A gear selector light that doesn’t work isn’t exactly dangerous, even when it doesn’t turn on. An amateur is more likely to make a mistake. But an experienced driver can still operate the BMW without this function.
That being said, you are better off finding out why these indicator lights have stopped working. One or more of the following factors may explain this problem:
1). The Wires Are Loose
Urban Tech NYC has a video where he removes the gear to access the wiring below.
The video is fascinating because it highlights a problem many drivers never consider. The wires behind the panel are so cramped that they tend to come loose.
Over time, they may even break because of all the rubbing and pinching. In the worst-case scenario, a short circuit can occur, killing the gear selector lights altogether.
2). The LEDs Are Dead
Your BMW uses LEDs to illuminate the letters next to the gear. Unfortunately, those LEDs can fail because of old age, factory defects, poor handling, surges, and short circuits. Once they stop working, the gear selector letters won’t light up as usual.
3). The Light Module Is Dead
Have you ever wondered why some people replace the gear selector when this problem occurs? The reason is that many vehicles have a self-contained unit that includes the gear selector and light module.
The light module’s circuitry can fail because of organic wear and tear or external factors. You need a technician to tell you whether this unit can be fixed and salvaged. They can also determine whether there’s a way to fix or replace the module without buying a new assembly.
The dealership will push you to replace the whole unit. A third party will provide additional options. Although, you should talk to the dealership to determine whether a third-party mechanic’s actions can void your warranty. This assumes that you have a warranty.
4). The Fuse Is Dead
Electronic devices in vehicles have fuses that defend against surges and spikes. The fuse will blow to prevent the current from flowing. Unfortunately, this prevents the accessory in question from running.
To determine whether the fuse is responsible for the dead BMW gear selector lights, find the fuse panel and look at the diagram on the cover. Use it to find the fuse that controls the selector lights.
Does it look healthy, or did the filament inside break? Test the fuse for continuity to be on the safe side. If the fuse fails the test, you can blame it for the lights that don’t work.
5). You Don’t Have Gear Selector Lights
Are you sure your BMW has selector lights? This feature doesn’t appear in every BMW, especially if you bought an older used model from your local dealership. Just because you can see labels next to the gear shift doesn’t mean they are meant to light up.
Consider this Car Gurus discussion in which a driver took their 2018 Ford Escape back to the dealership because the gear selector lights had stopped working, only to learn that his car did not come with gear shift lights.
Before you waste money on a mechanic, find the manual and see what it says. Does it mention gear selector lights? If you can’t find the manual, reach out to BMW. Submit the car’s VIN and let them tell you whether the gear selector’s lights are supposed to illuminate.
You should only panic if you saw the gear selector lights illuminating on previous days, and then they suddenly stopped.
6). The Transmission Sensor Is Dead
Digital shift indicators use a transmission sensor to reflect the gear’s position. Digital indicators can’t perform this function when the transmission sensor fails.
7). You Turned The Lights Off
Check the settings. Your car may provide the option of turning these lights off or possibly even dimming them to the point where you don’t notice them. This is another situation that requires a manual.
How To Repair BMW Gear Selector Light That Is Not Working?
Just because the selector lights are dead doesn’t mean the gear shift has stopped working. However, that shouldn’t stop you from fixing this problem. Gear selector lights that don’t work are an inconvenience. You can apply the following solutions:
1). You Can Replace The Dead LEDs
This is a tricky procedure; the layperson can’t execute it unless they are comfortable using a soldering iron. The dealership might refuse to provide these replacement parts because they want you to replace the whole assembly.
Additionally, the warranty is unlikely to cover this issue. But you won’t know until you reach out to them and ask. Otherwise, talk to any skilled mechanic you know and find out whether they can replace the dead lights.
2). It Would Be More Convenient To Replace A Faulty Light Module
Unfortunately, most of these units are self-contained components that include a gear selector and light module. Therefore, solving this problem means buying a whole new gear selector.
You can lower the replacement costs by hiring a local mechanic to install the new gear selector instead of a specialist. You can find a gear selector for less than $100 on eBay. But it is safer to ask BMW to recommend a replacement part for your vehicle.
You can avoid this expense by using a soldering gun to replace the dead LEDs. But again, this isn’t an option for laypeople.
If the manufacturer placed the selector lights on the instrument cluster, your mechanic expects you to replace the entire instrument cluster, which is inconvenient.
3). Inspect The Ribbon Cable
Is it pinched? Did it break? What about the other wires? You can’t avoid these breaks and tears. And when they occur, your best option is to replace the cables. Some people use tape to perform basic repairs, but they won’t last.
A frayed cable is cheaper and easier to replace than an entire gear selector. Technically, you won’t make things worse by leaving this problem alone. It isn’t like the broken cable can do more damage.
But the next time you take the car to a mechanic for maintenance, take that opportunity to replace the damaged cables.
4). If The Fuse Blows, Replace It
Fuses are cheap. You have no excuse for ignoring a blown fuse. But what if the problem persists? Check the relay. You can solve the selector light problem by taking the relay out and reinstalling it.
All this assumes that you have a gear selector light and enabled this function using the settings. If you don’t have a gear selector light, you can install one.