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      10-17-2009, 08:00 PM   #1
TLud
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Illuminated ZHP Shift Knob Install

A couple of cars before my E92 M3, I had an E46 with the performance (ZHP)package. As anyone who has had the pleasure of owning an E46 ZHP can attest, it is an amazing car. One of the many improvements over the standard E46 was a shortened and weighted shift knob, which really smooths out the shifts and feels very solid. It made the notchy and rubbery shifting that has almost become expected from BMW shifters bearable. The ZHP shift knob is so popular that many have transplanted it onto other BMW models, including the E92 M3.

The E92 M3 tranny and shifter aren't any better than their predecessors, and the stock shift knob doesn't help. As others have discovered, the shifter is plastic and hollow, which makes it feel light, insubstantial and vibration prone. It also sits a tad high, which only contributes to the long throws. Whether you have a SSK or not, adding the ZHP shift knob is a must-do mod, if you want a more solid feel to your shifting. The added weight also helps smooth out some of the notchiness.

The biggest problem in the past has been that the ZHP shift knob, while it has the same emblem on top, isn't illuminated. Others on this forum, like ///Metak, have gotten around this problem by performing "surgery" on the ZHP knob and wiring it for illumination. It's a lot of work and easy to make a mistake, and let's face it, most of us don't have the time or the desire to do a job like this. If you're the adventurous type, here's a link to ///Metak's DIY, which is excellent.

Well, a much easier alternative is now available from LeatherZ. They've done the hard part, and pre-wired the ZHP shift knobs for illumination. They even offer a number of choices for the emblem on top (I went with the one that is the same as our OEM emblems). Here's a link to the webpage where you can find them.

Anyway, here's a quick write-up of my install of the illuminated ZHP shift knob from LeatherZ:

First, remove the boot trim from the center console. All you have to do is pinch the leather at the side of the trim piece and pull up. It should unsnap without much pulling.




Next, disconnect the plug connecting the shift light with the car's electrical system.



Now, you can remove the shift knob. This will take some work. The shift knob fits very tightly on the selector rod. You should be able to pull straight up on the knob to remove it. Use both hands and pull straight up (don't twist), being careful not to hit yourself or the rear view mirror when it unsnaps free. If it's really stuck on there and no amount of effort will pull it loose, you can pry open the plastic retaining clips with a screwdriver as shown below. It should then be easy enough to pull free.



Once you have the shift knob removed, you'll have to cut the boot off of the stock knob. Unfortunately, the shift boot is integrated with the stock knob. Another option is to order a replacement shift boot from LeatherZ at the same time you order the shift knob. They have a lot of well-crafted alternatives. Otherwise, just turn the boot inside-out, pull it down as far as it goes and start cutting as shown below. It really helps to use a very sharp knife.





Once you have separated the boot from the knob, you're ready for the next stage. Unfortunately, the plug for the E92 M3 (and all BMWs after 2001) is not readily available as a stand-alone part, so Leather Z, ships its knobs with the pre-2001 wiring. The stock plug looks like this:



and the plug you need, looks like this:



This means that the LeatherZ illuminated ZHP shift knob is not plug and play with our M3s, but the fix is simple enough.

You have two options. One is to use the two included T-taps to connect the two wires from the ZHP knob to the two wires to the car. I don't have any pictures of this (because I took option 2), but it's extremely easy, even for someone who's never done anything like this before, and the knob from LeatherZ includes directions for those of you who have never used T-taps before. No cutting is required, so returning to stock is completely painless.

I don't like to use T-taps. I prefer to solder my connections directly, so that's what I did. To do this, you'll need to cut off the stock plug as shown below. Cut far enough away from the plug so that if you ever need to re-attach it, you'll have enough wire to work with, but not so far that you don't have anything left to attach the new plug to. 1 - 1.5 inches is a good place to make your cut.



Once cut, now, you'll have to strip the wire ends for soldering.



Once the new plug has been soldered on, tape up the area with electrical tape or use heat shrink wrapping instead.



Now you're ready to install the new knob and the boot you cut earlier. Take the wires from the new knob and run them through the boot (still inside out) and then plug them into the new plug.



Now use a small zip tie (I used a 4" zip tie) to sinch the top of the boot (still inside out) onto the selector rod as shown below.



Once this is done, you'll want to secure the plug and wiring so that it doesn't rattle around. I first taped the top of the wires to the selector rod and then taped the whole plug to the selector rod as shown below.




Now firmly push the knob onto the selector rod until it locks in. Then snap the boot trim piece back into the center console And you're finished! Here's how it should look when you're done.



Now take a test drive to make sure everything is solid and working properly and to enjoy the much smoother and more solid and substantial feel of your shifter. I also like the silver trim around the bottom of the knob. It's a nice touch.

I hope this is helpful. If anyone has any questions, I'm happy to try to answer them. Also, if anyone wants them, I can take and upload some night pictures showing the illumination. It looks just like stock.
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      10-17-2009, 10:57 PM   #2
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Brilliant DIY Tom!

I hope my near future install results in a perfect result, like yours.
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      10-17-2009, 11:33 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Nawaaz View Post
Brilliant DIY Tom!

I hope my near future install results in a perfect result, like yours.
You're definitely going to like the result. Of course, you'll be getting the SSK at the same time. The combined improvement will feel amazing.

Unfortunately, I detailed my car AFTER this install, so my interior isn't exactly tip top.
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      10-17-2009, 11:53 PM   #4
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Great job! Looks awesome! The only thing I would have suggested is to use the plug from the stock shift knob and then cut the LeatherZ wiring instead of the cars wiring. This would make it plug and play and would allow you to go back to a completely stock setup without any trace of electrical tampering.

Sorry for the crummy picture, can't find a better one...

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      10-18-2009, 12:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ///Metak View Post
Great job! Looks awesome! The only thing I would have suggested is to use the plug from the stock shift knob and then cut the LeatherZ wiring instead of the cars wiring. This would make it plug and play and would allow you to go back to a completely stock setup without any trace of electrical tampering.

Sorry for the crummy picture, can't find a better one...
Good call. Bit late for me now, but that's a good idea for anyone else who does this mod. Can't believe I didn't think of that myself.
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      10-18-2009, 07:14 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TLud View Post
You're definitely going to like the result. Of course, you'll be getting the SSK at the same time. The combined improvement will feel amazing.

Unfortunately, I detailed my car AFTER this install, so my interior isn't exactly tip top.
Oh yeah, I was thinking you were eating grandma's homemade cookies while you were doing the install, when I saw those crumbs.

btw, I can't wait to get everything installed at once.....I agree that it'll be an AMAZING feeling!
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      10-19-2009, 07:25 PM   #7
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Great write up. The pictures are very detailed.

I just ordered a knob and I think this will definitely improve my stock setup.
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      10-19-2009, 07:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by C17MooseDriver View Post
Great write up. The pictures are very detailed.

I just ordered a knob and I think this will definitely improve my stock setup.
I think you'll be very pleased with the improvement. Just be sure to follow ///Metak's suggested improvement in post #4.
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      10-20-2009, 02:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
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I think you'll be very pleased with the improvement. Just be sure to follow ///Metak's suggested improvement in post #4.
I definitely will. One thing, couldn't you just use a wire nut to connect the wires instead of soldering? I figure less work, and should be just as secure.
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      10-20-2009, 10:41 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C17MooseDriver View Post
I definitely will. One thing, couldn't you just use a wire nut to connect the wires instead of soldering? I figure less work, and should be just as secure.
You certainly could, but if you're going to take that approach, I'd just use the T-taps that are included with the shift knob. For an application like this, it's not a big deal. I soldered it because I'm...er, detail oriented...about that kind of thing.
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      10-21-2009, 12:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TLud View Post
To do this, you'll need to cut off the stock plug as shown below.
After reading that, I immediately yelled at you: 'NOOOOOOO, you don't want to do that buddy' , but Metak beat me to it. Yeah, unfortunately we reached an age where we have senior moments like that .

Since I'm going to butcher the stock knob anyway, and the LeatherZ alternative does not have the correct connector, will save the $100, just order the knob and mod it myself too (will check Metak's DIY for guidance ).

Hey man, just one thing I'm not quite pleased with it, and want your opinions on a solution: Don't like the fact the knob's 'ring' looks a lot wider than the boot below it (shaft is a lot thinner), and I don't like that. Doesn't look OEM. What did cars equipped with the ZHP package have on the boot?

Last edited by elp_jc; 10-29-2009 at 06:28 PM.
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      01-25-2010, 03:16 AM   #12
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Is there any way to put the stock shift knob back on the car without it looking 'nasty' afterwards? Say if I want to return it to 'stock' at a later date? Or if I want to do this do i have to leave the OEM shifter/shift boot attached and buy the 'shift boot w/ OEM BMW plastic ring' from leatherz for $260?!

Haha thanks.
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      01-25-2010, 10:37 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by CATCH_M3 View Post
Is there any way to put the stock shift knob back on the car without it looking 'nasty' afterwards? Say if I want to return it to 'stock' at a later date? Or if I want to do this do i have to leave the OEM shifter/shift boot attached and buy the 'shift boot w/ OEM BMW plastic ring' from leatherz for $260?!

Haha thanks.
Yeah, I learned from my mistake the hard way.

I had to purchase a new OEM shift knob/boot since I had destroyed my original one already.

I guess you have no choice but to buy the lighted knob/boot from LeatherZ, that is if you wanna keep the original shift knob/boot.
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      01-25-2010, 10:48 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nawaaz View Post
Yeah, I learned from my mistake the hard way.

I had to purchase a new OEM shift knob/boot since I had destroyed my original one already.

I guess you have no choice but to buy the lighted knob/boot from LeatherZ, that is if you wanna keep the original shift knob/boot.
You can buy just a new shift boot skin from LeatherZ. If you carefully remove your stock skin/knob from the plastic ring base, then glue the new LeatherZ skin to your base, you could revert to the stock configuration later if you wanted to. This assumes you would use a new shift knob too, either ZHP or LeatherZ-ZHP or whatever. Boot skins without frames cost a lot less than complete boots. And, they terminate with a neck so it's a little cleaner than if you just cut and zip tie the stock boot.
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      01-25-2010, 02:50 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonM View Post
You can buy just a new shift boot skin from LeatherZ. If you carefully remove your stock skin/knob from the plastic ring base, then glue the new LeatherZ skin to your base, you could revert to the stock configuration later if you wanted to. This assumes you would use a new shift knob too, either ZHP or LeatherZ-ZHP or whatever. Boot skins without frames cost a lot less than complete boots. And, they terminate with a neck so it's a little cleaner than if you just cut and zip tie the stock boot.
+1

I can't imagine any scenario where I'd want to go back to stock, but if this is a concern, I'd follow Jon's recommendation.
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      01-25-2010, 03:03 PM   #16
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Thanks!
So I can transfer the OE Boot RingBase back and forth without damaging either shift boot?
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      01-25-2010, 03:10 PM   #17
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Thanks!
So I can transfer the OE Boot RingBase back and forth without damaging either shift boot?
Yes, it's a little more work (the boot is just glued onto the OEM base), but it's easy enough with a little patience.
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      01-25-2010, 03:16 PM   #18
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Yes, it's a little more work (the boot is just glued onto the OEM base), but it's easy enough with a little patience.
Awesome! I think I will use a hairdryer to loosen up the glue then
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      01-25-2010, 03:28 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonM View Post
You can buy just a new shift boot skin from LeatherZ. If you carefully remove your stock skin/knob from the plastic ring base, then glue the new LeatherZ skin to your base, you could revert to the stock configuration later if you wanted to. This assumes you would use a new shift knob too, either ZHP or LeatherZ-ZHP or whatever. Boot skins without frames cost a lot less than complete boots. And, they terminate with a neck so it's a little cleaner than if you just cut and zip tie the stock boot.
Sounds like a great idea!

(Just don't get frustrated and stick the gluey knob onto your forehead like I did LOL j/k)
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      01-25-2010, 06:11 PM   #20
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Boot skins without frames cost a lot less than complete boots. And, they terminate with a neck so it's a little cleaner than if you just cut and zip tie the stock boot.
It's just as clean man, as all leather boots fold inward at the top. Mine looks like it came from the factory, and I butchered it too . But I took the time to make a 'neck' the size of the knob's base, and make 2 notches to bury the zipties' heads installed backwards so the 'neck' is smooth all around .

The bottom line is you have to pay almost the same amount of money to go back to stock sooner or later, since LeatherZ's boot costs almost as much as the whole stock knob/boot assembly from Tischer. So better later folks, since most likely you'd never go back to stock . Plus I doubt LeatherZ's boot is as nice as stock, which matches the car perfectly. Just saying.
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      01-26-2010, 10:38 AM   #21
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Quote:
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The bottom line is you have to pay almost the same amount of money to go back to stock sooner or later, since LeatherZ's boot costs almost as much as the whole stock knob/boot assembly from Tischer.
Skin-only is $70.
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      01-27-2010, 12:44 AM   #22
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Skin-only is $70.
I guess it wasn't offered when I checked, but thanks for pointing that out. Definitely cheaper than a stock boot/knob.

Glad you brought that up to make a comment I forgot. If you're going to transfer the stock lighting to the ZHP knob, you'd have to butcher the stock knob anyway, so no need to buy a boot. But if you're not installing a lighted knob, then I'd highly recommend buying the boot in order to keep the stock knob/boot intact for resale. In any case, I'd order the ZHP knob first, drive the car enough to decide if it's a keeper or not. If it is, then either butcher your stock knob or order a new boot once you're sure. If not, just sell the ZHP knob for almost what you paid for and no harm done. Your call folks. Take care.
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