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MegaWatt
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My got my 2000 VW Beetle TDI on Ebay, and it's had a million problems. As I closed in on wrapping up the long list of problems, I focused on the heated mirrors which wouldn't heat. I first checked out the switch, and it was obviously bad; even though it had 3 positions, it would rotate all the way around, and I wasn't getting any voltage to the mirrors. I ordered a new switch on Ebay from (China, yeah I know) for $4.00 (free shipping). It took several weeks to get here, but seemed to work fine. That got 12V to the mirrors, but they wouldn't heat. I checked resistance, and they were at about 10K ohms. Well E = I x R, so they were only getting about 0.0012A of current through them or about 0.014 watts - certainly not enough to do anything!

For the record, a new mirror has about 10 ohms of resistance, which will produce about 1.2A of current and about 14 watts of heat. There are mirrors on Ebay for 98-03, but if you ask how much resistance they have, you'll probably not get an answer - they are pretty much all burned out. So watch out.

Since replacement heated mirrors for 98-03 Beetles are no longer manufactured by anybody, I searched the web for an alternative, and found a post where someone had used alternative heater elements, and so I followed their lead. I'll guide you through what I did. I was successful, and my mirrors now have heat again. And by the way, I saw one post that said later year mirrors will still fit the 98-03s. They do NOT! They are bigger than 98-03s.

I ordered a universal Handlebar Heater kit from www.PartsReloaded.com for about $22 + shipping. You'll get two heater elements, some wiring, a large resistor to make a hi/low installation on your bike or whatever, and a hi/low switch. The heater elements are all you need. They about 1.5 " x 3" (I didn't think to measure them) with leads attached. This is what you get:


I started with the passenger mirror here.



First of all, Here's how the mirrors are layered up starting at the outside of the mirror working your way to the back:

Glass > Silvering > Teflon-like Protection Sheet > Heater Element > Plastic Mounting Bracket.

1. To separate the plastic back from the mirror, I first got a couple of old plastic cards I don't use any more like Max and Erma's, Speedy Rewards, etc. You'll need them right away. I put the mirror in the oven and heated it to about 180 degrees as best I could tell. I left it for about 3 minutes or so. It was hot, but not so hot I couldn't hold it. While it was still hot, I used the plastic cards to carefully separate the plastic back from the mirror. Be very careful. A - you don't want to break the mirror, and B - you don't want to scratch the silvering on the back of the mirror. As it turns out (good for us) there is a teflon-like membrane that protects the silver, and I was fortunate that my process separated the heating element from that teflon-like layer on the back of the mirror. On first attempt, I got about half of the back loose from the mirror, and I put it back into the oven to soften the adhesive more. Keep using the cards to separate the back from the mirror. The more is freed up, the easier it will become, but DON'T GET IMPATIENT - keep at it slowly, and it will come, being VERY careful not to put bending stress on the glass.

2. Now that you have the back off the glass, peel the old heating element from the plastic backing. Before you throw it away, take a soldering gun and heat the connector leads and they will come off the element. Set them aside, we'll use those later.

3. Now you have the task of cleaning the old adhesive from the back of the mirror and the plastic mount. I used my favorite solvent: Klean-Strip Prep-All Wax and Grease Remover. It worked fairly well removing some of the adhesive and softening it up. Several times I took a plastic card and used the edge to scrape adhesive off. Here is what the back of the mirror looked like cleaned off. You can see a little of the teflon-like backing is slightly damaged, but it didn't affect any of the process or damage the silvering.



4. Now it's time to apply the new heating element to the mirror. Test fit it first, and do so while placing the plastic mount over it to plan your strategy. I rounded the two corners of the heating element with scissors to make it fit on the mirror like I wanted. Then I removed the backing from the adhesive side of the element and stuck it onto the back of the mirror as shown:



5. Now place the plastic mount over the mirror to see where you need to cut away some of the plastic to allow for the leads. The next photo shows How I did mine. If you look closely, I beveled the right side of the cutout so as not to cut into the wires. I also beveled under the left side to allow for the wires, too. Once you are happy with your test fit, you'll be ready to glue it together.



6. Obviously, you don't want the glass falling off while you're driving down the road, so the right adhesive is important. It needs to be strong, heat and moisture resistant. (By the way, it was moisture that ultimately corroded the connections on the heating element and made them quit working.)For this, I chose to use 3M Hi-Strength 90 Contact Adhesive, and I picked up a can at Home Depot for about $13. This solution seemed to work really well, so just follow the instructions on the can.

7. I went over the mirror back and the plastic mount one last time to make sure all residue from adhesive and from my hands was gone. With the wires fed through the new cut out hole, I open them up like a book so that both sides that needed adhesive were showing, and I layed them on a piece of cardboard. I sprayed 2 coats of the adhesive, waiting a minute between coats. After 2-3 minutes, when I was sure they were ready, I carefully put the plastic back onto the mirror, making sure it was in the right place before I applied pressure to them - there's no second chance on this. Spend a couple of minutes pressing the 2 parts together. Mine stuck really well with no separation.

8. Almost done now. For this passenger mirror, I cut off the wires leaving about 1.5 inches. I took the old connectors we saved from the heating element, straightened them out with needle nosed pliers and scraped all the crud from them. I soldered the ends of the wires well, and then added a bed of solder on the connectors where they had been soldered previously to the old element. Then I heated the puddle of solder on the lead and pressed it onto the wire letting it all heat up and making a solid solder joint. Be careful not to move the connector around until the solder cools or you'll get a cold solder joint (bad connection). Here's what mine looked like:



9. Last step! I put a piece of heat shrink tubing over the solder connection like this:



Now it's ready to go back onto the car. If you have 12V going to the mirror, you'll feel the heat in just a few seconds. (Take that VW!)

Before I wrap this up, just a few comments about the driver mirror. For one thing, the glass is flat, so it's more fragile than the passenger mirror which is curved slightly. So be careful - take your time. For the most part, the process for the driver side is exactly the same as I've described. But there's a difference with the driver side - there's a curved piece of plastic that slides into a clip on the car side. I wanted my wires to stay clear of this as best I could. So this is how I positioned my heater element on the driver side:



This is how I cut away the back to allow for the wires:



My final driver's mirror came out like this:



I hope this helps. I suspect there are many burned out heated mirrors. This is how I fixed mine. Good luck with yours.
 

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crank it up, suckers!
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5,596 Posts
Awesome write-up! I had heard early on that leaving the heaters going was the usual culprit for failure. I think I feel a little better with your finding. I don't feel quite as responsible now.
 

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MegaWatt
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32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I checked out the heater element itself, and it was intact, but the terminals are exposed to the weather, and there was corrosion all around the exposed terminals. If VW had sealed the terminals, I suspect many would still be going. But thanks for the kudos. I spent about an hour on each mirror.
 
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