Lights -- interior, incl. instrument and dash lights

James Bender

New member

ON a recent trip to MI my dash lights and the lights that are behind the heating switches suddently died. They are not working. I checked all the bulbs and fuses and they look OK. Any idea of what could of happened. ( I also replaced the dimmer / light switch ) This didnt help either.
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Capt. Mike

What year & model?

Almost all VW's dash lights work off a rheostat in the light switch that feeds the dash light circuit, typically gray w/ red or blue tracer. Each group of lights grounds independently, so if all go out in several locations, it means you're not getting power to the circuit.

Go to the Bentley wiring diagram and start tracing with a 12v test light and see where power stops getting passed on. Fuse, switch, a harness connector?
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New member
How do you replace the bulb that lights up the speedometer in a 87 vanagon? I can get to it with no problem, but cant gain access to the bulb. Its inside of a little box.


New member
I figured it out. Its a matter of twisting and turning the bulb and socket out. The bulb and socket are bought as one for about $1.50.

Capt. Mike

The following is transferred in from the old Archives. Sorry, they are not in any particular order and it was not practical to include the authors or posting dates. :p

Dash lights

My dash lights on my 1990 Westy suddenly went out. A local VW parts store told me that it is probably the dimmer switch and not a fuse. He advised me to bypass the dimmer switch. Any suggestions or experience out there?

Answer: Comment on bad dimmer switch: In my 1989 Westy, I had always like to set the dash light to relatively dim setting, for best contrast outside windscreen driving at night. I notice over the year, the dimmer gradually develope a problem where the rotary dial become hard to turn. Now it won't go to the dimmest position.

I suspect this due to a design deficiency where the heat generated by the dimmer eventually (and very slowly) melts and deforms the plastic housing. I'd never bothered to confirm the cause however.
Dimmers in automotive generally consist of a variable resistor which dissipates part of the 12V so the dash light only sees the remaining portion. In all except the fully on position, energy is being dissipated (wasted) on the dimmer.

You can bypass the dimmer momentarily for fault diagonistic purpose like Mike suggested, but hopefully, you know what you are doing.

I'd back up a minute before rushing out to buy a new headlight switch with dimmer. First, if it went 'suddenly', it's not likely to be the dimmer switch -- they usually start getting erratic, flickering, or working only in part of their range. Not impossible, but I'd expect some forwarning. The wiring for dash lights goes through the printing circuit on the back of the instrument panel, and has other leads to radio, heater controls, etc. Are all out? Or just dash?

Answer: Bypassing the dimmer is Rube Goldberg repairs. The dimmer is there for a reason, and most like to be able to adjust to personal preference. I like to dimm to cut reflections in fog and rain. However, you might temporarily jump the dimmer as a test to confirm or rule out the dimmer part of the headlight switch.

A new switch is less than $50 retail and should only be $35-40 aftermarket; check Bus Depot CAUTION: VW buses used two switches, and the change-over serial number in the microfiche is wrong! My '90 4x4 used P/N 251-941-531K. Take your old switch out & order by that part number.

No Dash Lights on '70 Westy

My 1970 Westy has no dash lights. I assume that it should have dash lights (it's pretty damn scary to drive at night when I can't see how fast I'm going or anything insignificant like that). The headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and parking lights all work fine. How can I fix this? Or does it just have no dash lights???

Answer: READ the boards; this question has already been answered about 5 lines up on the same board.

Get the Bentley factory shop manual. It has complege wiring diagrams and can tell you how to trouble shoot. It shows which fuse handles dash lights, and dimmer circuit in light switch.

Bulb replacement

Okay, I thought it would be simple. The light bulb that lights the tachometer/gas gauge area of my dash in my '85 Westy is burned out. I can't figure out how to get the tiny little bulb out of the holder. I've got the cover off of the instrument panel. I've got the plastic housing that holds the bulb - I just can't get the bulb itself out. The manual, of course, says to take it in to the dealer (How many VW dealers does it take to change a light bulb anyway?). What's the trick? Am I missing something obvious?

Answer: You can not get bulb out of holder, must replace as a unit. Part No. 431 919 040. Less than $2 each.

Sliding door light

I would like to hook up light switch to sliding door and add a light when door opens. the cutout is already there for switch. tried calling vw for switch they don't have it. Anybody know what is the best way to hook up this light. Thanks!

Answer: That switch is standard on the non-Westy Vanagons; have your dealer look on that fiche.

Your biggest problem is going to be running the wiring. The Vanagon Westies didn't even have a passenger side dome light. There are also times you will want the door open, but no light -- especially camping -- so I'd consider other solutions such as installing another light or a separate manual switch in parallel to the cabin light switch. Hella makes a couple of nice goosneck lights that might be appropriate as they would allow you to also redirect the light. Look on the pics site (link from home page) for a couple I've installed on my Vanagon.
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New member

Recently my mechanic informed me that the printed circuit (responsible for the illumination of the instrument panel) on my 83 1/2 Westy is in need of replacement. My question is how difficult is it to replace the printed circuit. I do not enjoy driving at night not knowing how fast I am driving. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Also, what are my possible options to illuminate the speedometer gauge short of wearing a headlamp.

83 1/2 Westy
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Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate same topic.

Interior light bulb

Peter F. Junior Member # 2610 posted 10-22-2001 11:27 AM


I own 1994 VW Eurovan Westfalia CV.
Just recently the interior fluorescent light bulb went out. There are two lights inside - one above the stove/sink area (driver side) and the other in rear (passenger side).
The bulbs are quite unique: they have 4 pin connector and have following markings:
PL-S 11W/82/4P and the one I have is made by Phillips. Tried a few VW Dealers - they failed to locate them in VW system.
Any idea for source of such bulbs?



Since I started the issue I feel I need to close it also.

After a few attempts indeed two VW Authorised Dealers responded with confirmation and pricing. To my surprise the price offered by two VW Dealers was CD$90.00. Yes, CD$90.00 for fluorescent bulb light.

You can buy the same one for approx. US$12.50 from a US wholesaler.
The contact is Aamsco Lighting Inc. - tel 8130654-7339. I checked this and received the bulb fine.

[Moderator note: The phone number posted didn't ring true so the following is from their website.]

AAMSCO Lighting
100Lamp Light Circle
Summerville, SC 29483
Voice (800) 221-9092
(843) 278-0000
Fax (843) 278-0001

AAMSCO Lighting
501 South Falkenburg Rd.
Tampa, Florida 33619
Voice (800) 669-9137
(813) 654-7339
Fax (813) 654-7058
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New member
I think my '87 Vanagon has gremlins -- electrical gremlins!

Yup! and as good and thorough as the Bentley Bible is there seems to be no section addressing my COMBINATION of evils.

Over the last several months my '87 Vanagon's instrument panel electrics have been acting up and the symptoms appeared to change over time. Last fall, intermittently the instrument panel lights would fail to light when the headlights were turned on. Initially, either a bit of driving time or a good slap on the dash would make them light up, leading me to believe I simply had a bad connection, but I could never find it. Because winter was coming on, I thought this might be a temperature related (warm-make, cold-break problem). Eventually the instrument panel lights were out more often than they were on.

Parallel to this my low pressure oil light and buzzer would go off indiscriminately every once in a while. Eventually this problem settled down to a common set of symptoms every time I ran the vehicle. On start up the oil pressure light would blink for several seconds then go out, as it should. However as soon as the engine speed hit about 2000 rpm the low pressure oil light and buzzer would activate. If I turned the headlights on at this point, the oil light would go out, the buzzer would stop and as a bonus, my tach would drop to zero -- dead -- and I still wouldn't have any instrument panel lights or high beam indicator light. Also, if I turned the headlights on either before I started the vehicle, or before the engine speed hit 2000 rmp, the low pressure oil light and buzzer would not activate and my tach would not work (and I still wouldn't have instrument panel lights or high beam indicator).

For fixes I have tried the following;

I pulled the instrument panel and jiggled and re seated all the connections / fittings that I could -- no success.

I swapped the combo headlight / instrument panel dimmer switch with a working one from my '85 Westy -- no success.

I removed both "star or spider" male ground base plugs from behind the fuse panel detached each ground wire and wire brush cleaned each female spade connector and both ground plugs (they were pretty green / white and fuzzy with corrosion).

When I replaced all the newly cleaned grounds Eureka, my low pressure oil switch warning light and buzzer problem went away (I think permanently). However I still have no instrument panel lights or high beam lights AND when I turn my headlights on my tach still does not work (its still fine with the lights off). When I turn the headlights off with the engine running, the tach re-activates and the oil pressure light blinks rapidly for 6 to 8 seconds before it goes out.

The headlights and running lights work flawlessly

I'm reticent to go poking about in the electrical maze of the Van from Hell for fear of making the problem worse so am hoping someone out there has experienced these syptoms and has an easy to follow, no-brainer fix. Have at it friends.

Lorne Matthews
Yellowknife, NT Canada

Lorne Matthews¸
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New member
Lorne, I recently had a similar problem with my '84. When the lights went on my tach wouldn't work and the red light would rapidly blink 7 or 8 times, etc. I found my problem by removing the screws that attach my fuse panel to the wall, dropping the panel down and looking at all the wires. There was one long lead with an inline fuse that had a blown 30 amp fuse in it. I replaced the fuse, problem solved. I hope you have the same's a piece of cake.




New member

Thanks for your advice. I didn't notice a separate fuse as per your experience (what specific load /circuit was your 30 amp fuse on??) but I did discover that my owner's manual and my '87 Vanagon don't quite jive electrically. The manual said that my panel lights were on circuit #14 when in fact they were on circuit #12. After concentrating on ciruit #14 for an embarassingly long time, out of frustration I pulled each fuse in turn and you guessed it, I found a fuseblown but at circuit #12 not #14. It was not obvious because it was an older ceramic-like body fuse with a very thin fuse link which is hard to see when standing on your head holding a flash light in your teeth. I replaced the fuse and presto - no gremlins, but an idiot emerged - me.

I count this as a really basic lesson learned. Check out the simple, basic stuff first - chances are that the problem is due to some pretty fundamental cause. I was looking for something sexier and more complex than a simple blown fuse.

You are right, it was a pice of cake - once I followed the rules.

Lorne Matthews
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New member
The Van from Hell -- the ongoing saga.

Further to my May 12 post. I do have (and consult) my Bentley Bible.

The Patient: My '87 Vanagon auto with 234K klicks unfortunately saw its formative years in Ontario where they use way too much salt in winter. The result is this beast, in spite of a pretty solid body, has more than its share of corrosion and ground problems.

I encountered (see posts above) recurring, inconsistent and very weird problems with dash guages (inconsistent dash lights, wonky to non existent tach, flaky water temp light, buzzing and blinking oil pressure light and non functioning high beam indicator). I thought I had licked all my problems when I went back to basics and removed and cleaned ALL the contacts on the 2 main "star" body ground connectors under the left side dash as well as ALL the female end ground connectors themselves.

The Problem: Everything ran perfectly for 10 days. I thought I was in heaven. Sensing my euphoria, the "Van from Hell" threw me a curve ball. After about 5 - 10 seconds above 2000 ish RPM the oil pressure light (.9 bar sender) and warning buzzer come on. If I drive really carefully and do not take the engine above 2000 ish RPM’s I can go for hours without the light/buzzer kicking in.

As a no brainer, easy fix, I just finished changing the .9 bar (grey) high pressure oil sending unit at the back bottom of the engine. The problem did not go away. The brown wire from the high pressure oil sending unit to the snap connector at the left front of the engine appeared to be bad. The connector was BADLY corroded so I bypassed it with a new, good link. Still the problem persists. Fuses are OK. Everything else SEEMS to work ok.

I'm stumped. I thought this Vanagon would be a bit of nostalgia -- taking my wife and I back to our '60s roots and our first VW window van with a giant flower on the front. But NO, we don' t own it -- IT owns us - sort of like a demonic possession from the movies.

If any one can come up with a fix that sticks (short of an exorcism -- cause I think Priests are a bit preoccupied these days) I'm prepared to rename my first born after them.

Lorne Matthews
Yellowknife, NT
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New member
I beat it!
It is done!

I changed the low pressure oil sensor on my '87 Vanagon and the warning light / buzzer problem is solved. The sensor tested ok but there awas a tiny pice of "scale" that would inconsistently "flip up" and periodically block the opening on the sensor - causing it to sense reduced or no oil pressure. What a freaky thing. As a result the "Van from Hell" is now de-listed as an evil object with a mind of its own. However I will continue to watch it for "quirky" characteristics
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New member
For some reason, the turn signals in my '78 westy now cause fuses 11 & 12 to blow when they turn on. It happened on the way home today, I checked out the fuse box and noticed that two were blown, so I replaced them. I then started up the van and the generator light went out because the fuses were OK; but then in all my excitement, I tested out the signal and BOOM, out they went again. Where would one start to see what's going on. I'm new to vehicle electrics and need some guidance. Could it be as simple as the blinker is shot?

I hated using hand signals on the way home, and most people behind me looked at me like I was from another planet.



Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topics.

jaw Junior Member posted October 26, 2002 11:38 PM

I have a 1964 Westy with a hole where I think a "conical light" was located. Any info out there about this early type of interior light?



New member
Boy I really hate electrical problems so hope that this seems familiar to someone. The O2 and the Alt warning lights on my '86 Weekender are flashing in unison some of the time. There does not seem to be a pattern to when they do this. There does not seem to be a problem with the alternator because the battery stays up OK. The lights do not come fully on. Just a dim flash and always together. I could live with it but I am sort of picky about these minor problems and so I need to fix it.

Capt. Mike

Since two separate circuits are having the same malfunction, look at the points where they become common -- i.e. the instrument panel wiring or circuit board.

You probably have a ground -- all the warning lights work on a ground system -- between the lights and where they separate out to their respective senders. However, check your voltage stablizer first as that part of the dash system works on 9.6v, not 12v.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

rayona Junior Member posted December 29, 2002 12:55 AM

I'm trying to figure out how the light above the glove box (84 westy) turns on/off. I pulled it out to take a closer look and there appears to be no switch (or place where switch may have been) and nothing I open/close will turn it on.

Is this supposed to be a glove box light which kicks on when the box is opened?

Has my switch broken off?

Capt. Mike

Probably; the glove-box light switch was a small black slide lever on the left side. There are some models of interior & glove-box lights that switch by rocking the whole lens (used on Porsche; but made by Hella who makes VW's). Unless changed by a previous owner, the slide lever is probably just broken off.


New member
I have a strange situation. It started when my dash lights went out on my 72 westy. A simple bulb replacement and they are working fine's where it gets weird. I go to start the car and she won't start. She turns over fine but just won't fire up. Since she's a daily driver and I was driving her less than 5 minutes before I changed the bulb, I figure I messed something up. Although only a bulb change there is not much room to work under the dash. In my infinate yet blurred wisdom I figure I must have knocked or broken a wire when I reached under. Well, its been four days with the bently and a flash light and all the wires and connectors seem to be in good shape and where they should be. Being that I am a newbie when it comes to auto repair I'm not sure what to do next. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. It's hard to believe that this would have stemmed from a dash bulb change...or just coincidence?

Capt. Mike

In wiring, "Looking good" doesn't equate to working; start with the basics AND TEST TOOLS (TOOLS forum) to find out why where your power is either not reaching the ignition switch, or is not feeding out and to the required starter and engine functions. Breaking a connection is easy enough, especially on old and brittle wiring. This is no longer an "Interior Lights . . ." topic problem.