02 September 2016

Passenger Side Airbag Switch and Center Console

Based on this data I bought some parts to hopefully get the passenger side airbag switch to work.  If I can get the switch to work, my daughter will be able to ride in the car; and also, I just wanted to see if I could do it.   

All of these parts were long lead and all came from Germany.  The -216 wire harness came in an unmarked box with a hand written part number on it!  [I suspect BMW never sold many of them].  The information on the internet is spotty and dealer instructions are non-existent.  My idea was, either my car would be easy (just use the Post 10/97 build date jumper) or difficult (use the 216 wire harness).  Turns out my 2/99 build car was better than both of those options: it was prewired with a shorting pigtail in place.  Nothing is actually required except the switch!  I have never seen this pigtail on another M coupe, including my S54.  But, I was never looking for it either.  Would be nice if “they all had it”.  I am not sure they do or not!!  Mod is pretty straightforward: plug the switch in.  I found room to mount the switch and the chrome ring (which exactly matches the rings on the VDO center gauges and clock, and the LeatherZ/VDO Oil Pressure and Water Temperature gauges) on the passenger side of the center console near the OBD port.  I cut a 2.000 inch diameter hole in the console with a brand new, sharp Forstner bit.  This is very scary to do on a part as valuable as an M console.  But, it's a nice location for the switch and there is room inside the console.  You can probably mount the switch without the chrome ring if you wanted to.  I bought the ring thinking it would look nicer, but maybe a plain black switch on the side of the console would look fine too.

While I had the center console out, I replaced the 2 bulbs that light up the HVAC control panel and all 3 of the gauge bulbs.  I also rearranged the clock to be in the middle position, and removed and replaced all of the factory friction tape on the wire harnesses.  Most had melted off or come unwound anyway.  I noticed when I got the car, someone had scratched the blue part of the interior temperature dial, probably with a sharp ring.  So I replaced that panel with a new, perfect one.  The cigar lighter ring in M coupes is typically white/clear.  This is lame, incorrect from traditional BMW illumination color, and cheesy.  I replaced mine with an amber one from a non-M Z3.

Even though I was exceptionally careful when removing the switches, one of the ribs on the center console cracked.  This is common.  This is very common as the cars get older and more brittle.  To fix it, I used JB weld and aluminum strips on each side of each rib.  Then, when fully cured, I fully encapsulated the strips with more JB Weld.  This is a trick I leaned at work and it makes very strong bonds.  I could have replaced this part with a brand new perfect one, but I am actually going to leave it the way I have it and test if my fix works.

Pre 10/97 passenger airbag cutoff wire harness, 61108382216, $67.81r  (did not use)
Post 10/97 passenger airbag cutoff wire harness, 61124148707, $37.61r  (did not use)
Passenger airbag cutoff switch, 61318379617, $121.82r
Airbag switch chrome ring, 51162497678, $41.99r
HVAC trim panel, 64118398898, $71.81r
HVAC bulbs, need 2, 61138353797, $14.79r
Gauges bulbs, need 3, 62132695218, $7.33r

Total cost of this mod = $287.19r
Total investment in vehicle to date = $13271.01

Scratch.  Annoying.

"Hard" wire harness
"Easy" wire harness
Switch, chrome ring, and harnesses
Shorting pigtail on my 2/99 build car

In-work picture of the fix I am using for broken center console ribs.  After this step, I fully encapsulate them.  I also did the top section, toward the right of the picture beneath the gauges.
Amber cigar lighter ring
The console was cracked between the ASC and driver's heated seat switch, but it is nearly impossible to see and find now.  Hopefully much stronger than stock now too.


  1. I found your blog quite interesting and the concern in the blog is really impressive

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  2. Jon, will I be able to locate the "shorting pigtail" through the radio opening? I am not too exited ripping off the center console.