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Brake Light Switch Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Brake Light Switch Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

1.5 hours

Tab:

$30

Talent:

**

Tools:

Phillips & flat-head screwdriver, trim panel tool

Applicable Models:

BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)

Parts Required:

Brake light switch

Hot Tip:

Be careful not to bend switch mounting bracket

Performance Gain:

Repair faulty brake light switch

Complementary Modification:

Replace brake light bulbs if they don't illuminate after replacing switch

The brake light switch is responsible for activating the brake lights when the brake pedal is pressed. Another brake light switch function is to switch the cruise control OFF.

The brake light switch, which is mounted above the brake pedal, can fail a few different ways. You may have a brake light warning lamp illuminate in your instrument cluster, indicating a problem with the brake light circuit. If none of the brake lights illuminate and the fuse is fine, the brake light switch is most likely the cause. I have also seen where the brake lights stay on all the time and the warning lamp is also on. If the lighting control module sees a fault with the brake light switch, it will turn the brake lights on all the time. This is for safety. 

A few things to remember when checking your brake light switch: Check the fuse (find location using fuse index in fuse panel); check the brake light switch adjustment (see below, installing switch for how to adjust); inspect the brake light bulbs and use a high impedance digital volt ohm meter (DVOM) when testing the circuit. 

In this tech article I will go over how to replace and adjust the brake light switch on BMW E46 vehicles. Replacing and adjusting are covered separately, and both can be done in a short amount of time.

To avoid marring the trim if you need to pry anything, work with a plastic prying tool or wrap a screwdriver tip with masking tape before prying out trim panels, switches or electrical accessories.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Working at trim panel above pedal cluster, remove three Phillips-head screws (green arrows).
Figure 1

Working at trim panel above pedal cluster, remove three Phillips-head screws (green arrows).

Using a trim panel tool, remove plastic rivet from trim panel (green arrow).
Figure 2

Using a trim panel tool, remove plastic rivet from trim panel (green arrow).

Working at back of trim panel behind brake pedal, unlock trim clip by rotating 90° counterclockwise (green arrow).
Figure 3

Working at back of trim panel behind brake pedal, unlock trim clip by rotating 90° counterclockwise (green arrow).

Lower trim panel, then remove OBD II connector by sliding locking tab and pulling out of trim panel (green arrow).
Figure 4

Lower trim panel, then remove OBD II connector by sliding locking tab and pulling out of trim panel (green arrow). Then disconnect footwell light electrical connector (purple arrow).

Working at front of brake pedal, disconnect brake light switch electrical connector by pressing release tab and pulling off switch (green arrow).
Figure 5

Working at front of brake pedal, disconnect brake light switch electrical connector by pressing release tab and pulling off switch (green arrow).

Squeeze brake light switch retaining tabs (green arrows) and slide switch out of mounting bracket toward rear of vehicle.
Figure 6

Squeeze brake light switch retaining tabs (green arrows) and slide switch out of mounting bracket toward rear of vehicle.

Press brake pedal down, then slide new brake light switch into mounting bracket.
Figure 7

Press brake pedal down, then slide new brake light switch into mounting bracket.

Then, slowly release brake pedal (green arrow) and let it come in contact with brake light switch (yellow arrow).
Figure 8

Then, slowly release brake pedal (green arrow) and let it come in contact with brake light switch (yellow arrow). As it makes contact, the brake light switch will automatically adjust to correct position. Adjusting brake light switch To adjust brake light switch, press brake pedal down, then push brake light switch as far it will go into mounting bracket. Slowly release brake pedal and let it come in contact with brake light switch. As it makes contact, the brake light switch will automatically adjust to correct position. Connect electrical connector and check brake light operation.

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Comments and Suggestions:
James Comments: Thanks nick. All is good with the gear selector. It displays properly and The car only starts in drive and neutral as it should. Also I just realized that the lights on the lift gate are rear fog lights. I wonder if there are any other sensors that could throw the car into limp mode at idle. When my foot is on the brake it is fine. When I take my foot off goes into limp mode.
September 13, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like a short. Issue could be with a control module, throttle housing, etc. Too many items to guess at.

I would check the trans controller and DME for fault codes. If in limp, one will be set. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
DaveH Comments: I dont know if this is related, Ive had tail light warning light on my dashboard for a couple of weeks so after reading about common faults on e46 i put in an extra ground wire direct to light cluster but the warning lights stayed on. I had the car plugged in this morning and loads of fault codes were present so i had them all wiped and the warning light stayed on. Ive just been back to have car plugged in again and now the only fault codes showing are dtc 34 -Brake lights left side,Defective
-Present
35 -Brake light right side,Defective
-Present
Both my brake lights and side lights are working fine so im now stumped. Can anyone help?
September 13, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Inspect the harness and electrical connectors for signs of shorting or overheated terminals. If in good condition, you could have a bulb installed with the wrong resistance. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
james Comments: I have a 2002 E46 320d wagon. I'm just wondering if you have any suggestions. My car's transmission will go into limp mode only if it is in park for more than 10 seconds. If my foot is on the brake while in park it will not go into limp mode. It only goes into limp mode when I take my foot off the brake in park. Usually I just shift into gear quickly after starting the vehicle and it never goes into limp mode. The vehicle shifts and accelerates fine. This makes me think I have a sensor issue.

The lights on the lift gate do not illuminate. Are these brake lights? I was wondering if the brake switch could somehow throw the transmission into limp mode. Thanks for your help.
September 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be the transmission range switch. Especially if it is working normally otherwise. Does the instrument panel display Park when in park, and are all other gears displayed correctly?- Nick at Pelican Parts  
steve Comments: Hi replaced the brake light switch on peddle and still no brake lights checked fuse OK checked wiring in the boot all good any thoughts BMW e46 year 2000
August 27, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be a faulty lighting control module. Check the signal from the switch into the module.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tankniffer Comments: Hints were spot on....some of these comments from owners are hilarious. Thanks for pics and suggestions.
July 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Kelton Comments: My brake light switch has a one time use, unless I re-adjust the switch. When I turn the key to position 1 or unlock it the third eye brake light illuminates along with the left side brake light. The right side brake light does not light up until car is on. While the vehicle and lights are turned on all my brake lights continue to be lit and will not go off until the vehicle is off for about 5 minutes.
June 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The adjusting bracket may be worn out. I would check what is allowing the switch to move, after adjusting it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RobL Comments: Thank you. This was great. Brake lights were on all the time, cruise control wouldn't work. Access to the switch per above was relatively easy with your directions. Quick adjustment to the switch didn't need to be replaced and all is good again. I appreciate you taking the time to post this.
May 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
KrisE46 Comments: Pls help! The brake switch needs to be replaced on my 2002 325i bmw. When I purchased the car, the brake lights stayed on. We took the switch put of my bfs 99 e46 and places it in my car and it worked. I than ordered a non genuine brake switch from my dealer. I put it in and noticed the brake lights work until the third or fourth time I hit the brakes,than they go back to staying on until I restart the car. Could this be because I ordered a non genuine part??
April 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It could be the wrong part, or the switch is not adjusted correctly. Inspect the switch and adjusting bracket for damage.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dogfart 69 Comments: Changed brake light switch and brake lights are still always on with key turned to ignition.... What's left after checking fuse? Abs module? Sensor?
April 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What kind of vehicle are you working on? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
LeePerez22 Comments: I have a 2002 325ci auto, could this faulty switch cause the the shifter to be stuck in park at times. The only remedy for this has been to shut the car off and on and keep trying until it let's go.
November 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ferrari Comments: Thank you million times for hitting straight to the point , I got where the brake switch is after your help , Hell why several links where stating BMW 318 i brake switch is in front of brake pedal wheres its above brake pedal , where one needs to put your head on brake pedal and turn your heard and look above , , once more thank you , you made my day , i will replace the switch ,
August 6, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Ferrari Comments: It should be there where exectly ? Is it mounted on front brake pedal or mounted behind brake pedal , can you hit straight to the point where the brake light switch is located ????.?
August 3, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should be where the photos show it is located. I apologize for not getting straight to the point, but you were commenting on an article with photos. I assumed you checked you them out. Look above the brake pedal, on a metal bracket for the switch. Hope this is helpful. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ferrari Comments: This didn't help me totally but gave me more confusion , my car is a BMW 318i e46 m43 manual petrol , I didnd find anything on front of the brake or behind , there is nothing where is this brake light switch located ? My brake lights is switched on each time I turn my car keys on , wen driving is on and even not driving as long try car key is turned on , it started this problem two weeks ago , I took it to the auto guys and they failed to find where the brake switch light is located .
August 2, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should be there. Unless somehow it went missing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:21:24 AM