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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Switch Replacement

Talent:

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Applicable Models:

 
BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.

Check out some other projects from the book:

There may come a time when someone on the road motions to you about your brake lights not coming on. The brake pedal switch (Figure 1) in both the E30 and E36 BMWs gets a lot of use, and has a tendency to fail once and a while. Replacement is really easy, and should take only about 30 minutes maximum.

The first step is to verify that your brake lamps are not working. If you're by yourself, then wait until night time and back up against a brick wall. You should see the reflection off of the wall when you step on the brakes - if you don't, then your switch is probably shot. It's important to note that at least on some years, the BMW warning system that tells you when a lamp is out will not tell you if the switch is broken - you will have to figure it out for yourself.

The first step is to gain access to the switch. Remove the panel directly above the driver's side foot well. This panel is secured by a few screws (Figure 2), and a few snaps as well (Figure 3). In addition, you may have an electrical speaker unit attached to the panel. Disconnect the harness (Figure 4) and pull the panel down (Figure 5).

The brake switch is shown in Figure 6. It's the rater large switch assembly that moves in conjunction with the brake pedal. Remove the harness from the brake switch (Figure 7) and yank it out of it's bracket. I found that I had to break the plastic housing of the switch in order to remove it (Figure 8). That's perfectly okay, since you will be replacing it with a new one very soon anyways.

To finish the job, simply install the new switch into place, and reconnect the wire harness. Test the brake lights to make sure that they are working properly, and then reinstall the knee panel.

Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all. If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Reader Feedback:

At the end, you instruct the readers to rip the switch out of the bracket. I just went through this today, and that is not the solution, though the solution is not obvious. In Figure 1, you see the brake switch. You will notice that the switch 'button' is extended out further than it is once installed; it sort of ratchets in after installation, maybe as a self-adjusting measure. The way to remove the brake switch without breaking it is to first depress the brake pedal. Then use pliers to pull the switch button out; it should measure about 1/2" from the body of the switch. Finally, see the white collar in the picture (on my car it was red), pull that out, too; that will allow the plastic hooks that hold the switch in place to be depressed and to release the switch from its bracket. I was in pain and yelling foul words today as I figured this out. I hope the next person has an easier time!

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

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Figure 4

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Figure 7

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Figure 8

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Comments and Suggestions:
Pete Comments: Hi my 1998 328is is throwing up the brake light circuit warning. But both my brake lights work, there is actually an open circuit for the spoiler brake light though, it was never connected, could this be my problem? I also think there is a short for the passenger footwell light, it stays on forever, so I just took the bulb out because it was getting hot, do you by any chance know of this problem as well?
September 14, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, you will need to connect the spoiler brake light. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
MarkM Comments: 1990 BMW 325IC - The brake light indicator on the panel above the dash will not go out but both brake lights work fine. As suggested I checked the contacts and replaced both bulbs. Indicator light still on. Could it be the brake switch?
September 5, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: COuld be the brake warning circuit, the bulbs or the sockets. Inspect the bulbs and sockets, be sure there are no burned connection or melted wires. If they are OK, you will want to grab a wiring diagram to trouble shoot the warning circuit.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Aditya Comments: I have a 323i '96. Both lights are not working, and the one on the passenger side is on all the time even though I'm not using the brake. Is this switch related, or am I facing something with a higher difficulty level?
August 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The easy thing to do is check for power out of the switch when you press the brake pedal. This will determine if the brake switch is working and rule it out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Amber Comments: I have a 92 325i. Neither brake lights are working. Checked fuse and it was fine. There is no power going to the switch? Any ideas?
August 19, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you add fused power to the brake light switch, do they brake lights work? used a fused jumper wire to battery positive. Use a 10 amp fuse. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jay Comments: Does this apply if it's only the passenger brake light that is out?
August 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would check the bulb before replacing the switch. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jono_H Comments: I've just read the post by bostongrun which is the same issue as me. Good article and I'm glad it's not to expensive / difficult to fix.
March 24, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Jono_H Comments: I have a 2002 320i se automatic and for the past couple of days it's taken a few attempts get it out of P and into R or D. I've just been out at night with my lights on and noticed whilst trying to get it into gear, obviously with the brake pedal pushed down, that even though the brake lights are on they are not lighting up when the brake is engaged.

There is no warning light on the dashboard but after reading this thread it sounds like the switch may be my problem.

With it being an automatic is the procedure the same as detailed below or do I potentially have a different problem altogether ?

March 24, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like a faulty brake light switch. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Al Comments: Just finished replacing the switch. Removing the mounting bracket with the switch in it is a much easier way to go. You don't have enough travel to pullout the red cylinder for the taps to retract the taps to get the switch out from the bracket. This operation is easy to do on the work bench. You install the new switch in reverse order. You pull out the red cylinder, insert the switch in the bracket and push the red cylinder back. In my case, the new switch has a longer travel than the old one. I have a hard time put the bracket back. It toke a little while to figure out to push hard on the piston to reduce the length of the new switch. It appears that the switch has two level of setting. You have to push hard to get the second level.
December 17, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
stevey1 Comments: hi got bmw 318 ci se 2001 both side brake lights work fine, but the third brake light don't , been tested and there is no power going to the light any tip on getting it working . thanks steve
October 14, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Follow the harness a check for loose unplugged electrical connections and blown fuses. Get a repair manual with wiring diagrams from one of our parts specailist at 888 280 7799 - Kerry at Pelican Parts  
bennylam Comments: Thank you for your help
I just changed my brake switch by myself and fixed the problem
August 24, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff:
Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
ÇìÆÄÀ̽ºÅ佺 Comments: ¼º°øÇß¾î¿ä~ °¨»çÇÕ´Ï´Ù. Thankyou
August 21, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Reno Comments: Many thanks. I was about to throw in the towel on my 1996 840Ci after struggling with this for a couple of hours without success. Read the article and had it out within a half an hour. The key is to pulling the plunger ALL the way out and pulling the white or red collar ALL the way out. Then, push on the small black plastic tab on the side and it just falls out! Success. I beg to differ on the difficulty though - once you know the procedure - level 2. Lying on your back and getting both your arms under there - 10++! BTW, if you are R&Ring the brake booster/master cylinder, removing the brake switch is the about the only way to get out the "pin" 34331161802 that secures the brake pedal to the booster adjustment rod. Also, contrary to some other models, there is no single 10mm screw that holds the mounting bracket to the firewall. Removing the switch from the bracket is the only way I see to get it out. PS. I plan on replacing the switch with a new one once I'm under there as a preventative measure since it seems to cause engine fault lights. Again, thanks for all the helpful information.
July 31, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional information. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Lio Comments: I wanna give thanks to the person who created this helpful page. I was able to fix my brake lights problem with my 1995 BMW 318i. it saved me money and time. I went to the nearest Auto Parts and bought new switch brake. plug it in and test it before installation. figured it right away that it was the switch. turned on the computer and followed the steps and there it is! done!
June 4, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
beemermex Comments: all you need to remove the brake sending unit or brake switch is to remove the 10mm screw and take the whole plate and switch down,disconected and out of the vehicle.
May 13, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Woody Comments: 1998 M3... I took the proper steps in replacing Brake Light Switch...Did well until when I could not get the new switch to click in. The old one out but can not get the new one to go in...I might have ruined the new one trying to get to go in...is there a trick...I thought this part would be easy! Thanks Woody
May 11, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It's possible you broke the retaining tabs on your switch. use this photo for reference of what the switch should look like. You can see the retaining tabs on the side of the switch.

http://www.pelicanparts.com/bmw/techarticles/E36-Brake_Switch/pic7.jpg

- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Thither Comments: I have a 1999 328 convertible, E36 Body. I read this helpful forum and really appreciate all the suggestions on how to tackle the brake light switch. This afternoon I put all that knowledge to work. My results were similar to everyone's and yet a bit different. Getting the trim panel was a bit of a pain. The three screws were not a problem, but it took a good bit of bending and pulling to get the trim removed. After I did get the trim removed, I spent some time on my back with my head under the dash, using a mirror etc to try and get the switch out. Then I realized that under the steering column was a thick panel, made of some type of crushable material. It probably is a safety feature to try and protect your knees in a crash. Anyway, was only held on by three 10mm bolts, which are in recesses in the panel. It came right off and that really opened thing up. I could then work on my knees, looking forward, instead of laying on my back. I could then easily access the bracket that holds the switch. It was held by a one 10mm bolt. I pulled the bolt, unplugged the switch and was able to take bracket and switch to my bench. I was able to remove the switch by pulling the red sleeve, as suggested. It took a good bit of force to extend the red sleeve. Actually it is the white plunger that takes force to extend. The red sleeve slides easily. I was surprised how much force it took. But once it extended it was easy to push in the retainers and pop out the switch. Putting it all back together was easy, for the most part. I did break my trim panel in the process, but the break did not effect anything. My problem turned out not to be the switch, so I was glad I didn't break the switch into pieces. It turned out I had a bad connection. Once it was cleaned and bent so it connected tightly, I had brake lights again. On the switch, the two larger wires are for the lights themselves. #1 is the hot wire and #2 goes to the lights. You can unplug the switch and run a jumper wire from a hot source to #2 and your brake lights should light if everything is working from the switch to the lights. To test the switch itself, use a test light or ohm meter. You should have continuity between #1 and #2 when the plunger is extended and no continuity when the plunger is pushed in. As I understand it for a four pin switch, pins #3 and #4 goes the OBC and/or to the transmission.
May 5, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the information. I'm sure it will help someone in the future. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Ron Comments: My E36 is a 1999 328is w/ a manual transmission. Once the dash element is removed it exposed an air duct element protruding into the workspace that I had to remove. I was able separate the duct, finding that there is a long tab on the top and two small ones on the bottom of the mating flange feature holding the duct to the mating duct located behind the On-Board Computer. I squeezed it and it popped loose. I removed the brake/clutch switch bracket after many hours of effort, but in reassessing the situation, destroying the brake switch in place is the hot tip. You can save yourself many hours fooling with remounting the bracket while insuring the clutch switch is properly engaged, depressing the clutch pedal, and getting to that damn hidden 10mm bolt head..with one hand. The 10mm bolt is positioned behind a capacitor-look alike device, masked from view and is almost impossible to get at without a 90 degree powered socket wrench, which I used. Just use a pair of channel locks, squeeze the switch top and bottom without twisting and the switch explodes into 100 satisfying pieces. To mount the new brake switch, start the car, depress the brake pedal using a 24 inch long PVC pipe with some boards against the seat. Turn off the car. Extend the new switch red collar to its max, cock the switch so one side engages the bracket mounting square hole, then straighten the switch out, while pushing and it snaps into place. Slowly remove the PVC pipe and the switch ratchets to its proper length while the brake pedal returns to its normal position insuring proper installation. Hook up all those electrical connectors, then start on the part I had trouble with. During reassembly of the lower dash assembly I broke the portion that slips behind the console side panel, so I retaliated by giving the little air duct a ride across my garage floor because it just wouldn't mate to the duct behind the OBC. It is masked from view and is another "blind" attachment. Be sure and prove out your assembly BEFORE you install the dash element. The bottom line was: the computer fault has disapeared, all lights plus the brake lights work without any new failures, the car starts proving the clutch switch installation, and a masked broken lower dash that only I know about....I'm probably 15 lbs lighter and sore all over, and look like I was mounting barbed wire, but I'm a happy camper.
April 8, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional tips. This info will surely help people in the future. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jegan Comments: If you don't care about preserving the switch, but don't want to bend the bracket, Get a pair of snips behind the switch and snip the white head off. The orange retaining? collar then pops out and the tabs can easily be squeezed with your fingers and the part slips out.
April 6, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the tip, great info! - Nick at Pelican Parts  
quixotic Comments: Check your brake lights afterwards. That bracket bends easily, especially if you try to break the old switch out, and then the brake lights stay on. I didn't realize until I thought about why my cruise control didn't work. Checked the lights and had my kids tell me when I had manhandled the bracket into the right place, where the brake lights were off at rest, and came on when the pedal was touched. The bracket is thick, but very mild steel, and surprisingly easy to bend.
March 10, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the reminder. Always check your work when you are done, especially when saftey items are involved, like brake lights. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
GT Comments: Taking that stupid thing out was a pain in the ass. I ended up breaking it into about 6 different pieces to take it out, which wasn't a problem since it was broken anyways. getting the new one in was kind of like threading a needle. its hard to get it in at the right angle, since its almost impossible to see down there. also making sure the red locking mechanism doesnt catch and slide down while you put it in is also a challenge. all in all it took me about 20 min of tugging at the thing before i decided to break it to get it out, and 2 min to put the new one in.
December 6, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. they can be a pain to get out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RichT88 Comments: I can't install the new one without struggle at all. Is there an easy way to install the new switch without breaking it? I broke one I just bought and don't want to have to buy 10 more in order to fix the problem.
September 18, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I like to press the brake pedal down, then slide the new sensor in until I hear the retaining tabs snap into place. If you don't get it in straight, it can be a pain. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
nandos Comments: is it possible to take out the brake switch without breaking it,if so help out,how muich does it cost in rands since am in South Africa
July 24, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can get the switch out without breaking it by releasing the retaining tabs. See this photo: http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/E36-Brake_Switch/pic7.jpg The tabs are on each side of the switch. Release using a small flatblade screwdriver. In the above mentioned photo, the tab is orientated on the side, pictured as top of switch. I would suggest using an online currency converter or calling our customer service department to determine cost: 1-888-280-7799 - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mick Comments: 1995 E36 325i manual: the brake curcuit failure light on the OBC and the check engine light came on simulanously. So I replaced the brake light switch and that cleared the problem for a short while. Now I drove for about half an hour and again the brake curcuit failure and check engine light come on. I replaced the OBC and same thing. I tried reading the fault code with the Peake OBD1 tool but it shows nothing as the problem is cleared when the engine is turned off. What am I missing?
May 28, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Check that the light that is illuminating on the dash isn't the CHECK light. The CHECK light is comingon to tell you there is a warning in the OBC computer. It is likely from the brake light failure. Check all your bulbs and sockets, be sure everything is in good condition. If all else fails, try another brake light switch.

If the check engine light was ON, there would be a fault code stored in the DME. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Kersh Comments: one question, the led is working but the others are not...bad connection???

Jason
May 23, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You willw ant to check your specific model against a wiring diagram. Some models have a direct wires high mount brakr light, while the others run through the check control module. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Kersh Comments: Wayne, thank you very much! I had the switch but could not figure out how to get it done. After reading your instructions, it took me 20 min.
Thanks again,
Jason
May 23, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad it worked out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DGY Comments: The OEM switch on my '96 is plastic that does not break easily and deforms quite a bit without breaking. It was pretty hard getting it out even with the break pedal depressed and the sliding lock pulled out. The bracket seemed to give a lot as I was trying to pull it out and was afraid the bracket would bend, so I used a screwdriver to break the tabs from the connector side of switch. Was a bit of a pain, but finally got it. Thanks for the good instructions, and thanks everyone for the helpful comments. Saved me a lot of trouble doing it myself right away!
-Dave
April 15, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem, glad the article was helpful. On some models, you can remove the mounting bracket. There is one 10mm mounting fasteners holding the bracket it. Once rmeoved you can work with it on a bench, much easier this way. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
herfav Comments: Brake lights are going out on my BMW e36 one at a time. It first started with the left side and has moved towards the center third brake light. I have tried new bulbs and replacing the brake light switch...could it be a fuse or wiring problem? anyone know how to fix it?
March 26, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Are all the lights out now? If so start by checking the fuses. If the fuses are good, check the ground circuit for the lights. You'll want to use a wiring diagram specific to your model to trouble shoot the circuit. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jeff Comments: I get the brake curcuit failure message on the OBC screen but all my lights work properly. Could replacing this switch fix this error or does the working brake lights rule out this switch as the reason for the error message?
98 M3
March 25, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You could have a bulb with the wrong resistance, setting the warning message. Inspect the bulbs, be sure they are the rigth part number. Also inspect the sockets for wear or damage. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
grumbles Comments: Well, working on my Mom's 98 taurus was worse, but this ranks up there. Easier IMHO just to break off one of the clips with a screwdriver. The old switch literally falls right out. What I did when inserting the new one was use my torque wrench handle and wedge it between the brake pedal and the seat. This depressed the pedal fully and I was able to extend the plunger. Working like a champ.
January 13, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad it worked out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
laura bell Comments: on my 735il the dashboard reads brake light circuit whatever and i have replaced bulbs trie soldering the relay fuse as suggested and still it comes on what do i do?? its so frustrasting.
December 22, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There's obviously a break in the circuit. You need to track down the electrical diagrams and trace back each component - sounds like it may be a wire harness issue. Sorry, that's the best I can do over the Internet without looking at the car.- Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Tyson Comments: my 2004 BEEMOW 330D E46 Shows the brake lights are faulty on the cluster and when switching the car on, the brake lights remains on, and the steering conrols do not work.
December 2, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: By steering controls, do you meran the turn signal switch? If all of your lights are malfunctioning, I would check the LCM for fault codes using a BWM scann tool. You will likely find a fault code pointing you to an area of concern. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
328 Comments: This works for "brake light circuit fail" and takes about 15mins. And you don't have to break it.

!!Note that in some cars like mine 328 -95 might be readiness for cruise control so the break pedal switch is different!!
November 9, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
rags Comments: My brake lights not working. The spoiler brake light is working. Im dont think it can be a switch. Any ideas?
October 10, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It could be the switch. The high mount light circuit is direct while the fender mounted brake lights run through the check control module. Check your model against a wiring diagram to confirm the circuit routing. Then trouble shoot the brake switch output. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Lucky Larry Comments: My brake lights have been workighn intermittently. Dealer kindly replced left reatr brake bulb After I had pulled both rear light boxes and got all bulbs to light off a 12 v source- so it should not be bulbs or sockets. After 1 mile the Brake light circuit light came on again. Another repair guy said it looked like th plastic in rt rear socket holder had heated and that was the problem but it looks like al contacts are being made.
QUESTION: do you think it would be the switch if they come one sometimes and i think the right comes on wiothout the others or the high mount doesn't light but the others do.?n
September 26, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: if the sockets are melted i would start there. i have seen that cause a brake light warning message, even when the lights are illuminating. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ronnie Comments: just replaced the brake switch. what a pain in the #$%. but worth saving a couple hundred bucks from dealer. thanks to these posts i didn't give up after starting, struggling, putting knee panel back on and setting appointment with dealer. these posts convinced me it was doable, so about 90 minutes later I now have brake lights again. After struggling for 30 minutes to disconnect the switch from the bracket, there is No question, easiest thing to do is to disconnect the bracket that houses the switch 1 bolt and use razor knife to carve off prongs holding switch in place. Smooth sailing reassembling everything. although being a double jointed monkey would have helped.
August 30, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additonal information. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Wassi Comments: Please help. After installing a new centre third brake light, now the two tail brake lights do not work. Other tail lights work properly, as well as the third brake light. I read somewhere else that some vehicles have separate switches for the tails and the third brake lights. I am in an '89 325i. Thanks very much.
July 8, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On your model, all the rear brake lights run through the light check relay. I would graba wiring diagram and test the circuits going into and out of the check relay. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Patrick Comments: Turn car on, push in break pedal, clip the white tip, pull of the red sleeve, then jiggle it with some pliers. Done.
June 14, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional info. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
dave146 Comments: Just did my '97 328i. Breaking the switch did not work for me because I started to bend the bracket. Taking all the suggestions I:

1. Start the engine, push the brake pedal all the way in and wedge something against it. I used a scrap board and wedged it against the seat mount.
2. Use a flat blade screw driver to pop out the red sleeve a little bit.
3. Grab the red sleeve with a pair of needle nose pliers and pull the sleeve out as far as it will go.
4. Once the sleeve is all the way out you can squeeze the locking tabs and the switch pops right out.

Thanks for this post and all the comments ... it was a big help.
May 23, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for additional information. I'm sure this will be helpful to someone inthe future. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
brahm 123 Comments: definnitely turn the engine on and push down the brake to pop it out. I broke off all the plasic down to the base for two hours and tried to remove it, but with the engine on the brake went down farther an it pop right out
March 28, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional information. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
kyle Comments: i jusdt replaced my brake light switch and now they wont turn off at all ?? what should i do what would cause them to be on constantly thanks
January 20, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like the switch isn't seated all the way in it's mount, which may cause it to be "on" all the time. I would check the seating of the switch, and compare it to the photos in the article. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
mshift2 Comments: Great write up. i JUST finished with my 99 M3. air duct wasn't really in the way. you should most definitely remove your seat, it's probably quicker to add that step due to the fact u can just get right down there and have the room to work. also, about the tabs holding the old piece in: push the break peddle all the way back and prop it with something i used my head.... it was already there then with a small flat head, extend the red sleeve all the way. push in one tab and pull toward that side and down. Then it just pops right out. also its not that difficult to remove the bracket, much safer than breaking.

"Break Light Failure" Bulb/housing
"break Light Circuit" Switch
October 28, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional information. I see how removing the seat can add a little more room when trying to crawl under the dash. Glad it worked out.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Lag Comments: Just did this on my car.... much easier to just brake it and ever so slightly satisfying at the same time. As I'm sure I'll be doing this again in the future, I'll just start w/ my channel locks in hand.
October 16, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bostongrun Comments: This is Bostongrun again, exactly 13 months since I posted changing my stop light switch. The last few days, the dreaded "brake light circuit" message appeared. I incorrectly thought, it could not possible be the stop light switch because I just changed it a year ago, with an OEM switch from a BMW dealer. I wasted about three hours troubleshooting all the bulb sockets, wires etc but to no avail. I finally decided to change the stop light switch, even though all three lights worked. Sure enough it was the OEM forty dollar switch it didn't last any longer than the after market one, so save yourself twenty bucks.
In regard to this being a thirty minute job? Maybe to yank out the old one but it's a real bear to get the new one in without deforming the bracket because of the tight tolerences. Once again, I had to remove the 10mm bolt and install it into the bracket on the bench.
To get the bracket back in; contain the switch plunger with a zip tie and have a helper hold down the pedal from the back seat with a hockey stick or broomhandle. This will make sense once you see it.
I think the switchs only last a year because my wife constantly drives the car in stop and go traffic on clogged freeways constantly lugging the auto trans.
August 28, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional information regarding the repair. Holding the brake pedal down helps quite a bit, the broom stick is good idea. I like to use a brake pedal depressing tool, which does the SAME thing as the brook handle. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
boostm3 Comments: You guys who have done this DIY... How did you deal with the driver side heating duct which on my '99 m3 sits right in front of the brake pedal switch. I cant see how to remove it without breaking it...
July 24, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It must be a part that is on the later cars and not on the early ones. On some Porsches there is heating ductwork that needs to be removed - but on those cars, there is a small screw that you loosen and then the ductwork drops down. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
MattL Comments: Thanks for the write-up, it was very useful. Just a note, the three screws holding the panel in place are all different:

1 The shiny screws goes in the hole in the bottom
2 The long black screw goes in the top-right hole
3 The shorter black screw goes in the top-left hole

I think I spent more time looking for the screw I dropped than actually replacing the switch.
February 7, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem, glad to help.

Thanks for the additonal information. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
use2windsurf Comments: I agree with BOSTONGRUN. Definitely remove the 10mm bolt and remove the plate. I found the replacement switch at Autozone for less than $25 but you might have to search for other BMW models to find it. I have a 98 323is and they didnt show stock, but they found one under a different model,same exact switch. Also, after the new switch is installed, press the brake pedal with your hand and pull out the plunger ratcheting sound as far as you can, then release the brake. This will auto-adjust the plunger to work properly. When I installed it, there was an 1/8 gap between the plunger and the pedal/plate and my brakes stayed on all the time. Thanks for the great instruction and comments.
January 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional info. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
marko Comments: After putting in the new switch I found that the switch plunger did not deploy and I had to remove the bracket with the switch to pull out the plunger and straighten the bracket that I may have bent it when taking out the old switch. I then found that the there was a gap between the brake pedal bracket and the switch plunger so that I had to put in a shim for it to work properly. Is there an adjustment for the bracket? I did not see one.
December 20, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No adjustment, the bracket may be bent. See if it looks like it is misaligned, that may indicate it is bent from replacing the switch. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
artik Comments: I just removed the Brkt. holding the switch.
made removal and install easy
October 25, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the tip. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
hoshy Comments: PLEASE UPDATE THE MAIN TEXT OF THE ARTICLE SO PEOPLE DON'T MISS THE CORECT WAY TO REMOVE THE SWITCH!!!

And thank you very much for putting the article up in the first place :
October 5, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There are many ways to remove the switch, I found it really easy on my car to simply snap it off. Your experience may vary, it's good that others have also added their own suggestions. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
SirAutobahn Comments: Hey you realy don't have to break-it! I've just change one and the secret was to let the engine run and then push the brake pedeal as far as possible. then push out the little plastic piston to the limite go ahead it won't break. at this point you still have your brake pedal completly pushed!! Now you push the red thing fowardwhite in this case and then you should be able to push the pin to release it.

And I was still able with a really stiff brake pedal so try this way before breaking anything.
September 10, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additonal info, very helpful. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Craig Comments: Installation notes

1 The wiring connector has clips top and bottom. Squeeze from top to bottom to remove it.

2 Use an 18" piece of PVC pipe to wedge between the front seat and the brake peddle to depress the peddle so that you won't need to worry about keeping pressure off the switch as you work. This saved gobs of time.

3 Once there is no pressure on the switch its an easy job to push the red retaining ring forward with a small flat blade screwdriver.

4 With the red retaining ring forward, light pressure on the left side of the integrated clip on the back side of the metal bracket pops the switch out without the necessity of breaking it and with little effort.

5 With the new switch securely clipped in place, remove the PVC pipe which will depress the switch and push the red locking ring into place at the same time. Reconfirm the switch is secure in its bracket and replace the wire connector
July 31, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the installation tips. Very helpful info. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bostongrun Comments: I want to offer a suggestion; be careful removing and installing the brake light switch especially when ripping out the old switch because you can twist the brake light switch holding bracket. If you do so you will find its almost impossible to install the new switch unless you remove the bracket it's mounted with just one ten millimeter bolt.

What should have been a half chore turned into a two hour ordeal due to a twisted mounting bracket. The tolerances are tight so the the switch does not fall out so when it's distorted you can't get it back in without taking it out straightening it out in a vice and installing the switch out of the car in to the bracket and putting it back on the on the bracket.

PS The reason I had to replace my brake light switch was because my car was stuck in PARK. The selector was frozen in PARK because on the four pronged switch two prongs go to the transmission module. If that side of the switch fails the solenoid that blocks the shift linkage wont retract so you are stuck until you fix the brake light switch. FYI failure on the transmission side of the brake light switch does not give a message on the computer.

You can do a temporary fix to get the car home by pulling the gear shift lever off straight up and hard then pry up the trim plate to get at the ATM linkage. Turn on the ignition to activate the solenoid, move the selector then use a very thin piece of metal razor blade to keep the plunger in so you can get it past the Neutral indent. Just keep it in drive until you get it in your driveway.
July 19, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the information, great stuff. Removing the bracket can be the safest way, if the switch is not coming out easy. You should be able to replace the bracket if needed. If I remember correctly, it is available.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
pom Comments: hi got prob with brake light on my 1990 bmw 320i,its still working but keeps sticking on and looks like me a crap driver on me brakes all the time,lol,yep looks like switch might have had it big time after me trying to remove it upside down for half hour with me screwdriver,do you think this sounds like the problem
April 28, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, this switch is basically underdesigned and a lot of electrical current passes through it, gumming up the contacts over time. To get the old one out, just take some big pliers and grab it and break it out of the bracket. The new one slips in there - should be a 10 minute job (if you've done it before). - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Jason Comments: Good article, Thank you reader for the last comment !
April 18, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem, thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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