Note: This article is for the 1996 and 1997 model year BMW Z3, I’ve had vague reports that on 99 models (and perhaps some 98 models) the connector has changed.
Do you need power in your center console?
There are several reasons why you might need access to a switched or unswitched power in the Z3 center console. I needed to install a hands-free kit for my Nokia phone. As luck would have it, BMW prewired the Z3 for their cell phone kit. Part of this prewiring is a connector providing switched and unswitched power (as well as radio mute).
To find the connector, lift up the shifter boot. There are 4 tabs (two on each side) that snap it down. Squeeze the side on either side and then lift once it’s loose. Once you’ve lifted the boot, you’ll see several bundles of cables:
1 bundle for each window switch
1 bundle for the hazard light switch
1 bundle terminating in a 2-pin female connector (purpose unknown)
1 bundle terminating in an 8-pin female connector (circled in red and seen in the close up picture below)
The bundle terminating in the 8-pin connector has what you’re looking for. It is a little hard to find! The connector is buried underneath a layer of carpet just to the left of the hazard switch. Just look for a bundle of 5 wires and follow it. I assume this was done so that while floating about it didn’t touch anything and short out the battery (it has fairly exposed 12V and ground connections). It may also be hidden under the emergency break boot (look for a square cut-out in the carpet).
Using the numbering in the picture to the right, Here’s the pinout:
Pin 1 – 12 volts, unswitched
Pin 2 – Ground
Pin 3 – Unknown — if anyone can identify it, let me know.
Pin 4 – Not connected
Pin 5 – 12 volts, switched
Pin 6 – Radio Mute
Pin 7 – Not connected
Pin 8 – Not connected
Now the bad news. The pins required for the connector are odd-sized. They’re 0.098 inch pins. The common 0.093 inch pins won’t stay in. The good news. You can get the correct size pins and even the mating connector free from AMP. Call (800) 522-6752 ask for some engineering samples. Ask for part numbers 1-828737-1 (the mating connector) and 927797-2 (the pin). I asked for 5 connectors and 20 pins, and they didn’t bat an eye.
Interestingly enough, you’re not allowed to buy the connector unless you are a BMW contractor. But ask for free ones, and there’s no problem. I love the way the world works!