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Electrical: First Generation Key Refurbishment

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Old 12-12-2010, 10:44 PM
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Electrical: First Generation Key Refurbishment

For those of you who have an early model ('02-'05) the buttons on your remote key might be looking pretty worn out by now. I had an extreme case of that, and here is how I fixed it. My original key had black unlock and lock buttons, and they started cracking about a year after I got my car.

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The unlock button is bigger, and eventually collapsed into the key. I don't have a picture of that, but the above picture is of after I took all of the rubber stuff off so I could get my fingers into the key and push the tiny buttons on the circuit board. If your key looks anything like the above picture, follow this post down to the instructions on how to pull the circuit board out, and then put it in a safe place. I eventually knocked the unlock button apart but was able to save all the tiny pieces and put it back together again. That was delicate, jewelers work and knocking the button apart almost ruined a perfectly working key. Don't let it happen to you. I have since discovered that replacement button switches are available.

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Above is the key without the circuit board. It will still work, you just have to unlock and lock manually.

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While searching on eBay for a MINI for my better half (so she'd stop driving mine!), I came across several auctions for key shells. Just what I needed! I ordered from a seller named "artiway" and the above is a picture from his auction to help you identify it. It was $24 shipping included from Taiwan- what a deal. I don't believe just the case is available from any MINI dealer, but haven't confirmed that. Besides, it's cool to get mail from China. I had to go to the Post Office to sign for it as I was not home when it was first delivered.

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Here's the new case as it was shipped.

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Here's where and how to open your existing key and the new case.

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Here is the key opened.

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And here is the key with the circuit board carefully removed (yes, this is the new key after it was finished). It can just pop or fall out of the key once the back has been removed. Gently use a jewelers screwdriver if you need to pop it out.

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Here's the circuit board removed.

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Here's how to remove the battery (it's a type CR 2032) if you feel it needs replacing. My key was made in February of '02 according to the European date code in the previous picture, and the battery was still above 3 volts, so I did not replace it. Lithium batteries last a long time. Still, it might be a good idea if you have your key open. I have since discovered that a weak lithium battery, while showing above 3 volts sitting can have a precipitous voltage drop when one of the buttons is pushed. Do it quickly; I have read that you have 30 seconds to swap batteries before the remote loses its mind. Reprogramming can be difficult on the clamshell type key.

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Off Topic: There is a small LED on your circuit board (it's just above my finger) that lights up each time you push either button on the key, but the design of the case doesn't allow you to see it. Why would they hide that?

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Here is the new key case with nothing inside.

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Here is how to remove the immobilizer chip. It must be in place in the key in order for the car to start. Holding it near the ignition does not work. (EDIT: It actually does, but it is very tricky to get it in the right position).

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Old key and new case together. Although the new case has the chrome unlock button, it is functionally identical.

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Now you need to move the cut blade to the new case. Make sure your circuit board and immobilizer chip are out of the case and stored securely out of your work area. I tried to drill through the other side of the key to be able to punch the roll pin out. The plastic is softer than I thought and it kind of melted instead.

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So I used a sharp knife to cut away the plastic around the pin. A box cutter or Stanley 99E carpet knife should do well.

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Pulled apart! It was easy to push the roll pin out of the key blade. It's tiny, so don't lose it as you will need it to put the blade in the new key.

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Here's a bad picture of me using a shop vice to push the roll pin into the new key. I would recommend a correctly sized punch and a hammer; either way be gentle here. The angle of the case makes it hard (but not impossible) to hold the key and punch the pin in.

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Install the immobilizer chip, seat the circuit board correctly and snap the halves of the new case together and this is what you get. Pay attention to the circuit board so it does not ride up and get smashed between the halves of the key. It's new and will be tough to snap together, so use firm, gentle pressure. I've added a very tiny key ring at the top to make it easier to move the key along a bigger key ring.

As of the date of this post (12/12/2010) there are still several of the new key shells available on eBay. Also, this advice applies only to the first generation of "clamshell" style keys. The next generation of flatter keys was of a different design, and the parts are not interchangeable.

Val
 

Last edited by valvashon; 10-31-2012 at 12:38 PM. Reason: Fixed Picture/added text.
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  #2  
Old 02-07-2012, 05:21 PM
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Refurbishing a second key

NAM member MsTakin took me up on my offer to repair her key, since she didn't feel she had the skills to transplant the parts into a new shell. Good thing, because that would not have fixed her problem. Here's what I found when I opened her envelope:

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As you can see, this key is extremely worn and damaged. The unlock switch has been knocked off of the board and was missing. Note how the blade is a bit crooked.

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Here is the key opened up. What looks like Mucilage glue (for you old timers) is attempting to hold the blade in place.

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This key was easy to separate into its components.

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In addition to the case, I had to order some microswitches. They arrived in interesting packaging from an eBay seller in Slovenia.

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Here's a closeup of the circuit board with the missing switch and with the switch in place. The two empty solder pads to the right of the date sticker are where the switch is supposed to be placed. MsTakin wanted to have the key put in the new case at a dealership, but this was board level component repair and I doubt any dealership would be qualified to do this type of work. I confirmed my repair by observing that the board LED lit when the buttons were pushed.

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Blade and chip installed. The chip wanted to fall out, so I held it in with a bit of packing tape (not shown). I also replaced the battery and am hoping that the few seconds that the board did not have power did not delete the programming. I am in Seattle and the car is in Long Beach, CA so I will have to wait on the member's report.

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All buttoned (!) up and in the post by 5pm. I did confirm that the switches were activated by the buttons on the new case but was unable to actually test the key since the car is not right here.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions or wish to discuss a key repair.

Val
 

Last edited by valvashon; 02-11-2012 at 01:51 PM. Reason: Fixed Pictures
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Old 02-10-2012, 08:19 PM
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magician!

Wow - what a job!
With a service animal who goes everywhere with me, it's been very difficult to work with the manual key on my E50 2002 Cooper. Pick up the dog, walk into traffic, you get the drift.
I am so looking forward to thanking you every day when I no longer have to stress out over locking and unlocking my car.
The key worked perfectly from the first hit of the remote.
Thank you, thank you, thank you again!!
 
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Old 06-21-2012, 12:20 PM
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Aviator777-

Check your PM inbox. I replied to you about fixing your key.

Val
 
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Old 08-04-2012, 07:38 PM
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I just got my car Monday, and it came with one key. It was wrapped in electrical tape. I ordered the new case off of ebay, which came in Friday. When I took the tape off and popped the old case open, the switch under the lock button looks like it is missing the button. The bottom half of the switch is still there. Everything else works, led, unlock button, and it starts. Is it possible to replace the switch, and where would I get it from?
 
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:41 AM
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turp23-

I'll assume that your key looks something like the first picture I took of the key of member "MsTaken", above. To replace her missing switch I ordered a couple of switches from this eBay seller:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/mini-one-coo...#ht_500wt_1128

Another member here or over at Motoring Alliance or Motoring Underground got switches from this seller:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/BMW-Mini-Rem...ht_1807wt_1124

They are physically different but electrically identical. The second seller seems to have the exact switches used in these remotes. I happened to use a grey one to fix MsTaken's key and she reported that it worked perfectly.

This is delicate, circuit board level repair. The remains of the old switch will need to be unsoldered and the new one soldered in. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself or finding somebody qualified to do it for you, I would be happy to do it. I love MINIs and love helping out other owners. I have all the parts in stock (if you'd prefer I use the black switches I will get some) and offer a quick turnaround. Since you have the shell I will use that if you send it along. I could do this for about $20-$25 but will give you a more accurate quote once I see the key.

Since this is your only key, I'm going to suggest you go to the dealer and get another key (it's always good to have a second key anyway). You can get #2 in the picture below (thanks, realoem.com!) for between $50 and $60 if I remember correctly. It is called the "general key" and the part number on realoem is 61317072779 but that may have changed. It will open the doors and start the car; it just has no remote capability. You will need proof of ownership before you can order the key. The remote key is $200+ along with programming time at the dealer.

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Don't be fooled by sellers of keys on eBay- the only place you can get a MINI key that is cut and will work is at the dealer.

Let me know if you want me to repair your key. If you have it done locally make sure the person is familiar with circuit board level repair. "I think I have a soldering gun around here somewhere" is not the person you want to use.

Val
 

Last edited by valvashon; 08-05-2012 at 09:48 AM. Reason: moved picture
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:22 AM
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Thank you very much for your detailed reply, I sent you a pm.
 
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Old 09-21-2012, 09:57 PM
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Through the information gleaned in another thread, it has been determined that trying to program another remote key that you might get on eBay for example will not work, even if you transfer the ECU chip and the blade. Apparently there is some sort of barcode sticker that was to accompany each remote key and could be used to reprogram the remote for use with a different car (at the dealer), but nobody has seen this barcode sticker/tag in the wild.

I only mention this because to me, it would seem simpler to fix your existing key (which is programmed to work with your car) than trying to program a different key which happens to be in working order.

If you have a broken key, PM me and we'll see what we can work out.

Val
 
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Old 10-06-2012, 07:48 PM
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Here's some pictures of Leon-cooper's key which I just finished and sent back. I know this is getting a little self-congratulatory, but there is something new I'm pointing out in these pictures:

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Leon's key as it arrived- it was in pretty bad shape.

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Leon's key opened. You can see that the switch is still inside the key but had broken away from the board.

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Leon's circuit board, cleaned up and with the new switch installed. I didn't elect to re-use the old one because its action felt "soft" and I was already intending to use a new switch. I also installed a new battery since the one that was in there dropped from 3.2 volts to 2.7 when one of the buttons was pushed. That is an unacceptable voltage drop; with the new battery the voltage drop was almost unmeasurable when one of the buttons was pushed.

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Leon supplied the new shell. It came with a blank blade (which I did not use) so it was not from the eBay seller that I usually buy from. It did have a bunch of extra rubber flashing inside (seen here already cut away) which I did not realize when I first tried to put in the board. And, the little rubber pad that's shaped like the MINI wings was loose from the rubber thing inside the key and had to be super glued down, otherwise it could possibly have fallen out. This picture is before that was glued down; compare it to one of the empty shell pictures in my original post and you can see how the two little "posts" inside of the wings shaped pad have not been mashed down by a hot iron (another way to do it) like they are in the shell I used. So if you do your own repair you may need to finish trimming the inside of the key and glueing the MINI shaped rubber pad down via the little "posts".

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Leon's finished key! He reports that it works great and is happy with the repair.

PM me if you need your "clamshell" type key repaired and I will be happy to give you an estimate.

Val
 

Last edited by valvashon; 10-06-2012 at 08:30 PM. Reason: grammatical error
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Old 10-06-2012, 08:16 PM
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Hi everybody this is leon cooper, yes this is my key. He really did a very good job. Everything works perfect! I will recommend whoever has this problem to send the key to this guy. Thank for sych a great work!
 
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Old 01-01-2013, 05:40 AM
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Could you share the details of the microswitch (e.g. Dimensions? How many legs? Link from ebay or electronics store)

I'm fixing mine now, realised that the switch is broken

Thanks
 
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Old 01-01-2013, 09:54 AM
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Sent you a PM Valvashon
 
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Old 01-01-2013, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by alfie.amir View Post
Could you share the details of the microswitch (e.g. Dimensions? How many legs? Link from ebay or electronics store)

I'm fixing mine now, realised that the switch is broken

Thanks
http://www.ebay.com/itm/2x-NEW-SWITC...f0346d&vxp=mtr



http://www.ebay.com/itm/SWITCH-BUTTO...a093c9&vxp=mtr



Here's some links to a couple of eBay auctions that are live right now. The top has button switches that most closely resemble the OEM ones and the bottom link has switches from a seller in Slovenia that I have used in a couple of repairs. The ones I bought in bulk directly from a factory seller in China look just like the ones in the second link but either type should work.

Just be careful and use a soldering iron that has a very fine pointed tip and one that has a variable heat setting (keep it pretty low) would be preferable. If you try to use a big ol' chisel tip gun you could easily damage the board.

Good luck-

Val
 

Last edited by valvashon; 01-04-2013 at 06:34 PM. Reason: Added pictures
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Old 03-14-2013, 04:34 PM
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Just got my key back from valvashon..

New case and battery. Looks great and works great!

Huge thanks.

Before:




After:

 
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Old 03-28-2013, 08:57 AM
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Thanks! I'm going through this right now. I wish I'd seen your post before removing my battery-I wanted to clean the circuit board so disconnected the power. I guess I'm screwed. I need a micro switch for the unlock button, and now I suppose the fob has been wiped. I also think maybe the immobilizer chip is done. If the OP is still on NAM I wonder if you know if the LEDs are red/green types? My unlock switch lights up a red LED but in your picture it looks green. A low batt indicator?
 
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Old 03-28-2013, 09:22 AM
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I have been in touch recently with Valvashon and as I write this my first generation key is on its way to his Mini Key Fob Hospital.
 
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Old 03-28-2013, 10:16 AM
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That's good to hear! I'll give Valvashon a ring and see what's up. I think I can do all the work except soldering a microswitch well...If I can do it myself I will be sans a car for less time. Seattle is all the way across the country from me, and then up.
 
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Old 03-31-2013, 10:34 AM
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JAB-

Patient is doing well and is resting comfortably. Surgery is a multi-step process and will be completed on Monday. Discharge will be on Tuesday, a day later than originally scheduled. We've had a busy weekend here at the hospital.

Sincerely,

Dr. Val Vashon
MINI Key Fob Hospital
Seattle, WA
 
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Old 03-31-2013, 04:51 PM
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Dr. Val Vashon: The family is relieved. Can we send flowers?
 
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:03 PM
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No need for an arrangement- we're a flower free hospital due to allergy concerns. Plus, the patient has already left the hospital- late Tuesday afternoon, in a box! Normally, that's not a good thing but in this case it is!

Let me know what you think of the results.

Dr. Vashon
 

Last edited by valvashon; 04-03-2013 at 08:03 PM. Reason: changed wording
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Old 04-08-2013, 06:15 PM
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My key has taken a crap. This is my only key. How can I get it to you to fix and still be able to drive? Im in Florida.
 
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Old 04-08-2013, 08:16 PM
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In post #6 above, you will see #2, what is called the "general key" which opens the doors with the lock and will start the car. It's never a good idea to have only one key to anything, so I am suggesting that you go to the dealer with your title/registration and your license and order one of these keys, which are about $60. It will take a week or so to get to the dealer and after you pick it up (make sure it works) then send me your key that needs repair. I couldn't see your picture, but I haven't run into a key yet that I couldn't handle.

I do offer quick turnaround, but unless you are sitting in my waiting (living) room it probably won't be quick enough since you are in Florida. I hope you can find a convenient time that you can be without your key for a week or so or that you will order a "general" key beforehand.

Val
 
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Old 04-11-2013, 11:03 AM
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Has anyone done one of the flip out folding keys? Considering doing one. Only difference would be getting the new key cut
 
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Old 04-11-2013, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by spaceman_spiff View Post
Has anyone done one of the flip out folding keys? Considering doing one. Only difference would be getting the new key cut
I think you are right about that. As near as I could tell from the pictures on eBay, the blade is held into the metal thing that rotates with a pin, but it's perpendicular to the way the pin goes into the blade that is inside the clamshell key. So I don't think you can transplant your blade; you would have to get the blade on the flip key cut. I have not been able to determine what kind of locksmith can do that or how much it costs.

If you do this you should keep your old key around so you can at least unlock the door, just in case you lock yourself out somehow.

If you do this post some pictures here!

Val
 
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Old 04-11-2013, 03:23 PM
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I might have to order it soon.
I'll let you know how it goes.
I've always liked the flip out keys
 

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