Modern cars have a plethora of safety features. This includes airbags, anti-lock brake system (ABS), emergency brake assist (EBA), lane support systems (LSS), reversing cameras, blind spot alert, traction control systems, cruise control systems, and even adaptive lights. The list is endless.
These features make the modern car sophisticated and safer, but they can equally cause many problems when they begin to fail. When this happens, the easiest solution is often to bypass or deactivate these safe but complicated systems.
- Can I bypass the neutral safety switch?
- What is a neutral safety switch?
- Where is the neutral safety switch located?
- How does the neutral safety switch work?
- Reasons to Bypass the Neutral Safety Switch
- Methods for Bypassing the Neutral Safety Switch
- Pros and Cons of Bypassing the Neutral Safety Switch
Whether this is a good or bad idea depends on the situation and the specific safety feature you want to bypass. In this article, I will talk about the neutral safety switch, one of many safety features in our cars today.
Find out what it is, how to bypass it, why you may want to bypass it, if it’s a good idea to do so, and so much more.
Can I bypass the neutral safety switch?
Yes, bypassing the neutral safety switch is possible, but it is not recommended. Bypassing the switch involves connecting the wires of the switch in a way that allows the vehicle to start, even if it is in gear. This can be done by splicing the wires together, adding a toggle switch, or using a relay. I will discuss these methods later on in this article.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that bypassing the neutral safety switch eliminates a critical safety feature in your vehicle and can result in costly repairs if not done correctly.
What is a neutral safety switch?
The neutral safety switch is an electronic component that stops the vehicle from moving suddenly when the engine is started. This sudden motion can be forward or backward, depending on what gear the car is in.
When the vehicle is in gear, the drivetrain or transmission is connected to the engine, and any attempt to start the vehicle may also cause the drivetrain to rotate in the process, causing the vehicle to move suddenly. The sudden movement of the car can cause damage to another vehicle parked close by or even sustain damage by hitting the wall.
In both cases, you will need to fix a fender or a bumper and, in the worst case, pay for hospital bills if someone is injured in the process. Either way that will be spending money you didn’t budget for.
To avoid these, the neutral safety switch prevents the engine from starting when the gear is in any other position other than neutral or park. In either of these positions (neutral or park), the transmission is disengaged from the engine, and the vehicle can start safely.
Where is the neutral safety switch located?
The neutral safety switch is designed to work with the vehicle’s transmission. As such, it can always be found around the transmission. It is common in vehicles with automatic transmissions, and its location and design depend on the vehicle’s make and model and whether it has a floor or column gear shifter.
The neutral safety switch can be found directly under the shifter or threaded to the side of the transmission for vehicles with automatic floor shifters. While on vehicles with automatic column shifters, it can be found on the shifter linkage.
Vehicles with manual transmissions also have this safety switch. However, it is located on the clutch plate and goes by a different name – clutch safety switch. Nevertheless, it plays the same function.
How does the neutral safety switch work?
The neutral safety switch works in the same manner as a relay switch. A relay is simply an electronic device that opens or closes an electrical circuit when certain conditions are met. When the circuit is closed, current flows through it, and when it is opened, the current flow is interrupted.
The neutral safety switch functions in the same way. It is part of an electrical circuit that also includes the ignition, the starter motor, the solenoid, and the battery.
When you turn on your vehicle (using a key or by pushing a button), electrical current moves from the battery, passes through the neutral safety switch to the solenoid, and then the starter motor, which then kicks the engine to life.
This entire circuit is complete only if the shifter is in neutral or park position. If the transmission shifter is in gear, the neutral safety switch will stop the current from flowing to the starter motor.
A similar scenario plays out for manual transmission, except this time, the circuit is complete only if the driver presses the clutch plate down. Depressing the clutch plate in a manual transmission is the same as shifting the gear selector to park or neutral in an automatic transmission. Both actions disengage the transmission, making it safe to start the vehicle.
Reasons to Bypass the Neutral Safety Switch
Despite being a safety feature, you may be in a situation where you must bypass the neutral safety switch. Note when you do this, your vehicle will be able to start with the transmission in any position, be it drive, neutral, or park.
The reason why you may want to bypass the neutral safety switch differs from person to person, but most people do this for the following reasons.
01. The vehicle is not equipped with a working neutral safety switch
A faulty or malfunctioning neutral safety switch can cause several problems in your vehicle. For example, the engine starts when the shifter is in gear. You may also notice that the engine doesn’t start when the shifter is in either park or neutral position. Sometimes, the engine only starts when the shifter is in park, and other times when the shifter is in a neutral position.
At times the engine may not even start at all, and you may see a check engine light on the dashboard. All these are symptoms of a faulty neutral safety switch. Although the check engine light may signal any number of problems, the safest way to know if the neutral safety switch is the problem is by running a diagnostic test using an OBD II diagnostic tool. If you see the error code P084F, then you know that the issue is from the safety switch.
02. Need to start the engine while in gear
Another reason why you may want to bypass the neutral safety switch is if you want to start your vehicle while it is in gear. This may sound unreasonable, but certain situations call for this. A typical example is if you use your vehicle as a tow truck.
Imagine you’re towing a vehicle on a slope, and you happen to put your truck (for any reason) in neutral. What happens next is that your truck and the vehicle being towed will begin to roll in the direction of the incline (forward if you are descending the slope and backward if you are climbing the slope).
The reason is that while in neutral, the transmission is disengaged from the engine, so the car can easily roll. So you may bypass the neutral gear if you regularly use your vehicle to tow other vehicles. This way, if you stop on a sloppy road, you don’t have to shift the gear to neutral before attempting to start the car.
Instead, you can leave the car in gear and start it whenever you are ready to move. Doing this saves you several seconds of panic as your car casually drifts down the slope because you had to shift to neutral, start the vehicle and then shift back to drive gear before engaging the accelerator.
03. Using the vehicle for racing or off-roading
Switching from one gear to another may not be common in most automatic vehicles, but for racing cars with semi-automatic transmissions, it is common practice for the drivers to switch between gears. The same goes for off-road vehicles that usually come with different driving modes fine-tuned to perform well in any terrain (hence the name).
For these vehicles, the need to change gears spontaneously is a great deal, and if you find it challenging to do so, then the problem is likely from the neutral safety switch. Sometimes you may notice your vehicle slip between gears. This is another tale-tale sign to look out for. Although slipped gears are coming if there are damaged gears in the transmission, it is also possible that the neutral safety switch is faulty and should be bypassed or replaced.
Methods for Bypassing the Neutral Safety Switch
There are three common methods used in bypassing the neutral safety switch. Remember, this procedure is moderately difficult, and if you do not have any car experience, you should consider visiting a mechanic rather than attempting the procedure yourself. That being said, the three common methods of bypassing the neutral safety switch are;
01. Jumper method
If you ever jump-started your car, then you’ll have a clue what this method means. Unlike when you jump-start your car, you don’t need another car or a long cable in this process. All you need to do is locate the neutral safety switch. Refer to the section on the location of the neutral safety switch, or better still, look at your car’s manual.
When you locate the switch, find the two wires protruding out from it or going into it. The design depends on the car’s make and model and if you are dealing with the clutch safety switch (for manual cars) or neutral safety switch (for automatic). Either way, all you need to do is remove the wires and connect them to each other. If the bypass is temporary, you can tape the wires to each other. If it is permanent, you need to solder these wires to make them firmer.
02. Relay method
With the relay method, you will not be dealing directly with the neutral safety switch. Instead, you will work on the starter relay. It is commonly located in the fuse box. But you may have to refer to your service manual to know precisely where your vehicle model’s starter relay is located. When you find it, all you need to do is identify the brown wire on the relay (or one labeled G – Ground) that connects to the neutral safety switch, remove the wire, and ground the terminal.
To ground, the terminal connects another wire from the terminal (on the starter relay) to your vehicle’s chassis. That’s it. You have successfully bypassed the neutral safety switch. This method only applies to vehicles with a separate starter relay (solenoid). Most modern relays are placed directly on the starter motor, and in that case, method one (jumper method) will be most appropriate for bypassing the neutral safety switch.
03. External switch method
You don’t always have to always disconnect the neutral safety switch to bypass it. There is a third method that allows you to leave the neutral safety switch the way it is, but you can equally bypass it whenever you wish to by simply pressing a button. To do this, most people install a remote starter. This electronic device allows you to start your car remotely, and if your vehicle has a manual transmission, then the starter has to bypass the safety switch.
Several remote starters can achieve this. The mechanism used in bypassing the neutral safety switch depends on which remote starter you are using. However, you should be aware that doing this can cause problems for you.
04. Grounding the switch
Grounding the switch is another temporary bypass method that involves disconnecting the switch and connecting one of the wires to the ground on the vehicle. This method is often used when the switch is stuck in the “on” position and won’t allow the vehicle to start.
To ground the switch, locate the wires leading to the switch, disconnect the switch, and connect one of the wires to a grounded metal part of the vehicle. This should allow the vehicle to start, but it’s important to note that this method does not fix the underlying problem and should only be used as a temporary solution.
05. Modifying the switch
Modifying the switch involves removing the switch and connecting the wires directly to each other. This method is often used when the switch is damaged or not functioning properly and needs to be replaced. To modify the switch, locate the wires leading to the switch, disconnect the switch, and connect the wires directly to each other.
This will bypass the switch and allow the vehicle to start. However, it’s important to note that this method should only be done by a professional with the proper tools and knowledge, as incorrect wiring can cause damage to the vehicle.
06. Replacing the switch with a bypass plug
Replacing the switch with a bypass plug is a more permanent solution that involves removing the switch and replacing it with a bypass plug that connects the wires directly to each other. This method is often used when the switch is damaged or not functioning properly and needs to be replaced. To replace the switch with a bypass plug, locate the wires leading to the switch, disconnect the switch, and replace it with the bypass plug.
This will bypass the switch and allow the vehicle to start. This method is more convenient than jumping the wires or grounding the switch as it does not require any manual connections to be made each time the vehicle is started.
07. Reprogramming the vehicle’s computer
On some vehicles, it may be possible to reprogram the vehicle’s computer to bypass the neutral safety switch. This method is often used when the switch is not functioning properly and needs to be replaced. To reprogram the vehicle’s computer, a professional with the proper equipment and knowledge must connect to the vehicle’s computer and modify the programming to bypass the switch.
This will allow the vehicle to start without the switch being activated. It’s important to note that this method should only be done by a professional with the proper equipment and knowledge, as incorrect programming can cause damage to the vehicle.
Pros and Cons of Bypassing the Neutral Safety Switch
Once you talk about bypassing the neutral safety switch, most people will immediately advise you not to do it. Well, that’s right, you shouldn’t, but as I have mentioned in this article, some situations could prompt you to go ahead and bypass the process. Here are the pros and cons of doing this.
Convenience and ease of starting the engine in gear
Yes, in some situations, it is much more convenient to start your engine in gear or at least be able to start it whenever you wish to do so. A typical example I’ve pointed out is if you are towing a vehicle on a slope. But you do not always have to own a tow truck or get into a difficult spot during an off-road adventure before you see the need for this.
The everyday commute could also put you in a situation where you wished you could do so. In very cold weather, some people like to remotely start their vehicle and give it some time to warm up before they go in. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, this will not be possible unless you bypass the neutral safety switch.
Potential safety hazards
First, you will be putting yourself, your family, as well as others in danger. Imagine you happen to have a curious toddler in the car who tries to imitate your actions by starting the car. The instance your child does that. The vehicle will kick forward or backward and could ram into a wall, another vehicle, or even hit someone close by. As you can see, bypassing this safety feature does raise safety concerns.
Possible damage to the transmission
When you start your car in gear, it launches forward (or backward, depending on the gear). The reason is that when in gear, the transmission is connected to the engine. This means that as the starter motor rotates the engine, the transmission is equally rotating. This is not good for your vehicle because it could cause damage to the transmission gears.
The neutral safety switch is not just a piece of fancy equipment in your vehicle. It could save thousands of dollars in repair costs if it works properly. But sometimes, it gets worse, and things get difficult. In that case, you need to bypass it. But whether you do so because the switch is faulty or for some other reason, don’t forget that you will be taking a huge risk.
You’d have to always be extra careful when starting your vehicle and never leave your toddlers alone inside it. You are also better off having a professional bypass the neutral safety switch to avoid tampering with the wrong wires and causing more damage to your vehicle. I hope this was helpful.
Signs of a Bad Neutral Safety Switch