BMW Won't Start | Key Symbol on Dashboard

A BMW may show the key symbol on the instrument cluster, PARK light stays on and the engine won't start if the key is not being recognized. The key may have a slash, line, or exclamation line on top.

This problem is because BMW is not recognizing the key which could be due to several reasons as outlined below.

If BMW yellow key warning light displays when you are driving it is because the car stopped recognizing the key in the cabin. This can be due to the key being physically removed from the car or a problem with comfort access.

Symptoms

bmw won't start key symbol yellow park light

  • BMW will not start or turn over
  • Yellow key warning light on the instrument cluster
  • BMW PARK warning light on
  • Car or Instrument Cluster doesn't turn on
  • Key symbols come up while driving

Common Causes 

  • Defective BMW key
  • Comfort access not working
  • Low battery voltage
  • Electrical interference
  • Water in BMW keyfob
  • Local radio waves

If your BMW key fob got wet because you washed it or let it out in the rain, it can fail to communicate with your BMW. Let the BMW key fob dry for a few hours and try again.

Even if the key starts to work again, you shouldn't rely on it as it may stop working at any time.

Possible Solutions

Replace Key Fob Battery

dead key fob battery

Replace the batteries in your key fob. If you have comfort access the batteries may be dead. If that is the case, your BMW will not recognize the comfort access key.

A temporary solution would be to start the car by inserting the key into the key slot, pressing the start button with the keyfob, or placing the keyfob next to the steering column while pressing start.

If your BMW has Start/Stop button, you will need to hold the key next to the steering column where you see a small key symbol. Some BMW models have a slot where you can insert the key for a manual start or press the key against the Stop/Start button.

Try the Spare Key

bmw spare key

Try another key. There is a very good chance that the BMW key fob has failed. If you have a second key, try starting the car with it. If the car starts and runs fine with the other key, then the first key fob is defective.

Check Car Battery

bmw battery

Check the age of the main battery on your BMW.

If the battery is over 7 years old, replace it even if you think you don't need a new battery. BMWs are very sensitive to the battery and voltage drops. A low battery can cause electrical issues including the key to not be recognized by the ignition.

Follow the guide on how to replace the BMW battery. Rember to perform battery registration as outlined in the tutorial.

Read Fault Codes

read bmw codes

If your BMW still won't start or turn on, it is time to get a diagnostic scanner and read the codes.

A generic OBD2 scanner will not help you much, but a BMW scanner will be able to read all BMW fault codes.

Comments

Visitor, August 16, 2019
MY BMW X5 HAS HAD A STARTING PROBLEM . I HAVE CHANGED THE BATTERIE AND THE SAME PROBLEM HAPPENED NEXT I CAN NOT START IT . I HAVE TRIED TO BOOST A FEW TIMES IT STARTED AND AGAIN , IT DOES THE SAME THING WON'T START . AT THE END I HAVE TRIED TO BOOST IT A FEW MORE TIMES THE NEXT , THAT WAS 2 DAYS AGO TIL NOW MEANING TODAY I HAVE TRIED TO START IT AGAIN , NOTHING HAPPENS . I WAS WONDERING IF IT IS A STARTER PROBLEM CAUSE , IT KEEP CLICKING BUT NOT TURN AT ALL?
Visitor, August 16, 2019
Car didn't start gave it a boost it started next day my son took it to work. Parked it when he finished work car did not turn on. Try a boost nothing. Had car towed from mall. What do you think bad battery or Key no good or is it the Alternator or starter maybe a fuse
Chitadu, October 4, 2020

DME RELAY if it clicks with no start but sometimes it will start or crank then brings the engine light and traction light on

Clif, February 2, 2021

You need a new battery. Make sure u Regis battery

Chitadu Joe, February 19, 2021

The clicking and no start thing sometimes deceives you in such a way that you think it's the dme relay or dead battery, the thing is morden bmw cars are computerized so an small electric default will trigger big issues in such a way that you waste thousands. I struggled with my E90 320d for almost 4 months with a no start problems sometimes it could start nicely and drive 2 days then the problem comes back, so the symptoms are like sometimes you try to start it then you just hear a click from the engine dme box the car won't start and immediately the engine light comes on, sometimes if you clear the fault with obd seems to work and you can start the car again but the problem will come again, I've changed dme relays crank sensor battery with no lucky then 1 day as I tried to start the car and couldn't start again until the battery died I then asked a friend to use his battery and boom starts same time, I then figured out that most of the time when I unplugged the battery to either charge it or exchange it the could start that's when I was sure that my problem was within the battery components. On top of the battery there is a power distributor unit that has got several connections including intelligence battery sensor (IBS) and also that's were the computer box gets power from, I replaced that unit with a used from bmw dealers and the nagative terminal cable that comes with the IBS and that was it since then I'm still driving my car without any hassles. Good lucky fox hope your problem will be solved.

Stacy Boggs, February 10, 2021

I have a 2007 328i. Bmw. Won't start shows a key

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