The climate control bulb in my Audi had been burnt out for about two years. I finally decided to take the 10 necessary minutes to fix it.
A Quick DIY for Changing the AC/Heater Bulb on the MKIV
Whether you own a Golf, Jetta, or GTI Mk4, it's getting old! So more than likely you're driving around fumbling with the controls at night trying to select the right vent setting with no light, or your bulb is slowly but surely getting ready to die on you.
While I was driving the other night, my passenger kept fooling with my AC unit because they couldn't see the settings (my light has been burnt out for about two years). So I figured, enough with my laziness—I decided to take the 10 necessary minutes to fix it!
As with all of my Audi/VW DIY projects, I like to call the dealership and see how much they charge for the job. The stealership (ahem, I mean, dealership) quote was $60 for parts and labor. This DIY should cost you no more than $5.
Tools Needed for the Job
- Regular Pliers
- Small Needle-Nose Pliers
- 6" of Aquarium Air Tube (Optional)
- Paper Towel/Rag
- Sylvania 2721 Replacement Light Bulb
Pretty basic household tools. If you do not have small needle-nose pliers then tweezers will work, as well.
Having an aquarium hose, fuel line hose, or vacuum hose will definitely make this job easier. Clear aquarium hose with a 1/4-inch inner diameter can be bought at any hardware store for around 25 cents per foot. The fuel line hose can be bought at the auto store when you buy the replacement bulb, and more than likely they will just cut off a few inches for free at either place.
The local auto store will sell two bulb packs for under four dollars (I bought mine at Checker Auto Parts for $3.49). Sylvania 2721 bulbs are the correct replacement part, but I've heard that Sylvania #74's work as well. Cheaper bulbs can be found on the internet but make sure you buy a couple in case you break one.
Removing and Replacing the Knob and Bulb
How to Remove the Bulb
There is only one bulb that lights up all three knobs. The bulb is located inside the middle knob.
Step 1: Put the middle knob (fan speed) into the number two position so that the knob is vertical.
Step 2: Place a folded paper towel or rag over the knob so you don't scratch it with the pliers.
Step 3: Gently but with a little force pull straight out with your pliers. Some knobs come off really easy and some need a good tug. Tip: You can always try pulling it out with just your fingers before you resort to pliers.
Removing the Bulb
Step 4: This is the hard part. I recommend using the aquarium tube for the easiest method. Push the air tube over the bulb, it should stay in the tube and you can pull it out nice and easy. If needed, stretch the air tube opening out a little bigger with a ballpoint pen.
Step 5: If you decide to use needle nose pliers to remove the bulb. Wrap the tips with tiny rubber bands, tape, rubber cement, whatever you want. Just use something that will allow you to grip the bulb. Now be gentle and work it out.
Step 6: you break the bulb while taking it out, don't worry. Just grab the inside of the bulb, pull it out, and vacuum the broken glass.
How to Insert the Replacement Bulb
- With your tweezers or needlenose pliers very gently hold the new bulb and work it back into the socket. Make sure the wedge part of the bulb is vertical. Once it is slightly in, you can use your pinky to fully push it back into position. You can also try putting the bulb back in with the air tube (though that method never works for me).
- Turn your car lights on to make sure the bulb illuminates.
- If it is working, slide your knob back on; it will pop into place with a little force.
- Have a beer and give yourself a pat on the back for saving $50 in dealership cost!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Alexis on January 10, 2014:
Thank you very much, it your tutorial helped me solve a really annoying issue! To put the new light back, I used a shorter section of the tube, then push against the light with the ink cartrige of a pen I had next to me, inserted by the other end of the tube. It worked just fine!
Writen4u (author) on December 14, 2013:
I had the same issue of "flickering" on my other ride but changing the bulb cured it. Maybe try another bulb or spray some contact cleaner in there. Sorry besides for that I'm out of ideas.
Annie on December 13, 2013:
Thanks for these helpful instructions! I worked on mine last night and it didn't work until I drove it into my parking lot this morning in my commute (30 miles!). So I'd diagnose it as "flickering." Is there anything that I can do to make a stronger connection?
Daniel on September 23, 2013:
Many thanks for this easy repair on my 2002 Beetle a Turbo S. That one bulb illuminates the whole panel.
Mike on April 10, 2013:
Just used this info to replace the climate control light in my 2000 beetle...
the aquarium air tube worked like a charm. It took about 5 min and cost$5.45.....Wow
Alex on December 12, 2012:
Amazing, wish i had found this 2 years ago. . .been in the dark, can't wait to fix.
Buddhameister on October 28, 2012:
Awesome! If you find that only certain symbols are not illuminated, this is an easy fix too! Gentlly pry off the square beaughty panel that has the Climate control symbols on it with small flat edge screw driver. Behind and on the beaughty symbols are three clear plastic, semi round "Light Pipes". They take the light from the single bulb and distribute it to all the symbols. Over time one can come out of place. Simply. Press it in until it snaps flat into th back of the beaughty plate. Look close as you will see little slots that the light pipe edges mate into.
There is also a black piece of tape, as I learned from another poster. Remove it and you will then get the word Air Conditoning to illuminate - if you wish.
This blog saved me a lot of time replacing my bulb!
LostTDI on April 20, 2012:
Thank you so very much. I have paid about $30 to have this bulb replaced a couple times over the past 12 years. It was out again. I didn't want to pay it. Now I don't have to!
Writen4u (author) on March 08, 2012:
If your ac/heater looks the same then try it, I wrote the diy for mk4 jetta's golf's etc. If you want info on your car, look for a diy, or spend the $80 on a manual.
Passat ' 96 B4 on March 03, 2012:
can you change the same bulb from a passat B4 by using the same method ?
Writen4u (author) on February 23, 2012:
The bulb in the middle is what lights the two side knobs as well. Are you saying that the middle one is lit but the other two are not?
Danny on February 22, 2012:
What do you do about the lights not coming on for the two other knobs that are aside to the one you posted about?? they are not coming on for me...
Jonathan on December 30, 2010:
Thank you very much. I went to my local VW shop to inquire about replacing bulbs. Didn't want to pay the $$. bought the factory bulb, some aquarium tubing from a pets store, sat in the car for 10 mins and voila...lights.
Dealership 0 Me 1
Writen4u (author) on December 28, 2010:
I have not tried the 74's I just know others that have had success using them. I posted them as an alternative to the 2721 bulbs incase they are not available for some people. I do believe they will not be as bright.
F on December 28, 2010:
Yes, Sylvania 74's will fit in socket but they have voltage/wattage rating that is not ideal for this application.
Sean on November 27, 2010:
Many many THANKS!! I think it's been at least 3 years since mine went out. I struggled at first but then memorized the controls, lol. I just replaced it and it was really nice to see the lights again!
The hose trick worked perfectly! I used the open end of the hose to seat the new bulb. Super easy! Thanks again.
Gyula on November 19, 2010:
Sorry i meant bulb not bulp in the previous comment.
I wasn't sure what bulb i need so i went to the main dealer to get one. It was 2€ so its affordable. :)
Gyula on November 19, 2010:
Thank You very much!
I just replaced the bulp in my car following this guide.
Many thanks from Hungary ;)
Whander Brazil on November 12, 2010:
Thanks very much. Very helpful even for my knew beetle, 2001. I used my fingers to pull it out and one pliers with gum on it.. lol... worked great.
Writen4u (author) on October 25, 2010:
I'm glad I could help.
Jeff on October 24, 2010:
Worked perfectly for me, thank you!
goodomen on March 27, 2010:
Brilliant! Very easy - after super clear instructions! Very happy to do VW out of $60 . . . thank-you.
theweresa on March 25, 2010:
This brilliant, very helpful. cheers mate!