VW Dashboard Instrumentation Illumination Poor? Read On

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Having owned, modified, bought and sold many vintage Volkswagens over the years, I am acutely aware of the annoyance caused by a failed bulb within the dashboard or instrumentation cluster.  It is understood that with a vehicle between 20-30 years old such flaws, 'go with the territory', yet it is still a niggly irritation.

Not only, is a failed bulb likely to detract from the pleasure experienced when driving after dark but also, may attract stern questioning from the members of the local Constabulary.  Whilst, it is my understanding that failed instrumentation illumination is not an issue which is likely to effect an MoT, with the burgeoning number of Police and Local Authority Use Only Cash-Points (Speed Cameras) there is much to be said for being able to see what speed is being attained particularly when driving in urban areas.

Volkswagen Audi Group vehicles of this vintage had instrumentation clusters manufactured by either VDO or Motor Meter.  The latter supplying rather less than the former but there is no known differences in quality or design.

Both Mk1 and Mk2 Golf varients (Golf, Jetta, Caddy and Scirocco models) have three insertion points for bulb holders on the instrument cluster; one for the speedometer, one for the rev counter or clock and finally, one for the LCD clock or MFA display. 

The tiny and fragile 203 glass bulbs are extremely difficult to remove from the original bulb holders and have a tendancy to disintegrate into a pile of abrasive powder.  Replacement bulbs are also susceptible to clouding or blowing due to osmosis, the absorption of moisture from the skin into the glass itself.

Given that 509T twist-in integrated LED bulbs provide a vastly enhanced life span, improved illumination and reduced electrical consumption, it is not too difficult to determine that these represent a better option than replacing the 203 glass bulbs.

As with any practice regularly undertaken, it is difficult for me to slow down the thought processes and expand upon the set by step progress of such a removal but here goes...

For a Golf Mk1 (series 2) or Caddy Pickup removal is as follows;

(1) Remove all switches from their plug fittings.
(2) Remove heater switch and paddles from the vent slider controls.
(3) Remove facia covers from left and right hand side of the instrumentation.
(4) Remove the heater control facia panel.
(5) Remove Philips screws from main fascia panel, these should all have been exposed by above mentioned processes (1)-(4)
(6) Remove main facia panel; the dashboard surround - if a stereo unit is fitted it will be necessary to remove this to prevent damage being sustained by the surround - it is relatively flimsy and will not stand up to supporting the weight of a stereo.
(7) Remove Philips screws to left and right hand side of the instrument cluster.  The cluster is now liberated from the metal arms but supported by the curved recesses in the arms.
(8) Carefully tilt the cluster towards you and remove the interface connecting modules to the lower right and in the case of Golf GTi models behind the unit.  GTi MFA clusters will also feature a rubber vacuum tube used to calculate fuel consumption and assess relative fuel economy.  Take care not to break away the fragile plastic vacuum spout running from the rear of the cluster.
(9) Depress the release control on the upper left rear of the cluster to detach the speedometer cable.
(10) The instrument cluster may now be tilted towards you and removed from the aperture.  Please note the metal retaining arms are thin and usually very sharp - caution is required to avoid lacerations!

Instrumentation clusters of this vintage have a plasticised wiring ribbon fitted externally to the plastic casing.  You will see that there will be an exposed copper circle surrounding each bulb holder and this may require the removal of deposit accumulation to ensure a good contact.  It is recommended that a suitable fluid cleaner is used rather than an abrasive material; Scotchbrite will quickly destroy the plasticised ribbon and create earths you did not want or need...

Simply twist the bulb holder 180 degrees to the left to remove.  The original fittings may require a small pair of pliers to assist but brute force is unnecessary and unhelpful.  The 509T integrated LED bulbs require only a twist of 180 degrees to the right to install but it is wise to check functionality prior to refitting the instrumentation as they are polarity dependent.

I am certain you will be delighted with the result and be mindful you may require additional 509T integrated LED bulbs for illuminated switchgear, headlamp, fog lamp, hazard switches, heater fan and ashtray.  Auxillary VDO 52mm gauges such as clocks, oil pressure, oil temperature and voltmeter also feature standard twist-in apertures.

I have just bought 10 green 509T integrated LED bulbs from *led_monster* for the BARGAIN price of £9.99 with FREE 1st Class Postage and upon receipt will advise of their quality. 

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