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Thread: Neutral Safety Switch (aka Neutral Start Switch)

  1. #1
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    Neutral Safety Switch (aka Neutral Start Switch)

    I think this might be informational, but there's a question here too. I've had my 1988 MasterAce Surf for a little over a year. It's always had an intermittent starting quirk, where it won't. Turn the key, I hear the fuel solenoid click but starter will not turn over. I've read about "hot soak" issues and worn starter contact/terminals being suspects or culprits, but I don't believe that is the case with my van.

    Recently, my reverse lights started acted up. Shifting from Park to Reverse, they often would not turn on. If I shifted from Drive or Neutral to Reverse, then they would come on. Bear with me. While I was looking for a new reverse light switch, I learned the neutral safety switch also controls the reverse lights. One day my van just wouldn't start. I shifted from Park to Neutral, and it started, although this does not always work. When this occurs now, I get underneath the van and tap on the neutral safety switch, and this seems to be a reliable way to temporarily fix my issue.

    My problem (and question) is the fact that a new, neutral safety switch is between $300 and $500 from Rock Auto. I have discovered many parts for the gasoline engine are also compatible with the diesel. I think there is a ball detent in the switch that has become a bit sticky. Does anyone know if it would be possible to take the switch apart, clean and lube and reassemble?

    Edit Update: I did take the switch apart. There is no ball detent, but there are 2, spring loaded copper contacts. One controls the starting and the other controls the reverse lights. The inside of the case was as dirty as I expected but, the actual issue is the rotating arm that holds the spring loaded contacts was broken. The arm itself is a type of plastic and the metal rotating thingy is pot metal. I'm in the process of repairing it in the form of JB Weld PlasticWeld and (2) 4-40 screws to reinforce things. I hope to have it back together in the morning.

    Edit Update: 24hrs later, I installed the repaired switch. I wanted to ensure the epoxy was well cured. Initial results are the van starts in Park, Neutral and the reverse lights come on when in Reverse. I hope this repair lasts several years. I'll have to remember to not be rough with the shifter.
    Last edited by bikeregg; 08-13-2019 at 09:26 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Neutral Safety Switch

    Alright, so I believe I have the answer to my own question. A little bit of researching reveals the neutral safety switch can be taken apart and cleaned. Essentially, you put the transmission in Neutral (remember to chock wheels or set the parking brake, ask me why I feel this is important) and remove the switch.

    You can clean the outside of the switch with brake parts cleaner or a degreaser. This makes disassembly a bit easier, less grime to get in the way of the internal parts. Check wires for looseness, cuts, etc and the case body for damage.

    Remove the screws and separate the halves of the case. One half has several contacts and there is an arm containing 2, spring loaded copper contacts. These will likely be stuck in place (assuming you have starting issues which is why we're doing this in the first place), pull the contacts out with tweezers or needle nose pliers. There will be springs underneath these contacts, pull these out and put in a magnetic tray or some other container so they do not get lost. If you lose 1 or both of them, it's not a huge issue, you'll just need to find a similar spring to replace them. You might stretch the springs slightly to give the contacts a bit higher height so they can make good contact with the case contacts.

    Clean the inside of the case halves with a degreaser as well as the arm, loose contacts and springs. With 220 or 400 grit sandpaper, lightly polish the contacts on the case half and the 2 removable contacts.

    Get some dielectric grease (I use the super synthetic grease on all my electrical connectors) and lightly coat the inside of both case halves and the arm. Ensure there is a bit of grease in the slots for the spring loaded contacts (this lubricates and helps keep the springs and contacts in place while you are reassembling) and install the springs and contacts.

    Put the case back together, reinstall and adjust.

    Installation/adjustment:

    With the transmission in Neutral, install the switch, finger tighten the nut then tighten slightly more, ensure the switch freely rotates and bend the locking tabs to lock the nut in place. Loosely install the bolt. Use an assistant or something to push the shifter all the way forward (while in neutral) so the shifter is resting against the stop.

    Align the groove and neutral base line on the switch. The neutral base line is a line, about 2 inches long on the far right of the case. Tighten the bolt and plug up the electrical connectors.

    Put transmission in park and start. Shift to reverse and check reverse lights. Shift to neutral and shut off engine, then start vehicle. If any of these checks fail, or you have to jiggle the shifter to start engine, check adjustment of the switch.

    Hopefully, you won't have to buy one of these for your van (or any of your vehicles) as they can be quite expensive.
    Last edited by bikeregg; 08-13-2019 at 09:28 AM.

  3. #3
    Van Fan
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    Re: Neutral Safety Switch (aka Neutral Start Switch)

    I posted this in the diesel section because my van is diesel. I was thinking, might this really belong in the van section, because it isn't really diesel specific.

  4. #4
    Administrator llamavan's Avatar
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    Re: Neutral Safety Switch (aka Neutral Start Switch)

    I was thinking the same thing, and will move it now.

    Gwen
    1985 5-speed window cargo van set up for llama haulin'; 345K ("Trustyvan")
    1989 4WD 5-speed DLX; 410K and an odd sense of humor ("Skylervan")

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