Replacing Bulbs

One of the headlight bulbs went out on my '01 Golf, so I had to replace it. No big deal, with a 14-year-0ld car this certainly isn't the first time. Of course, it was the driver side bulb, which can be a real knuckle buster. So much so, that this passage is found in the owner's manual:

It is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to replace vehicle light bulbs since in many cases, other parts of the car must first be removed before you are able to get to the bulb. This applies especially to the light bulbs in the front of your car which you can only reach through the engine compartment.

For your safety, we recommend that you have your authorized VOLKSWAGEN dealer replace any bulbs for you, since your dealer has necessary tools, the correct bulbs and the expertise.

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Right. Because nobody has a socket wrench and a Phillips screwdriver. I will say, though, that changing the driver side bulb is a pain. The headlight is right in front of the battery, and to have enough room to work you have to remove the shroud from around the battery. Thankfully, VW was thoughtful enough to put a small light bulb symbol on a plastic cover that really seems to serve no other purpose than to hide the back of the headlight.

Once you get that piece off, and the battery cover that also seems to serve no purpose at all, you can get after the battery shroud. This is held in by a single bolt, but it's way down at the bottom of the battery pan. No big deal, though. This picture shows the bolt, the shroud, and the headlight assembly. There's also a large wire clipped to the side of the shroud that must be released.

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One thing I learned in past bulb replacement exercises was the particular order of operations. Once you get to the back of the bulb by removing the cover, you 1) unhook the wire clip 2) release metal clips holding in bulb. Replace the bulb, then do the steps in reverse, because you can't lock the bulb in place if you've already connected the wires. Figured that out the hard way the first time. But here's where this project went slightly awry.

Once I got to the part where I have to release the metal clips holding in the bulb in place, I couldn't see, nor could I remember, how to release them. No problem, I'll just take a look at the other side. I'm going to put in a matching set anyway, and I wanted to knock out the harder one first. So I removed the cover on the passenger side headlight, and went to pull the plug off the bulb. The electrical wires end in two clips that are surrounded with a chunk of plastic, presumably so you can grip them. I grabbed the plastic and it crunched. The plastic part of the plug completely disintegrated in my hand and fell off, with all the wire clips still in place on the bulb. Fuck. So I replaced the burned out bulb on the other side, but left the now-more-difficult-to-remove-but-still-working passenger side bulb for a day when it's not cold outside and I'm not sick. I'm assuming that the wire clips that slide onto the posts at the back of the bulb will simply come off with a little encouragement. But there's not a whole lot of room to work with. We'll see.

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