Ignition Switch Cover Repair

What the heck we talkin' about here?

The little plastic slide on the ignition switch on BMW /5 motorcycles normally slides back to cover the switch when the key is out. Often, the spring which pulls the cover over the switch breaks, in which case the cover either
(a) has no forces on it at all, and, in the absense of vibration, stays where you last put it, or
(2) behaves in the opposite of how it should, namely, it slides into the open position rather than the closed.

Either way, the switch just sits there exposed to the elements, rather than nicely covered up and protected. Also, it looks ugly when it's in the wrong position. So, it must be fixed!

How can I do this right?

I don't know, but Bill Confer did write a page on how to repair it. Obviously, I didn't use his technique. I was lazy.

By using my technique, you may break things on the ignition plate and wires get disconnected and all sorts of awful things. Here is a guide to how the switch is wired, if it becomes neccessary to redo that. If you're careful, it shouldn't be.

What does the repair cost?

I purchased a new plastic slide and spring from Capital Cycle. It is likely that only the spring is broken and all other ignition components can be reused, but it is possible to break any and all other parts of the ignition switch during the repair. Capital's 1995 price for relevant items which might break:
spring $0.60
plastic slide 2.45
chrome cover 25.95
circuit board 168.95
headlite bucket n/a
It is worth it to be careful and not damage anything on the way to getting a working cover slide.

It is more likely than not that the only thing broken is the spring. If a visit to the nearest dealer or the wait for a UPS shipment from a mail-order house seems like too much for a part that costs less than a dollar, try a visit to your local hardware store. In mine, I found a 200-spring selection that some distributer foisted upon the store owner that looks like it has nearly the right spring in it. The spring selection kit was identified as SERV-A-LITE and the nearly matching spring was #71. Since I discovered this after I got my switch fixed with the BMW spring, I will leave this to you to experiment with for its applicability.

Ok, how do I do it?

0) Don't drink beer just before you start. Wait until you're in a little ways :) Of course, don't drink ever before you're about to go for a ride.

1) Disconnect the battery negative side from the transmission block. In my single Luinenkugel Red haze I forgot this part until a spark at the end of the needle nose plyers reminded me. I was very fortunate to not destroy anything, like the diode board.

2) Remove the headlite; have the key out.

3) Ignore the circuit plate and go straight for straightening the two front tabs of the chrome cover. A small needle nose plyers, a small screwdriver, and a hammer and chisel are useful tools for carefully prying the tabs up from against the headlite bucket. Do not allow any tools to rest against the circuit board while working on the tabs, or else the board might break.

4) I couldn't even see the two rear tabs of the chrome cover inside the headlite bucket, much less try to pry them up. Instead, very carefully raise the front of the chrome cover up by about a centimeter, until the plastic slide can come out of the top of the cover. In the process, the chrome cover will be slightly warped so that it is up off the back of the headlite bucket by about a millimeter in the back by the speedometer. It will also slightly bend the rear tabs open, and some of the chrome looks like it might've flaked off the right rear tab where it goes into the bucket. But the chrome flakes off the front tabs when they're bent, too.

5) Now that the slider is out, put the new spring on it. The two ends of the spring go on the two prongs of the slider. That spring is very fragile: the new one broke when I was putting it on, and I wasn't manhandling it. Even though I broke it, I managed to get it on the two prongs of the slider anyway.

While the slider is out, get a good look at what is under the chrome cover, so that you get an idea of the 'lay of the land'. Way in the back is a pin attached to the headlite bucket. The spring has to go around the back side of this pin when the slider is back in place.

6) Put the slider back into the chrome cover in the reverse of what was required to get it out in step 4. Put the slider all the way back into the closed position.

7) I used a pair of shish-kebaab skewers for the next step. They were made of wood about 3/16" in diameter with one end sharpened to a point. Going in from the front, but off on each side (parts of the ignition switch get in the way directly from the front), I used the pointy end of one skewer to raise the spring up to the top of the pin on the headlite bucket. Simultaneously, I used the squared-off end of the other skewer to push the spring back over the top of the pin. Then, with the second skewer holding the spring on the top of the pin, it was possible to remove the first skewer, turn it around to use the blunt end, and, with both skewers, push the spring all the way over the top of the pin until it snapped into place on the back side of the pin.

8) Do a quick check of the operation of the slider, and, if all is successful, all that's left is to put the chrome cover all the way down and bend the tabs up to hold it in place against the headlite bucket. Check the operation of the slider again. Feels good, doesn't it?

9) Put the headlite back in.

10) Reconnect the battery.

11) Put the key in and completely check the operation of the electrical system before you go for a ride.

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Links last updated 11 Dec 1999
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