Replacing a Volkswagen New Beetle fog light lens in three easy steps

Edit: this post seems to be fairly popular with people looking for info on replacing these Volkswagen New Beetle fog lights and headlights. I have become an accidental specialist on the subject, so if you have any questions or suggestions, please comment or email me. As a bonus, here's a VWvortex thread on the subject of removing the front bodywork.

When we bought the New Beetle about a year ago, the driver's side fog lamp had a cracked lens:
New Beetle fog light cover replacement
For her birthday, The Lovely One wished for it to be replaced with a new lens. Therein lies a tale.

Step 1: remove front wheels and headlights
Oh eyes, no eyes!
The lens is not available separately from the entire fog lamp assembly. It's a small unit that sits in the low-mounted grille, under the bumper. The bulb is easily changed with no difficulty, but the assembly is attached to the grille with three Phillips-head screws.

The New Beetle is a tightly packaged car. In various places around the vehicle, you'll find packaging decisions that to my mind indicate either an engineering team that surrendered to the constraints of squeezing everything into this car's odd shapes and spaces, or one that was simply rushed by a rather quick development schedule. It cannot have helped that the New Beetle is an adaptation of the VW Golf platform, which means that the car is in some ways an attempt to put a round shape over a formerly boxy car.

The two screws on on the top side of the light are blocked by the bumper structure: they cannot be accessed from above. I don't think they can be accessed from the back, either. Let us consult Mr. Haynes: hm. All we have to do is remove the front clip to access those screws. What is this front clip they speak of?

Step 2: unplug turn signal and fog light connectors, then remove front clip
It's every piece of bodywork in front of the windshield, except for the hood. And the hood will block some of the screws, too.

A quick web search confirms that indeed, that's the normal procedure on a 1998 New Beetle. The standard Volkswagen shop schedule is 3 hours for this job.

Technically, only the bumper cover (which on the Beetle is a single piece of plastic bodywork covering the entire nose of the car: everything below the hood and between the fenders) needs to be removed, but it is attached to the two fenders by screws that are nearly as blocked as the fog lamp screws. With some patience and a few special tools, you might be able to release it without removing the fenders, but I wouldn't bet on it, and the Haynes manual doesn't recommend it.

More screws
Getting to all of the bolts holding the fenders in place requires you to first remove the front wheel, and then the inner fender liner, another piece of plastic held on by about ten screws.

With the fender liner removed, you can get some idea of what I meant by tightly packaged:
Inside the fender
This is the area in the front left corner of the car, just below the headlight.

New Beetle fog light cover replacement
Another view. Volkswagen has managed to tuck the fresh air intake, the horns, and some coils of rigid hydraulic tubing (brake lines? Oil lines?) into this corner of the car.

More screwsOnce you remove the screws and bolts attaching the fender from the inside of the fenderwell (and don't forget the piece of load-bearing foam rubber tucked inside the fender) you get to deal with this little row of screws on the top side. You're not out of the woods yet, oh no: one or two of those screws near the windshield will be inaccessible via a normal screwdriver because the hood blocks the way. This is one of the places I had to switch to a bit held in a 1/4" socket in my ratchet driver, but at one point that was too tall, and I had to use a bit held in the jaws of my adjustable wrench. That was just stupid. Pay no attention to the warning on the battery cover, by the way: that's just the dealership trying to scare you away from plugging into the OBD-II/VAG-COM port or something.

Don't forget to remove the headlights, too. And you have to do this whole procedure (wheels, fender liners, headlights, fender bolts) on both sides of the car.

New Beetle fog light cover replacement
This is a little bit less than all the bolts from one side of the car. So the total number of bolts removed and replaced was about twice this. My little Skil driver (thanks, Mom & Dad!) held up through it all. Good tool.

With TLO's help, the front clip was gently removed, allowing for the kind of spontaneous cute-dog shot you only get one chance to take:
Totally spontaneous cute dog picture

Step 3: undo three screws holding old fog lamp assembly to grille, replace with new one
New Beetle fog light cover replacement

See? It's easy!

Here's a shot of where the fog light was:
The target
I've put some notes on the flickr photo that might give you an idea of what's going on here.

At this point, you have a new fog light in the right place in the grille, and your car looks like this:
Halfway

New Beetle fog light cover replacement

Break timeTime for a much-needed drink break. Because, you know, this is the halfway point of the job.

As the saying goes, installation is the reverse of removal. There were some exciting moments while I tried to reinstall the passenger-side headlight, but I think I broke much less structural plastic on this project than I usually break.

And thanks to this repair running on so long, I got a big sunburn and I missed my Tuesday night bike race. Thanks, Volkswagen!

Comments

Beetle Fog light replaement.

This just looks so typical for VW. Ridiculous design. You should not have to diassemble the front of a car to install or replace fog lights.
I have a 2004 Turbo S which is going to need new fog lights installed, and there may be a simpler way of installing them, but what you had to go through would not supprise me. And the price was a shocker too. They wanted $132 each for the replacements, which are made mostly of plastic. I think I'll be making a bracket to install some better quality after-market lights.
I also had a broken plastic piece on the cable which releases the drivers seat and allows the front to back adjustment. I went to the dealer to get a replacement cable ( probably a $20 item I thought) and kiddingly said to the parts manager "I know, I probably have to buy a whole new seat." and laughed. When she looked it up, she said I would have to buy the entire lower seat assembly at $500+. My humor quickly left the room. Needless to say I'll make it or have another cable made. How crazy and ridiculous is that. I am starting to wonder about the wonderful German engineering ;^) Thank you for the instructions though. I hope I don't need them.;^(

Good news and bad news...

Joe: the good news is they substantially changed the fog light assembly as early as 2000, so it's apparently easier now. The bad news is these instructions don't apply to your car :).

I think in later years either the front "grille" where the fog lights sit was made removable on its own, or the light housings were changed so the bolts were accessible from below. Either way, it's not quite as ridiculous.

I had no idea there is so

I had no idea there is so much work to do just to replace a Volkswagen's lens! I really hope i won't break mine too soon, although on a second though if that happens during some stupid car accident most car insurance rate quotes would cover it.

Awesome

Thanks for all the help !

You are an idiot. I just

You are an idiot. I just replaced both fog lights in 30 mins. Guess what....the lower grille snaps out! You're an idiot.

Okay so on 2005 beetle do

Okay so on 2005 beetle do you have to take the front clip off or don't you.I need to change the grill.

What year is your beetle

What year is your beetle i've got an 05 and need to change the grill where are the bolts to get the fog lights out of the way to do this.Help

Well smartypants if you knew

Well smartypants if you knew anything about New Beetles you would know that 1999 to 2001 used a different grill and required the front fascia be removed to gain access to the screws that hold the fog lights in. 2003 later models have a different grill and don't require removal of the front fascia. So before you go calling someone else an idiot know what your talking about dumbass.

My Beetle is (as indicated

My Beetle is (as indicated in the text) a 1998 Beetle. I didn't know when the procedure changed; 2003 sounds right.

So.... how do I "simply"

So.... how do I "simply" replace the fog light bulbs in a 2004 VW Beetle?

This is horrible! I am

This is horrible! I am *really* discouraged to hear this. (But, thanks for detailing for us.)

I own a 1999 Beetle. I'm

I own a 1999 Beetle. I'm very proud of my car but nothing is perfect and YES, it is stupid the way that those fog lights are attached to the bumper. Some time ago one of those fog lights got broke and the other was intact. I did not disassemble the whole thing. I just used a 90 degree Phillips screw driver to take the two upper screws off. Then I bought a set of 2 rectangular Hella fog lights, then I made two "L" brackets 5-1/2" long that were going to be held from the two bolts that hold the shocks of the bumper. The result was a different but cool new look for my Beetle for less than 50 bucks. A lot much better than the ridiculous prices at the dealer.

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This is quite an interesting

This is quite an interesting post, you almost disassembled your car by just replacing 2 fog light lens, whew !

I'm thinking of

I'm thinking of re-engineering the front grill in my 2000 VW Beetle to replace the passenger side fog lamp-which I bought on ebay for $38.00 BTW..the grill is plastic...can't I cut the damn thing with a saw and reglue it when I replace the fog lamp?

I just took out my fog

I just took out my fog lights and it was a piece of cake.
The lower panel with grill and fog lights only had a hand full of screws on the bottom. Remove those and it slides right out. Just make sure not to damage the tabs at the top. It would suck if you have to buy a new one ($103.74) because of that. So no taking the whole front end apart with a 2001 Beetle TDI. Woohoo!!!!!

just curious .has anyone

just curious .has anyone tride useing a flexible philips tip on a cordless drill ? i just ordered 2 of these fog lights for my wifes 1999 beetle and that looks like a lot of work for these little lights. im going to give it a try and ill let you know how i make out. thanks for the info jh