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Premium Member
2003 S55, 2004 SL55
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138 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The information I am offering pertains specifically to the 2003 S55 I own, but is probably similar to other body styles. I "fixed" the shifter by removing the offending pieces, but in doing so, I have defeated the brake/shifter interlock. That means that the car can be taken out of park at any time without having to turn the key on and/or depressing the brake pedal to do so. If you plan to leave unattended children in the car, the fix may not be right for you. I use the parking brake and have no small children. I'll let the steering lock deter potential thieves

I read several threads on the subject and they all gave some description of the process, but not in enough detail. I'm going to try and fill in some of the blanks. Let's start with describing the problem. There is a Federal Safety Standard that now requires you to press on the brake to shift the car out of park. It is probably left over from the Audi "unintended acceleration" days, but it is here and Benz built it into the cars. Adding to the complication is the fact that the shifter is supposed to remain locked in Park unless the proper key is in the ignition. So, we have two systems that are intended to keep the car in park. I am not a Mercedes tech. I am only passing on what I think I know and what I learned in tackling the shifter in my own car. The job requires that you have a reasonable array of tools and a willingness to dig into the interior of your car. It also requires a ramp, lift or jack stands so that you can disconnect the shift cable at the transmission. My car does not have Keyless go, which has an additional harness and a switch in the shift knob. As you read through this, you may wonder if you can do the job. Here's a fairly easy test. Start the task by disconnecting the shift cable at the transmission. That requires long, bent nose pliers (see the tool list in my 3rd post). If you can do that, you can probably do the rest. The car was designed to be put together easily, so don't be surprised at the number of things that snap together, rather than using fasteners. As you are putting it back together, nothing but the forward storage cubby floor should require any amount of force to put back together.

The shifter is very well attached to the car and is under the console. The console looks tough to remove, but is probably the easiest part of the job. You'll start by removing the shift knob. It has a chrome collar at the bottom which your rotate a quarter turn and the knob lifts right off!



Once you have the knob removed, you need to remove the two wood faced trim pieces on the top of the console. Both of them snap in place, so the upper one (with the PRNDL lettering) simply pries off with a plastic putty knife. The lower one is removed by lifting straight up at the rear of the opening. Here are shots of both pieces, showing the attaching clips. Again, there are no screws, they simply snap on and off. They both have small wiring harnesses that attach to them. One is for illumination and the yellow ended one is for airbag defeat. The harness plugs are each retained by a tiny tabs that latch into the socket. The tab is tiny and sticks into a small square hole in the wall of the socket. You'll see the tab because the yellow of the plug shows well against the black socket. You can depress the tab or lift the socket wall to pull them apart needs to be depressed to unplug the harness.





Next, slide the lid of the little compartment at the front of the console forward. You have to remove the floor and aft wall of the little storage compartment to remove the console. The aft wall has small tabs that snap into the main console frame, so you remove it by reaching into the area of the console you opened up by removing the wood trim pieces and pushing the aft wall of the stowage compartment toward the front of the car. The tabs are toward the top. Here's a picture of the floor and back wall removed and sitting upside down, so you can see the tabs.



Once that is done, remove the two screw which attach the console to the shifter.



Then, move the seat forward and you'll find a plug that covers a screw low on the console toward the rear. Remove the plug and remove the screws. There's one on each side of the console and the decorative plastic cap just snaps on the head of the bolt.



Next, you need to remove the rear A/C vent in the console. It is another snap in piece which comes out by moving the top edge toward the rear of the car. Some prying may help, but mine came right out by applying finger pressure toward the back of the car. Again, I have tried to show the small tabs that hold it in place.



Once it is out, remove the piece that is right below it. It lifts up and out and may have a couple wiring harnesses taped to it, depending on your cell phone installation. There's also a two wire harness for a light inside the console. The cell phone wiring may go up into the console lid, but it all can be disconnected near the rear lower panel. Depending on your cell phone options, the wiring may be diffrent. It might be good to write yourself a note with how many wires there are and where they go. Once the wiring is disconnected, you should be able to lift the rear of the console and the whole thing will come right out. So much for the easy part.




At this point, the shifter is sitting there looking like only three screws need to be removed and it is out. Not quite. Up to this point, it does not matter if the ignition has been turned on. But from what I've read, if the ignition is turned on while the wiring harness to the shifter is disconnected, it will set a trouble code. So, there is an easy fix. If you can get it out of park, set the parking brake and move it into neutral. Turn the key off as far as you can. You won't be able to remove the key, but the ignition is off. There are one or two harnesses that plug into the shifter, depending on if you have Keyless go. They have the same tiny tab that needs to be depressed, so press on the tab and disconnect them. All of the harnesses are different sizes and shapes, so you can't mix them up. The shifter is held in with three socket head caps screws. The rear two are hidden by the black "Y" shaped A/C duct that runs under a very large plate, making it impossible to remove. Why? Who knows? I simply pried the ductwork to the side and removed the screws. And then there is the front screw. You'll notice that it is nicely accessible except for a 1/4 inch diameter pin and clip sticking out of the front of the shifter. I can only guess it is there to slow down car thieves, as if any one who is that deeply into the car will be slowed down by it. If your car is stuck in park, it is going to take a ball ended Allen wrench to remove it, since if the shifter is in park, you can't get it out of the way. Some people have had luck with a torx driver bit stuck in at an angle. Getting that screw out can be a challenge! Anyway, to the right of the screw is the ignition interlock cable. It is clipped into the A/C duct and disappears into the front of the shifter. But simply rotate it a quarter turn toward the passenger seat and it comes right out. That leaves only the pin and the clip. The clip will pry off easily and the pin then slide far enough into the shifter housing that you can get the bolt out. It won't go anywhere or get lost, so remove the clip and get it out of your way. Remove the forward screw and the shifter should then be loose





Because of image limitations by the website, the process continues in the next thread
 

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Premium Member
2003 S55, 2004 SL55
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138 Posts
Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Shifter stuck? Part 2

At this point, the only thing keeping the shifter in the car is the shift cable. The cable goes down through the tunnel and attaches to a lever on the transmission. Some people say they were able to remove the cable from the shifter without disconnecting it at the transmission, but I did not seem to have enough room to do so. So, you now need to go under the car and disconnect the one clip that attaches the shift cable to the lever on the left side of the trans. It is a simple clip with a single lock tab, but there is very little room to work. A very long pair of needle nose pliers will help both with the removal and installation. Once the cable is loose, move the lever toward the rear of the car and you'll have room to get it free of the lever.

Right about now, you are wondering why you thought you could do this. But, you can!

Now, back into the interior. The only task left is to disconnect the cable at the shifter. The cable is held on by a single tab on a clip. The clip and the tab simply need to be move far enough toward the rear of the car to disengage the tab from a groove in the cable pin and the cable will come right out. The good news is that it snaps right back together when you are finished fixing the shifter. The photo shows the cable just removed, with the retaining clip in position on the blue bushing in the cable



Now, you should have the shifter out of the car. It is stupidly over designed in many areas, yet has a very flimsy plastic part that fails. The plastic part is buried within the shifter. Here's what I figured goes on in the shifter: At the rear of the shifter is a round solenoid, shown in the first photo below. You can also see most of the black lastic lever in the picture. You just can't get to it - yet.



When you step on the brake and the ignition is on, the solenoid is energized and pushes up on the junk plastic part. When it does, the plastic part pushes a metal lever backwards, allowing the shifter to move. If the plastic part fails, the metal lever does not move and neither do you. Again, my fix involved defeating the brake/shift interlock. I removed both the black plastic lever, the retaining ring that hold it in place, the metal lever that it actuates and the spring that helps move the metal lever.

Turn the shifter over and you'll find three screws that hold it into the housing. Remove those three screws and the shifter will come apart.



Next, remove the two screws holding the detent roller in place, They are marked with arrows. It does not have to be removed, but it will make things easier!



At this point, you can look in the side and see part of the black plastic lever and the e-ring holding it in place. In the picture, the e-ring is down in the rectangular slot in the very center of the picture.



Now we get to the interesting part. You'll notice that the top of the shifter is completely covered with a curved stainless sheet metal cover. We need to get under that cover. It is held in place with one screw at the front and two rivets. Remove the screw, ignore the rivet on the near side and turn the shifter over. There is a rivet just forward of the round solenoid that has to be removed. Take a 1/8" drill and drill it out until the head is gone. Once you get rid of that rivet, the only thing left holding the cover on is the rivet into the plastic side panel. That rivet stays. We're going to remove the side panel. The panel slides onto three tabs in the base. Insert a screwdriver and evenly pry the panel off the three tabs.



The panel also supports the main pivot shaft in the shifter, so pry it off the shaft as well. When you've done that, the assembly should look like this:



Now, remove the cover and side panel and set them aside. You can now remove the black plastic lever. When you do, the metal lever just beyond it is spring loaded and will move up and lock the shifter, since it is the black plastic lever's job to push it down to unlock the shifter. Here's a shot of the metal lever and the e-ring that holds it in place:



Remove the e-ring, the lever and the fine wire spring that activates the metal lever. I assume you've already removed the black plastic lever and thrown it as far as you can. One poster said his shifter worked fine with the metal lever left in, but I'd be afraid that that since it is the actual "lock it in park" lever, I'd rather remove it than take a chance on it latching and leaving me stuck in park all over again

Now put everything back together. Start by putting the detent roller back in with its two screws. Next, replace the side panel and cover assembly. I did not replace the rivet I drilled out. Reassemble the shifter and head back to the car. Make sure that all three or four wiring harnesses at the front of the shifter and any cell phone harnesses are visible at the rear of the console before you bolt the shifter back in. It is very easy to trap one under the shifter. Ask me how I know! All of the parts that snap together do so with out much effort. If something does not want to go together, find out why, don't force it. For example, the uppermost wood trim piece has a rubber tail on it than can be out of position and block the clips. It won't go on if the tail is in the way. Also, the carpeting at the front of the console slides into two grooves in the console. It is easier to make sure it is in the grooves as you are installing the console than shoving it in after the console is bolted down.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
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11,069 Posts
+1 on the sticky. Thanks for taking the time, and for the photos, to solve a problem that drives folk nuts.
 

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Premium Member
2003 S55, 2004 SL55
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138 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Here are the tools I used to do the job:



They consist of a #2 Phillips screw driver, a small flat blade screwdriver, a T-20 and T-27 Torx driver, two prying tools, one of which is a bent putty knife style, a flashlight, a 5mm Allen wrench and a 5 mm ball type Allen wrench on a 3/8 ratchet with a 6 inch extension and a pair of parallel pliers (which are not really needed)

If your shifter is stuck in park, you'll absolutely need the 5 mm ball driver to get the front screw out. Otherwise a conventional Allen wrench will work. The bent nose pliers work well for the clip on the transmission lever itself.
 

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2001 S-Class
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139 Posts
Nice... Wish I had this when I did mine.
 

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2009 BMW Z4, 2005 SLK 200, 2004 S 280
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1,950 Posts
Just looking at the photos exhausts me. Hell, I can't even replace a cig lighter.
 

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2001 S500,1973 Detamaso Patrera
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45 Posts
I will have the updated alum (not plastic) shifter/park lock piece made next week for all 220/215 veh's.The part will cost $160 U.S .I have about 9 shop's here in So-Cal that have there order's in
 

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Outstanding Contributor Always Remembered RIP
216 with everything. 2002 SL500 with everything. 2009 SL500 with everything.
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6,543 Posts
Thats a good write up, very good and just what I need for someone.

This then is the same problem as on the SL's 230s
 

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Mercedes S430
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3 Posts
I had this same problem on my W220 2002 S500. MB Dealer charged me $1500 to fix this. So when it happened on my W2200 2000 S430, I followed the detailed instructions here: http://www.benzworld.org/forums/w220...ols-heres.html on how to free my car out of park.

I removed the broken black piece inside the shift box as well as the metal E-ring piece of metal arm behind it. I can now shift from park to reverse, neutral, and drive but while I'm driving the car won't automatically shift into higher gears. It's as if I'm driving in 1st gear no matter how fast I go. Shift Tronic also doesn't work now. When I got on the freeway today, it would stay at 4000 RPM's and never up or downshift with speed changes. Anyone has some good ideas what could be wrong?
 

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2003 S430
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2 Posts
Shifter stuck in park

Here are the tools I used to do the job:



They consist of a #2 Phillips screw driver, a small flat blade screwdriver, a T-20 and T-27 Torx driver, two prying tools, one of which is a bent putty knife style, a flashlight, a 5mm Allen wrench and a 5 mm ball type Allen wrench on a 3/8 ratchet with a 6 inch extension and a pair of parallel pliers (which are not really needed)

If your shifter is stuck in park, you'll absolutely need the 5 mm ball driver to get the front screw out. Otherwise a conventional Allen wrench will work. The bent nose pliers work well for the clip on the transmission lever itself.
Wife drove the car (03-S-430) Friday night, Saturday morning it was stuck in park. This had happened before, but a little bump, and it worked A-OK. Followed your Excellent instructions, and fixed the problem Saturday morning. Thank you so much for your post. I got mad cool points from wifey for fixing this. Oh and I saved at least $ 1400 according to others who paid to have it fixed. If you have this problem,or better yet if you have the potential problem, my advice to you is to FIX IT NOW!!! It seems like it is hard, but it really is pretty simple to do. He has laid it out so plain and simple. YOU CAN DO IT!!! One note though, concerning the ball Alllen Wrench. I couldnt find it so I ventured forth without it, and had no problem. Just take that screw out last(and yes my car was stuck in park) And when your done DO NOT put the pin back in.:bowdown:
 

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2003 s500 4matic
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16 Posts
This was a great write up just saved my self atleast $1000, BY REMOVING THAT NOTORIOUS PLASTIC PIECE.
 

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33 Posts
great write up thanks!!!
I started having the problem (it is getting worst everyday) I almost got the shifter out but cannot disconnect the shifter cable. I have an SL55 and cannot get to it from inside. It also look like under the car the cable is hiding behind the silver heat shield...What a pain I am about to give up.

Anyone has an advice on how to get to that cable?

thanks
 

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2003 S430
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2 Posts
Thank you for this post. My car was stuck in the garage, and would not shift out of park. I had no idea what was going on. I joined this excellent forum, and voila! there was your post. I did it over a weekend, and had no trouble at all. If you have one of these cars it is going to happen to you. I was fortunate enough to have it happen in my garage. What if i was at the gas station , or worse yet my wife was driving at night somewhere. Be proactive and fix it now. It was pretty simple, he has done all the hard work and research for us. you can do it, I am not really that mechanically inclined, but I can read and follow instructons. Agagin thank you for this post. On a side note the money i saved by doing it myself, was used to take wifey to Hawaii on vacation :)
 

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'02 CL500
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376 Posts
Thanks for the great write up. I just did my '02 CL500 and saved about $1k. The shifter is a hair different by I got 'er done.
 

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364 Posts
OK here's something I have always wondered.....

I am considering doing this repair as 'preventive maintenance' to make sure I don't get stuck in park one day.

But I am hesitant to disassemble shifter and completely remove the plastic piece, as someone could bump the shifter out of park and the car could roll away. My wife and dog sit in the car sometimes with it running, and if the dog jumps across the console, he could knock it out of park.

So here is a solution.. for those of you that have done the repair, can you tell me if this will work or won't work?

I would like to grind down the plastic piece a bit and put it back in the shifter. That way, you couldn't put the car in gear (as the plastic piece is still there), but it would now be small enough that it can't break off. I mean grinding it short enough that it just stops the shifter from moving with light pressure. Pulling the shifter out of park with some force would still make the shifter move.

Would this work?
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
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11,069 Posts
you guys are hacks
If you have anything constructive to say, say it. I have only read 2 of your posts, and will skip reading any more. All you have done in them is try to run others down without offering anything valuable or increasing anyone's knowledge base.

We can do well without that; and if it's all you have to offer, we can do quite well without you.
 
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