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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi everyone...

Have some very weird problems on my '02 1.8T 5spd.

A couple weeks ago I had a brake light switch recall performed as the brake lights had been out for several months...no cruise, all the usual stuff. Brake light switch replacement seemed to fix it all.

A couple days ago driving home I noticed the EPC light on the dash, and sure enough...no brake lights, no cruise control. I figured the new switch failed. Called the dealer, they told me to bring it back in for a new switch. Resetting the computer by unhooking the battery overnight however cleared the EPC code and the brake lights seemed to work again. So, now the dealer refuses to replace the switch again when I went back today, even though they had gone through the trouble of removing the lower dash and the actual switch itself. They put the same switch back in and told me to come back when the EPC light comes on.

Also when I went back today I had them replace the third brake light which hasn't worked for years. They did the coil pack recall when I first went there a couple weeks back and scratched up my newly painted valve cover and agreed to replace the third brake light to cover for the damage...but in the end the bastards charged me $70 for the new light.

Anyhoo...

When checking to see if the new third brake light worked (it did), I noticed it seemed to be a good bit brighter than the two brake lights which seemed a bit dim. I didn't think much of it at the time.

So, driving home with the cruise control on everything was going fine. Then, it started to get dark. I turned on the running lights and the cruise control shut off. Turning the running lights off causes the cruise control to work properly like clockwork. Strange. Turning on the running lights made the cruise control think I was hitting the brakes.



Got out of the car to test...here is what is happening:

1) With no running lights on, when I press the brake pedal the third brake light illuminates (like it should) but both tail light filaments illuminate (NOT the brake light filaments as they should) in each tail light housing.

2) When I turn on the running lights alone, the THIRD BRAKE LIGHT illuminates (it shouldn't), and I have NO TAIL LIGHTS (nor brake lights...NOTHING illumiates in either tail light housing whatsoever).

3) If I press the brake pedal with the running lights on, the third brake light stays on, and both tail lights (not the brake light filaments) illuminate.

4) When I let go of the brake pedal with the running lights on, both tail lights go out and again nothing whatsoever is illuminated in either tail light housing and the third brake light stays on.


With all of this strange behavior I do NOT have an EPC light and I haven't since a couple nights ago.



So, my noticing that the brake lights "seemed dim" was due to the fact that when the brakes are depressed the running light filaments and not the brake light filaments are being illuminated. The fact that the third brake light comes on when turning on the headlights explains why the cruise control stops working when you turn on the lights.

I have no clue what could cause any of this, however. How the hell is the running light signal causing the third brake light to illuminate? Hmmmm...

The only things the dealer messed with were the brake light switch and the new third brake light.

Again, I do NOT have an EPC light at present.

Both rear bulbs were replaced about 6 months ago and were cleaned, sockets set, and coated with dielectric grease. Nothing has been touched on either tail light housing.

I don't see how this could be due to a faulty brake light switch or the third brake light...but I guess anything is possible on these things. Could the third brake light or brake light switch cause this behavior in any way?

I've read several similar threads on the forum but no one ever states what finally fixed the problem.

PLEASE someone help...

Thanks!
Jeff
 

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Sounds like a classic bad ground, the wrong bulbs were installed in the rear lights or the sockets are messed up the bulbs are not aligned correctly.

Simple trouble shooting, remove one or both of the rear bulbs and see if the center brake light works properly and you have no feedback with the parking lights on.

As I recall the sockets are plastic and you may have the bulbs in backwards as well. I think??? these are twist bulbs and may have pins at different depths and the bulbs should only go in one way, but can be forced in the wrong way???

I really doubt the brake light switch is the the problem here. You likely have a bulb feedback or ground issue and I would bet you have a bulb feedback/bulb installation issue??

But also think about the cars history, maybe someone hacked something because of a bad brake light switch they never figured out or resolved.

The bad brake light switches were identified much quicker and easier on the automatics as the shifter interlock would not release and you would not be able to get the trans out of park or neutral. Assume you have a manual transmission, however, if you have an automatic, maybe someone did a hack to get the shifter to quick being locked in park or neutral??
 

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It could be a ground problem. Do the flashers and back-up lights work normally? Those use the same ground connection, so if they work the ground is good. If those cause the third brake light to come on then you have a bad ground connection.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It could be a ground problem. Do the flashers and back-up lights work normally? Those use the same ground connection, so if they work the ground is good. If those cause the third brake light to come on then you have a bad ground connection.
Both turn signals as well as the hazard flashers work perfectly and there is no feedback to the third brake light or the tail lights. The only two things that make the third brake light come on are pushing the brake pedal and/or turning on the running lights. Again, turning on the turn signals or the hazard lights does not in any way make the third brake light or the tail lights illuminate. So, I am assuming that the ground back there is good???

Also, to reiterate... the car is a manual and I am the original owner. Nothing has ever been hacked into on it, and the rear tail light sockets have not been touched in months. When they were it was me who touched them... they were clean at the time but when I was installing new light bulbs (the proper ones of course) I adjusted the contacts and applied die electric grease as normal maintenance. When the brake light switch was replaced a few weeks ago the brake lights and tail lights worked perfectly and nothing has been touched back there since then EXCEPT the replacement of the third brake light yesterday at the dealer.

So...does the fact that I have working turn signal and hazard lights with no feedback to the third brake light or tail lights mean that my grounds are all good?

If so...how is the third brake light coming on when I turn on the running lights???

Thanks again...
Jeff
 

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I think the problem is a poor connection to ground for each of the bulbs, maybe too much dielectric grease on the bulb bases. There still needs to be good metal to metal contact as the grease is an insulator. If the bulbs don't have a good ground connection then two filaments are in effect shorted together (rather than being grounded) and you get the brake light being connected to the running lights. Since the third brake light does have a good ground connection that is the only place for current to flow to ground.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Here's an update for anyone with a similar problem. I'm not sure what fixed the problem as both my brake light switch and third brake light were installed improperly by the dealer and I fixed their work at the same time the other night. The brake light switch wasn't locked into position (so that it was somewhat loosely mounted), had no grease on the tip (not that it matters), but most importantly the connection was badly corroded and the connector itself wasn't locked into position on the loose brake light switch itself. The third brake light switch connection was bathed in WD-40 by the dealer, the connector itself horribly corroded and filthy. Removing and properly cleaning both connections with de-oxit and applying dielectric grease fixed both problems and I have properly working tail and brake lights now.

I'm not happy with the dealer and the damage they did, but more importantly I'm more upset on them not following through on their compensation promise for damaging my valve cover and wiring harness connectors for my coil packs. The dealer is "Ray Brandt Volkswagen" in New Orleans. They sent me several requests for a survey; did they REALLY want me to fill it out? Anyway...I figured I'd post my response (from the "comments section" of the survey) here. Why not? It's not like they are the worst VW dealership in the area; that would be "Walker VW" in Kenner, Louisiana...truthfully just incompetently terrible. But, the more members who post their experiences with dealers the better for all of us...

Here it goes:

My '02 Beetle 1.8T was brought in twice. The first time was for the coil pack recall and brake light switch recall. The second time was to address problems with work performed the first time. An "inspection" was performed on the first visit where I was told both of my C/V shafts were bad and that one had a completely exposed joint due to the boot being totally gone. Both of my C/V shafts are fine as are all boots. Getting to the recall work, upon changing the coil packs, my newly custom painted valve cover was gouged and scratched due to the tech being careless. Also, some of the clips that hold the wiring harness plugs to the coil packs themselves were broken off meaning that my wiring no longer "locks" to the coil packs. Also, a vacuum line for my secondary air pump was disconnected giving me a check engine light. (When I pointed it out to the tech on my subsequent visit, he wasn't sure where the line went.) When I left the dealership (after the first visit), a few days later my new brake light switch failed and I had no brake lights or cruise control accompanied by the familiar "EPC" light on the dash, but the problem was intermittent meaning sometimes the brake lights worked and sometimes they didn't. I contacted the manager, and explained the intermittent brake light problem (also informing him that they sometimes worked after disconnecting the battery and resetting the computer) as well as the damage to my valve cover. As compensation for my damaged valve cover paintjob, I worked a deal with the manager where I would receive a new third brake light for my car (there is a recall for this for some Beetles, but mine didn't come up in the computer). My third brake light hasn't worked in years and leaks so much water that it corroded my rear hatch connections causing (among other things) inability to open the hatch (which I had subsequently fixed). I scheduled another trip (over 100 miles round-trip) to bring the car back in; I was told another brake light switch would be installed as well as the third brake light as agreed. I arrived, and after a wait the tech told me that my brake lights worked. I told him that yes, the problem is intermittent as I previously explained to both the manager and "Greg" (who has been great, BTW). The tech then stated that there was no way my brake light switch could be bad as I wouldn't have been able to get the car out of "PARK". He reiterated this several times; when I informed him that the car was a 5 speed MANUAL STICK SHIFT and had no "PARK" setting on the gear shift (as it was not an AUTOMATIC) he still was adamant that I would not have been able to shift out of "PARK" or be able to drive the vehicle; this did not install confidence in the tech working on my car as he seemed clueless that a manual doesn't have "park" as a gear selector choice. There is nothing on a manual stick shift Beetle that requires you to have the brake depressed to shift the transmission or start the car. The next excuse the tech pointed to was the broken third brake light (which has been broken for YEARS before the brake light switch went out) as the cause to my brake lights not working (which is impossible as the brake lights normally work even if the third brake light is burnt out or disconnected). Then, the tech tried to blame the ABS system (which has nothing to do with the brake light switch). The manager ultimately revealed that he was concerned that he would not get reimbursed for my brake light switch as there was no error code in the car's computer for it; I informed him that there wasn't a code because I have to disconnect my battery every night on the car because of the leaking third brake light; if it rains, water gets in and causes the hatch sensor to short which sets off the alarm. So, by disconnecting the battery it resets the computer; hence, no codes. The tech had even taken the dash apart and removed the faulty switch (making a mess on my floor in the process which he did not bother to clean up) when the manager told him to NOT install a new switch (which I later learned was a part that literally only costs a FEW DOLLARS). Much to my amazement, the tech re-installed the OLD switch. A new switch should have been installed for the sake of safety as well as the time and money I spent to get to the dealer (taking off work and driving over 100 miles round-trip) not to mention I was told on the phone that they WOULD "throw a new switch in there". At that point, I would have BOUGHT the few-dollar switch just to have properly working brake lights. The tech next installed my new third brake light, but I was then informed that the manager would NOT provide the light in exchange for the damage done to my vehicle as agreed upon previously but that he would give me a "discount" and it would be put in for free (which is literally three screws as my rear hatch door panel had already been removed to repair the corroded hatch release mechanism by me). The "discount" amounted to approximately $20-$25 off retail which I subsequently found out is the normal selling price at most dealers for this light. To put this in perspective, if I were to have my valve cover refinished, this would require dismantling everything mounted on it (coil packs, wiring, vacuum lines, etc), removing the cover, de-oiling it, stripping and sanding it, having it refinished and polished, reinstalling the valve cover gasket (hoping it doesn't leak), reinstalling the cover, and re-installing everything on the engine. This would cost several HUNDRED dollars. Also, a new wiring harness to replace the one that the tech broke the clips on would be needed. To be offered basically $20-$25 off of a part as compensation for several hundred dollars of damage is insulting. At a minimum the third brake light should have been free as agreed upon before my second visit. I wouldn't have driven the 100 mile round-trip for the second visit had I been told the brake light would NOT be changed and that I would have to pay for the third brake light (I could get it cheaper elsewhere). After I reluctantly paid for the third brake light, I left the dealership. I was driving home with the cruise control on when it started to get dark. I was shocked to find that when I turned on the running lights the cruise control would shut off. If the running lights weren't on the cruise control worked. I pulled over and found that every time the lights were turned on the third brake light would illuminate even though it's not supposed to which caused the cruise control to shut off as the car mistook the third brake light coming on as the brakes being applied which normally shuts off the cruise control. What was happening was that if I had NO running lights on, when I pushed on the brakes the third brake light would come on, but the taillights would come on as well (NOT the brake light filaments, but the taillight filaments). If I turned on the running lights, the third brake light again would illuminate (not supposed to) but the taillight filaments would not (i.e., no rear running lights) but more dangerously if the running lights were on not only did I not have taillights but I also had NO brake lights whatsoever; nothing came on when I pushed the brakes. This was not acceptable to have neither taillights nor brake lights at night. So, that night I myself removed and reinstalled the brake light switch (that was NOT physically installed correctly as it was not "locked" into position). Also, the connector was not properly installed as it was not pushed all the way in to where it "clicked" into the locked position. The connection was also corroded, and no attempt was done by the dealer to fix this. I cleaned this connection properly as should have been done by the dealer when the new switch was installed. Grease was also not installed on the tip of the plunger as is required in the service bulletin. I remedied this as well. I also removed and reinstalled the third brake light. Upon replacement at the dealer, they had used "WD-40" on the connector rather than electrical contact cleaner and dielectric grease. I removed the WD-40 and properly reinstalled the connector using dielectric grease after properly cleaning the connection (which should have been done at the dealer). After repairing both the brake light switch install/connection and third brake light connection my brake lights are currently working. However, I should be reimbursed for the cost of the third brake light (as originally agreed upon) and my wiring harness for my coil packs should be replaced as the tech broke the locking connectors off of some of the individual plugs as detailed above. I would say that the brake light switch should be replaced (as I was originally told) however given the damage caused by the techs on my car and improper installation of several connectors (leading to problems) I am leery of letting the them work on my car again; electrical connections should be put together properly without breaking clips; dirty connections should be properly cleaned and treated before things are re-installed especially when trying to remedy an electrical problem. Also, things shouldn't be gouged and scratched when replacing parts, especially on custom-painted parts. And, when damage occurs, proper compensation should be provided...not just $20-$25 for several hundred dollars in damage. And, customers shouldn't be told one thing and then when you drive hundreds of miles taking time off of work only to be told something else when you arrive. Again...I should be reimbursed for the cost of the third brake light as well as provided with a new wiring harness for my damaged coil pack connectors...and a brake light switch should be provided that I will install myself.

Please contact me.
 
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