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Old 08-21-2008, 02:57 PM   #1
rdwalker OP
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Pictorial: R1200GS clutch switch adjustment (no start in gear)

During a ride last week, I realized that I couldn’t start my R12GS while in gear, but had no problem in neutral. It was a familiar symptom and I immediately suspected the clutch switch; I owned a couple of KLR's in the past and keeping the clutch safety switch properly adjusted was an ongoing battle on those bikes.

Indeed, I found that the switch caused my problem. The correction was actually very simple – the real difficulty was in finding the location of the adjustment and loosening the setscrew. Hints in various threads on ADV forums helped me with the first issue and a liberal soaking with Liquid Wrench with the second.

Below is a pictorial of the procedure, for the benefit of those who (inevitably) will be faced with the same problem.


The clutch switch is a part of the safety interlock system, utilizing transmission gear sensor, side stand switch and clutch switch. On the R12GS, it follows principles that are very much like those of most other bikes. Most problem causes can be deduced by observing behavior of the bike in situations described below.

Side stand down:

When the sidestand is deployed and transmission is in gear, the ignition is cut off and start inhibited (regardless of clutch position). This prevents riding with stand down.

Moving transmission into neutral will enable ignition and starter.

Side stand up (retracted):

When the transmission is in gear, starter is disabled - unless clutch lever is depressed. Depressing the clutch lever allows starting in gear. This prevents cranking while the engine is connected to the drivetrain.

Moving transmission into neutral enables starter, regardless of clutch position.


That is peculiar to the BMW engine controls. Upon turning on, the ECU wants to see a released state of the clutch lever, to be able to confirm that the switch works. If the bike is started with the lever already depressed, the ECU will not accept it and will not permit cranking in gear. The lever will have to be released momentarily and depressed once again to allow cranking.

This is similar to the self-checking of the anti-lock brakes, where the ABS controller wants to see the lever released and depressed before it allows the operation of the ABS system.

Therefore, in situations when the levers do not release fully (for example, when the hand guards are twisted following a crash), the start-interlock or the anti-lock system will not operate properly.


Clutch switch is to be suspected when you cannot crank the bike in gear.

There could be other problems at play, this is how you diagnose it:

- Gear indicator / neutral light OK? If not, the gear-position switch is your culprit. By the way, if it is, check the connector for the gear-position switch. It is exposed to water spray from rear wheel and could develop bad contact. If you are lucky, just tugging on the connector or disconnecting/reconnecting may work enough to clean it - it worked for me earlier this year. The position switch and connector are located at the back of transmission case, immediately ahead of the bottom mount of the rear shock.

- Once started, does the engine run in gear? If the motor turns off the moment you drop in gear, you have problem with side-stand switch, not with clutch.

- You can crank in Neutral, but cannot crank in gear, even though you are pulling the clutch in. However, once it fires up, you can put it in gear and drive away. If so, OK, you are on the right trail: it is related to clutch safety interlock. Go to next question.

- Is your starting technique correct? You MUST let the Engine Controller "see" the released clutch immediately after ignition is turned on, during self-check. In other words: first, turn ignition on - second, grab clutch, not the other way around.

- Did you recently drop the bike? If so, you may have "tweaked" the hand-guard and now it is preventing the clutch lever from retracting fully. Check that you can fully release the clutch lever without it hitting the guard. If the guard interferes, twist it until it aligns with the lever and allows it to release.

- Last check: listen for the click of the microswitch in the clutch lever. You should hear it about half-way through movement of lever. Turn engine off - it is quite faint. For comparison, you should hear a similar click from the handbrake lever.

Did it click?
If so, either the microswitch failed or the wiring back to the ECU is damaged. You may have to whip out your ohm-meter and electrical schematics and start chasing that down. That issue is not a topic of this pictorial.

It did not click?
Well, you are at the right place. Assuming the lever moves freely all the way to release, the microswitch is either packed with dirt (stop dropping that bike, already...) or out of adjustment. Read on. If it's only out of adjustment, procedure described in first three pictures below will help. If it is packed with dirt, you may have to pull it out and clean - described further on.


This is the actual clutch switch. It is a microswitch located in the lever housing, just below the fluid reservoir. Fully released clutch lever depresses the microswitch; you should hear a faint metallic click in the clutch as the lever is about halfway depressed.

If you need a listening comparison: the brake lever emits a similar click in the beginning of its travel.

Under ideal circumstances, the adjustment is very simple.
This is the view of the clutch lever housing from below. A 2mm hex setscrew needs to be loosened to allow the switch to rotate around a pivot pin.
The setscrew can be accessed from underneath the handlebars, often without having to remove any parts. If you are lucky, the screw may turn without difficulty. I had to use a lot of Liquid Wrench to free up mine. Make sure not to use too much force: stripping threads in the aluminum housing may be quite costly!

Once the setscrew is loosened, just twist the switch sideways to get it to click midway through travel of clutch lever, and then lock it back in place (again, gently).

Voila, you are done!

If you get in trouble, you may need to pull the switch out. Just so you know how the assembly looks: this is the clutch lever housing, seen from the inside. The switch lives in the rectangular cutout.

The pivot pin on the upper left fits into a hole in the microswitch and allows the switch body to rotate. The setscrew is located in lower right.

The setscrew does not press directly on the body of the microswitch; instead, it contacts a small pad, which is inserted into the other hole of switch body. Make sure not misplace the pad while removing the switch!

Good luck wrenching!

rdwalker screwed with this post 11-20-2009 at 12:36 PM Reason: added troubleshooting info
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Old 08-21-2008, 04:13 PM   #2
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Very nicely done!

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Old 08-21-2008, 06:26 PM   #3
rdwalker OP
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Thanks! And thanks for posting, in another thread, info on location of that well-hidden setscrew!
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Old 11-19-2009, 02:46 PM   #4
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Thumb Thanks and bump

rdwalker thanks for posting this pictorial , it was very heplfull to fix the clutch switch problem.

Bump to top for another rider with the same problem.

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Old 11-19-2009, 02:56 PM   #5
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Nice write up I'll add for diagnosing purposes that the switch for the clutch is the same for the front brake switch on the other side as well. This helped me diagnose a brake problem I had about a year ago. I now carry a spare in my tool kit, as they are only about $16.00. Just my 2%
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Old 11-19-2009, 03:26 PM   #6
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Thanks for the pictorial! Even I was able to follow your clear instructions
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Old 11-19-2009, 05:23 PM   #7
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good stuff

Most excellent post! Thank you.

I bought it to ride it, not to show off my polishing skills.

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Old 11-19-2009, 07:55 PM   #8
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Nicely done!
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Old 11-19-2009, 11:21 PM   #9
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From your description, mine seems to have the same issue. Will follow your pictorial and take a look.

Thanks very much for sharing your experience, the good pictures and explanations! Helps people like me a lot

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Old 11-20-2009, 12:39 PM   #10
rdwalker OP
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Thanks, guys! It is gratifying to see the old thread resurrected. Hopefully it helped some of you.

I added a Troubleshooting section to the original write-up.

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Old 11-22-2009, 04:59 AM   #11
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Good Job

Well done rdwalker, I also was be able to understand.........jajajaja

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Old 05-10-2010, 06:50 PM   #12
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Thanks! Followed your tutorial and now I can start my bike in 1st with the clutch pulled in, just needed to adjust the switch.

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Old 05-20-2010, 11:10 PM   #13
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Unless the OP has any objections I'm gunna add this to the HoW.

• The hidden harmony is found with joy, while the obvious brings indifference.
• The farther you enter into the Truth the deeper your conviction for truth must be.
• There is understanding of the world precisely to the degree that there is understanding of the Self.
Collected Works of the WingMakers Volume 1 pg. 590
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Old 05-22-2010, 12:53 PM   #14
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I just added this thread to the HoW for download.

• The hidden harmony is found with joy, while the obvious brings indifference.
• The farther you enter into the Truth the deeper your conviction for truth must be.
• There is understanding of the world precisely to the degree that there is understanding of the Self.
Collected Works of the WingMakers Volume 1 pg. 590
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Old 06-30-2010, 12:59 PM   #15
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how to tell if switch is dead?

suddenly i can no longer start R12GS in gear; two years ago BMW replaced clutch switch under warranty.......... following this useful thread, i loosened the switch, moved it around as suggested, but no joy. pulled switch out completely and when i press the little lever on switch, it clicks, but when in place, no click.

i take it this means the switch is dead?

and, if so, all i have to do is disconnect the dead one, snap in the new one and reinstall? i can feel the switch lock into the pivot point.

that's it? seems a hell of a lot better than giving dealer $75 to do this 5 minute job for me...........or am i missing something?

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