This pic is an exaggeration of what's needed but gives an idea of what is possible.


To release the glass at the back, raise the window about halfway. You'll see the mechanism arm connects to a rail fitted to the bottom of the glass. There's a long-tailed clip which peaks out from behind the arm:


Remove the clip by pulling to the right.


Once removed, the arm can be popped out of the nylon block that slides in the rail:



This shows how it fits together - the clip holds the ball on the mechanism arm in place.


If the lock mechanism is still in the car (you don't need to remove the glass to remove the lock), release the rod that connects the handle to the lock. This is easiest done at the lock end.

Removing the handle is a two-stage process. First slide the retaining plate towards the front of the car. This aligns the two square holes (circled) allowing a retaining peg to pass through.


On the outside of the door, at the opposite end of the handle to the lock, is a flat headed dowel. This passes through the door and the handle is secured inside by a square spring clip. Remove the clip and the dowel can be withdrawn.

The handle mechanism can now be withdrawn from the inside of the door.


Unusually, the bush at the right hand end of the pic above is intact - typically these are worn, broken and even non-existent. This leads to more handle travel being required to operate the lock mechanism, in turn causing the broken handle parts shown at the end of the first post.

The key mechanism is terrible - very stiff.

I'll replace the handle and swap the locks, making sure everything is cleaned and lubed before reassembly.

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excellent write up, Graham.  that's an awesome looking shed you have now!

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Not sure if pillared doors are the same, but you can get just squeak the handle out on coupes without taking the glass of the runners like that.

But yeh, first one I've heard of with the plastic thingo still in tact!

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32 minutes ago, Olaf said:

excellent write up, Graham.  that's an awesome looking shed you have now!

The other two cars are out of shot. :)

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Another visit to BM World this morning to collect a replacement door handle. Despite our car being a '97 it has an earlier door handle assembly; the later assembly is different in a few small but significant ways. They both fit, but the later assembly is more ruggedly built and uses a different lock/tumbler configuration. The newer assembly is at the top, the older one below it:


Back of old-style tumbler (with retaining pin alongside):


Back of newer-style tumbler:


Comparison of the two retaining pins. The older one is longer and is a roll-pin (spring steel); the newer one is a solid dowel.


The old tumbler, with what's left of the seal that sits under the shoulder to keep water out:


The key is in the tumbler to keep the pins in place. You can remove the older style tumbler from the lock without the key but the pins and springs are likely to make a break for freedom.
The newer-style tumbler appears to require the key in order to withdraw the tumbler, so I'll be visiting Brent again.

The two tumblers are different but the pins are the same, so I'll swap the pins from the old tumbler into the newer one, retaining one key for the whole car. More on that when I've borrowed the other key.

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You will need to swap the pins over to the tumbler that matches the new handle assembly. On mine the old lock barrel had grooves from worn pins or worn key meaning the tumbler wouldn't turn in the new barrel. Solution was bench grinder until all pins were "flush"

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It's a PITA job, to be sure! (Of course, there is a cheap dealer or locksmith option!)

The biggest issue was getting the parts out of the door without being able to open it...

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