August 28

2007 Mercedes S65 AMG – Stuck in Park Gear Shift



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How you doing, Bernie?  

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2007 Mercedes S65 AMG. Mercedes in the running for the longest names in car manufacturing. What was going on with this car? 

Bernie: Yeah, and you actually didn't say Mercedes Benz, which makes it even longer. Yeah, so the transmission when you go to shift it, it wouldn't shift into gear. So it was basically stuck in park. And vehicle was towed in. He'd had the vehicle diagnosed elsewhere, the dealership didn't really want to deal with them for the repairs that were needed. And there was a couple other issues with the car. So I had it towed over to us to look at and repair. So it basically kind of came pre diagnosed from the dealer needing this part, but we still needed to do our own thing on it too. 

Mark: So, what diagnosis did you do? 

Bernie: Well, this was pretty straightforward. We hooked a scan tool up, reconfirmed there's some codes. Looked at the scan data for the operation of how everything was working and concluded that in fact, the module was bad.

There were further tests we could have done, which we didn't do, like testing powers and grounds. So this is the actual shifter control module, which sits on the side of the transmission, as opposed to the transmission control module, which actually controls the shifting. The actual shifts while the vehicle's underway, just to clarify. But you know, basically pretty much conclusive that this module was faulty and it needed to be replaced.

Mark: So what's involved in replacing that module on the transmission? 

Bernie: So basically hoisting the vehicle up, getting underneath it, and this module is sandwiched right on the driver's side, right next to the transmission. Apparently you're supposed to take a lot more items out. We were actually able to customize a couple of tools and remove the module without too, it's still very time intensive, but without removing as many things as the repair procedure showed it to be. And basically it's an unbolt and then bolt in. You just have to line up the shifter piece in the transmission, then put it in the right spot. 

Mark: So, once you've got it replaced, does it need to be reprogrammed? 

Bernie: Absolutely. Yeah, this definitely needs to be programmed for the vehicle. Mercedes has a pretty high security system in their vehicles for anti theft protection. So a lot of modules, they have to be programmed for the VIN number of the vehicle. They're very VIN specific. 

Some of them like an airbag module we had on a similar vintage vehicle, where it has to be coded for the vehicle. I'm thinking, why is an airbag module need to be coded for, for a vehicle? But anyways, yeah, this one needs to be done before the shifter operation would work. I'll just get some pictures on and we can keep talking while we go here.

So there's our beautiful top of the line, S65 AMG V12 Bi Turbo. You can see the massive brakes on this vehicle here. It's interesting looking at these, AMGs use a variety of different brakes, I mean, I had an SL55 and it had, I think the front piston caliper had eight. I didn't have the really fancy AMG brakes, but the car still stopped amazingly fast, but it had eight piston calipers. But this one actually has two piston calipers.

2007 Mercedes S65 AMG - Stuck in Park Gear Shift

It's almost like having two brake calipers separated. So it's a different design, but it's got four brake pads. Similar to the eight piston calipers, but I thought that was kind of a unique feature on this vehicle. Stops the thing pretty quick. 

So there's the module. Now you can see this basically four bolts, a bolt to the side of the transmission and the power connector there. 

2007 Mercedes S65 AMG - Stuck in Park Gear Shift

This is the other side view of it. 

2007 Mercedes S65 AMG - Stuck in Park Gear Shift

And a view of the actual power connectors. There is basically 5 wires, 2 large, obviously power and ground. And these would be signal wires to control where it works. I mean, this unit replaces the lever that would be on the side of the transmission and a more traditional, cable operated transmission. This has that little stock on the steering column where you just push it up for reverse and down for drive.

2007 Mercedes S65 AMG - Stuck in Park Gear Shift

And basically when you do that, that makes this thing move. It's a pretty heavy unit. So there's obviously a very large, heavy duty solenoid inside with a lever that operates. 

I'll get the other picture. You can see this, this part here where I'm moving my mouse pointer, this toothed circular item here, splines onto a piece sticking out of the transmission, which is where the lever would go again in a more traditional type of old, I'd say not traditional, old, style of transmission. 

Mark: So, you mentioned that the vehicle was towed in. Is there any other way to get the car moving, if the module's dead?

Bernie: You know what, unfortunately, you can't. We found out this isn't a unique thing to Mercedes. Lots of vehicles have push button transmissions, but certain vehicles will have a way to bypass that. Or you can pull a little lever or stick. I know Jaguars, for instance, I think it comes in the trunk on a lot of them, like a little emergency item. You can insert it somewhere and it allow you to actually remove it out of park. So you can push the vehicle. 

This one here, there's nothing you can do about it. So, unfortunately, after we had it towed in, we had a parked outside of our shop because it was towed in and when we decided to work on it, we couldn't move it. So we had to have a tow truck come and pick the vehicle up and tow it into the shop. So we could put it on our hoist. 

So that's a bit of an unfortunate thing. Now, apparently if it malfunctions in certain ways, you can get a scan tool and you can manually shift it. But because this unit was whatever fault it had in the unit, it wouldn't actually allow us to do that. So not really the smartest design in that way. 

Mark: So, how did it work after you repaired it? 

Bernie: Yeah, perfect. Yeah, after it's repaired, programmed, it shifted just fine, just like normal. So really I mean a pain to get the unit in and out because it's on the side of the vehicle. But you know, after that, it's plug and play with some complication. 

Mark: So speculate why they would use a module like this. Wouldn't it just be easier to use a cable operated system? 

Bernie: Well, I think so. If you look at almost any new vehicle now, everything uses transmission buttons to shift, I'm thinking like, Ford trucks, a lot of vehicles, you know, Dodge trucks, I'm just thinking, for example. But so many cars, you just turn a dial and it goes into park or reverse. And Mercedes has been using this shifting stock thing for a very long time, like, at least two decades or more. 

So I think it's just a matter of making it convenient for the customer. And, of course, then that means there's a very complicated piece on the other end of it. And making it more costly to fix at the end of the day. So I think it's really just a design idea.

Mark: A luxury vehicle that has luxury items in it that are expensive and difficult to fix sometimes. 

Bernie: Yeah. Yeah, it is. You know, with all those conveniences, when we get into cars, all those additional convenience features, all at a cost. The cost to build the car and a cost to fix it. So I'm sure this module assembly is probably more expensive than it would be to put a cable. I don't know. I mean, maybe overall when you add the cost of everything, maybe it's not any more expensive, but from a repair perspective, this module's a lot of money. 

The only old car I was thinking of in the old days that had push button, Chrysler had a, you might remember those Dodge had push button on the dash where you could push, you know, the gears, but that was all fully mechanical. It was interesting, you know, but it pushed a cable. So you know, it doesn't have that nice feel like the Mercedes where you just go click, reverse, click, drive, push a button, park.

Mark: Yeah, so this is a large car with an extremely powerful engine and brakes and suspension. I'm sure it's all AMG stuff. Does it have a sports car sort of feel? 

Bernie: Not really. I used to have an SL 55. So I'm kind of used to that real sporty, fast, supercharged acceleration. The specs in this vehicle, 604 horsepower. It's a heavy car, 604 horsepower, twin turbo V12. It's a customer's car, I'm not going to put my foot to the floor in it, unless it requires that for diagnostic work, but you know, it picks up really fast. But apparently the zero to 60 time in this vehicle is 4. 2 seconds, which kind of shocked me because, I was looking at some specs and I realized it's basically the same zero to 60 time in my SL55.

Which kind of shocks me because you know, it was 100 horsepower less, but a much lighter car. And when you drive this car, it's a much more luxury feeling car. You push the accelerator pedal and it doesn't have that snappy takeoff. It's slow and smooth, but I'm sure if you put it right to the floor, different things come alive. 

And the suspension system, this actually has the ABC hydraulic suspension as well, but it doesn't have a sport mode and adjustments like you would have in other models, like the CL55 or the CL65 you know, the more sporty models. I mean, it's fantastic car, top of the line, insanely expensive when it was new. But you know, very nice ride. 

Mark: How reliable are these S65s? 

Bernie: They're pretty good. You know, but there's a lot more complication to them. As I say, there's a twin turbo V12 engine. You got 2 turbo chargers that could go wrong, you know, 32 spark plugs. No, I'm I didn't know 24 spark plugs, 32. I don't know what that must be a 16 cylinder, there's 2 spark plugs per cylinder. A lot of luxury items, a lot of complications. So, you know, you would pay a lot of money to buy this car.

You can buy it used for a real bargain and to fix it will keep costing you a lot of money, but a fantastic car. And they are quite reliable actually... for what it is. Yeah. For what it is. Absolutely. 

Mark: Yeah, I imagine brake jobs have to be quite expensive. 

Bernie: Yeah. You know, I don't think this one is quite as crazy. It doesn't have the really super, sporty AMG brakes. Some of them have rotors that are, I guess it's a composite rotor. I mean in Canada, like $1,200 per rotor, whereas the regular rotors are 400 bucks. And I think this looks like it has the cheaper style. But yeah, I mean, the brakes are more expensive. Everything costs more. But you know, a lot of these last a long time too, because they're big and robust.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Mercedes Benz in Vancouver, the guys to see, especially if the dealer doesn't want to deal with you ... or if you don't want to deal with the dealer ... yeah, or you don't want to deal with the dealer, come and see Pawlik Automotive. You can book online at or you can call to book at (604) 327-7112. You have to call and book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. And thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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