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Automatic Transmission Range Switch Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Automatic Transmission Range Switch Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$150

Talent:

***

Tools:

4mm Allen, 10mm socket, Vise Grips, flathead screwdriver

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Transmission range switch, shear bolt, blue Loctite

Hot Tip:

Remove center console for easy access

Performance Gain:

Repair faulty range switch, restoring transmission operation

Complementary Modification:

Replace shift knob

The automatic transmission range switch, also known as the gear position-neutral safety switch, is located directly below the transmission selector lever on the center tunnel. The range switch sends a shift lever position signal (Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive) to the transmission control module. With input from the range switch, the transmission control module makes shift decisions. Correct functioning of this switch is also crucial to vehicle start: The neutral safety feature blocks the driver from starting the vehicle unless the transmission control module gets a Park or Neutral signal.

When this switch fails, the transmission control module cannot make the correct shift decision; transmission-shifting errors may occur or fault codes may be stored. The number one complaint I hear that points to a fault in the automatic transmission range switch is poor shifting or the vehicle is in Safe Mode, usually due to liquid being spilled on the switch; remember that the cup holders are directly adjacent to the location of the switch. I have had zero success cleaning it once contaminated, and suggest replacing it if faults are present. In this article, I'll go over the steps involved with replacing the range switch.

To avoid marring the paint and trim, work with a plastic prying tool or wrap a screwdriver tip with masking tape before prying out body or interior items.

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're 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.

Remove the shift knob by pulling straight up (green arrow) and off the shift lever.
Figure 1

Remove the shift knob by pulling straight up (green arrow) and off the shift lever. The knob can be on quite tight and may need a lot of force to remove it. I found if you slightly twist the knob back and forth while pulling up, it will come off easier. With that said, be careful because the plastic rod can break when the knob is removed. Pull it up using a well-controlled force.

Grab the shift indicator bezel and pull it up to remove it.
Figure 2

Grab the shift indicator bezel and pull it up to remove it. If there has been a drink spill (ex. coffee spilled) the bezel may stick to the center console. You can clean the surrounding area before removing using a tooth pick. This will remove most of the debris and allow the bezel to be pulled out easily. While you pull the bezel up to remove it, remove the plastic trim tube from the shift rod (green arrow).

Next, lift the shift indicator bezel up and disconnect the electrical connectors by pulling them straight off (green arrows).
Figure 3

Next, lift the shift indicator bezel up and disconnect the electrical connectors by pulling them straight off (green arrows). When you pull connectors off, be sure to pull straight away as to not damage the opposite side of the connector. Then remove bezel from center console. With the shift bezel removed, you can remove the switches surrounding it. See the next few steps for removing and tips on testing.

Working at the front of the range switch (yellow component in photo), use a small flathead screwdriver to detach and unplug the electrical connector.
Figure 4

Working at the front of the range switch (yellow component in photo), use a small flathead screwdriver to detach and unplug the electrical connector. You can also squeeze the release tabs (green arrows) to disconnect it, but there isn't a lot of clearance (a screwdriver works best).

Next we have to remove the shift lock lever.
Figure 5

Next we have to remove the shift lock lever. Once removed, you can access the fasteners for the range switch. First, remove the retaining clip (green arrow). See the following step for more information.

Using a small flathead screwdriver, lift the clip and removed it in the direction of the green arrow.
Figure 6

Using a small flathead screwdriver, lift the clip and removed it in the direction of the green arrow. Note the curved section of the clip, near the green arrow. This is how you will know the correct direction to remove it. It slides off toward the curved section.

Then, remove the spring (green arrow).
Figure 7

Then, remove the spring (green arrow). Be careful not to lose the spring. Use a small magnet if necessary, so you don't drop it.

Next the ignition lock cable has to be removed from the lever.
Figure 8

Next the ignition lock cable has to be removed from the lever. Begin by removing the 10mm fastener (green arrow).

Then lift off the cable clamp (green arrow).
Figure 9

Then lift off the cable clamp (green arrow). Be careful not to drop it into the center console.

Using a small flathead screwdriver, push the cable (green arrow) off the lever to remove it.
Figure 10

Using a small flathead screwdriver, push the cable (green arrow) off the lever to remove it.

Next up is the tricky part.
Figure 11

Next up is the tricky part. You have to unscrew a shear bolt (green arrow) from a captured nut (yellow arrow). When tightened, the hex head of a shear bolt breaks off, leaving the fastener properly torqued and unable to be removed. In this case, it is used as a security feature, to prevent the ignition lock cable from being bypassed in the event of a theft. When I remove the shear bolt, I always attempt it with the center console installed, 50% of the time it comes loose and I do not have to remove the center console. You will want to grab the end of the shear bolt with Vise Grips and loosen it. If you cannot get enough bite, remove the center console and try again. See our tech article on center console removing, if needed.

I was unable to remove it with the center console in place.
Figure 12

I was unable to remove it with the center console in place. With the center console removed, I was able to break it free using Vise Grips. Like I mentioned, 50-50 shot.

Once loose, unscrew the shear bolt.
Figure 13

Once loose, unscrew the shear bolt. Be sure to keep an eye on the captured nut (green arrow) as I have dropped them before in tight spaces.

Remove the shift lock lever from the shift assembly.
Figure 14

Remove the shift lock lever from the shift assembly.

Using a 4mm Allen bit, remove the range switch fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 15

Using a 4mm Allen bit, remove the range switch fasteners (green arrows). Once the fasteners have been removed, place the shifter in Neutral and remove the range switch.

When installing the range switch, place shifter in Neutral, then slide the range switch groove (left green arrow) over the pin (right green arrow).
Figure 16

When installing the range switch, place shifter in Neutral, then slide the range switch groove (left green arrow) over the pin (right green arrow). Once aligned, install fasteners and tighten. Be sure to use blue Loctite on the fasteners.

Assemble the shift lock lever and cable.
Figure 17

Assemble the shift lock lever and cable. Once installed, be sure that the key is out of the ignition. Then check that the cable end is flush with the clamp (yellow arrow). If the cable end can be seen protruding from the clamp (green arrow), adjust it until it is flush. Once adjusted, confirm that the shifter locks when the key is removed from the ignition and unlocks when the key is inserted and the ignition is ON. Check operation of the shifter and range switch, then assemble the interior.






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Comments and Suggestions:
Sam Comments: Here is a tip on the shear bolt. Lock the vice grips on, but don't use them to loosen the bolt. Instead use a 15 mm open wrench not a great fit, try an imperial sizeon the square bolt to the left. It only moves an eighth of a turn, but it's enough to get it started. This way the pliers can lock onto the bolt as well as the housing and it works very well. Also for the shift knob put a block of wood along the console and put a pry between the knob and the wood, it pops off very easily. Could never have done this without your article, thank you!
April 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
sam Comments: Hi, the part arrived an is correct. It's the entire shift assembly, which was actually cheaper than the switch alone! Now to figure out if it's easier to replace the whole assembly and not deal with the shear bolt. Probably the console will have to come out. Thank you to your parts experts for figuring this out for me.
April 1, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Sam Comments: Can you give us the part # for this on the Z3? It's no longer listed as for sale on your site. I called and ordered part 25-16-1-422-822 which is the entire shifter assembly, which hopefully includes the switch.
March 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff:
I’m not the best with part numbers.

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
 

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:37:43 AM