Can't get tail light to work properly
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  1. #1
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    Can't get tail light to work properly

    Got a 2001 Passat with a screwy electrical problem. Right rear running light doesn't work, 2nd filament illuminates fine when brake is pressed.
    - All other lights work fine, so it can't be the fuse.
    - When I move the right bulb to the left side, both filaments work normally.
    - When I move the left bulb to the right side, only the brake filament works properly. So, it's not the bulb.
    - With the lights on and the bulb removed from the right rear light housing, I get current on the voltmeter when I apply the prongs to the leads in the running light socket.

    Any ideas?

    Should I just suck it up and replace the entire assembly?

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  3. #2
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    The right rear running light socket contact isn't making contact with the contact point on the bulb base. Sometimes the contact point on the bulb "wears" so it loses contact, and both bulbs could be worn some. Have you tried wiggling the bulb in the socket when the lights are turned on? I'd just try a new bulb.

  4. #3
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Sounds like a bad connection. Check the condition of the three contacts in the socket (two for the bulb bottom and one for the bulb base). If they are corroded clean them up. Do this with the power to the tail lights OFF. It's only 12 volts, so it doesn't take much in the way of corrosion to stop the current flow. Also check that the two bottom contacts are sticking up enough to touch the bottom of the bulb. Sometimes they can get pressed back and you need to gently pull them back up a tiny bit.

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in Chicago View Post
    Sounds like a bad connection. Check the condition of the three contacts in the socket (two for the bulb bottom and one for the bulb base).
    Cleaned the two flexible contacts in the socket. Didn't know there was a third, I'll have to look for that one.

  6. #5
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    The third contact point is the side of the bulb base touching the metal on the side of the socket hole. Since your brake light works normally on that side, you've probably got good ground (third contact point). But I'd double check that all three look clean.

    If you meter from side contact to parking light contact and get 12 volts, your fuse & harness are good. If that same bulb works flawlessly in the other tail light, the bulb is good. If both the above are true, you're getting a bad connection from the socket to the bulb.

    Be sure the bulb is going in the socket properly. One side pin is lower than the other and needs to go into the deeper groove.

    Double check that the contact at the bottom of the socket for the parking circuit is sticking up enough to touch the bulb contact firmly.

  7. #6
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    Never managed to get good voltage so I spent the $34 to get a new bulb housing from VW. Hooked new one up to wire assembly and inserted known good bulbs. Same problem - brake light works, running light does not.

    Clearly it's not the bulb or the housing, so the next item back is the connectors in the wire assembly. Any advice on how to check those?

  8. #7
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    If there is no power coming from the harness wire that connects to the running light filament, you'll need to trace that wire(circuit) back till you find the bad connection or wire. The Bentley Manual has wiring diagrams in the back. The diagrams include wire color and the locations of the various sub-harnesses connection points.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3APA3A View Post
    Never managed to get good voltage so I spent the $34 to get a new bulb housing from VW. Hooked new one up to wire assembly and inserted known good bulbs. Same problem - brake light works, running light does not.

    Clearly it's not the bulb or the housing, so the next item back is the connectors in the wire assembly. Any advice on how to check those?
    So... did you ever get this problem fixed? I have the same exact issues, i mean exactly! It's been driving me nuts for 2 weeks.

  10. #9
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    My girlfriends 2000 Passat had this same issue for over a year...until last week. I had no idea, but the Passat (probably lots of other VW's) has seperate fuses for the right and left side tail lights. They are 5 amp mini fuses. One was blown. Replaced it and it's still working. May be as simple as that. Dont recall the fuse # it was, but her's had a card in the fuse box that had a diagram on it, so that's how I knew which one it was. Hope that fixes it.

  11. #10
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    I'm somewhat relieved to hear others are having the same problem, but equally frustrated. Brake & signal lights work fine, tail lights do not. I've replaced all bulbs, checked all fuses multiple times, replaced the light switch, and check/cleaned bulb sockets. HELP PLEASE!

  12. #11
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    Yep I m having the same problem here, have checked everything mentioned other than following the wires back. Winter is coming up, anyone have any ideas?

  13. #12
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    Similaar problem

    I have a similar problem I was working on last night. Left side tail light is out. After trying a couple new bulbs I discovered the fuse was blown. (BTW, each side is on a separate fuse). When I replaced the fuse the light lit but when the headlight switch is on, the blinker for that side is "stuck" so that the indicator light on the intrument panel stays lit and the flasher will not work. This lasts for a few minutes then the fuse blows again. I replaced the flasher relay last month so I don't think its that.

    I haven't had a chance to check the wiring yet (it was late and raining . . .) Could it be the headlight switch?

  14. #13
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    fixed mine, just needed to replace the switch, turns out all of my marker lights werent turning on

  15. #14
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    Same problem here: brake lights, turn signals and backup lights all work, running lights and license plate lights do not. have checked all bulbs, sockets, connections and fuses with no luck. Sounds like a new light switch worked for B-dub, but not for binxs... This part is not cheap from the dealer, however I can get a used one on ebay for like $18... Has replacing this switch solved anyone elses problems?
    Last edited by tommyfour; 11-03-2009 at 05:37 PM.

  16. #15
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    i just joined this party last week, ugh

    edit: of course its not the brake light fuse in the dash, time to go hunting when i get home
    Last edited by lowdub; 12-07-2009 at 01:31 PM.

  17. #16
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    Right side tail light will not work and keeps blowing fuses

    Fuse blows everytime I turn on the headlights w/ a new fuse installed. Actually had just a puff of smoke from the headlight switch at one point then the big spark and one more bites the dust. Tried everything listed so far, can someone who actually fixed this freakin issue post the fix plz?

    Thanks
    98 passat 1.8

  18. #17
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    I'm real glad I came across this post. I would have never thought that VW would have separate fuses for each side. My single element right side tail light went out with no power to the bulb. I was ready to make a jumper wire from the left to power the bulb. Turns out it was the 5 amp fuse. It was the one all the way over to the right and at the top.
    Thanks Blue ACH!

  19. #18
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Separate circuits, individually fused, is a more fail-safe design. If one side faults and blows the fuse, the other side will still function.

    The headlights are also fused separately.

  20. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in Chicago View Post
    Separate circuits, individually fused, is a more fail-safe design. If one side faults and blows the fuse, the other side will still function.

    The headlights are also fused separately.

    I agree. It makes total sense.

  21. #20
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter5ohio View Post
    Fuse blows everytime I turn on the headlights w/ a new fuse installed. Actually had just a puff of smoke from the headlight switch at one point then the big spark and one more bites the dust. Tried everything listed so far, can someone who actually fixed this freakin issue post the fix plz?

    Thanks
    98 passat 1.8
    Your electrical fault may not be the same as the others, so the fix will not necessarily be the same. You'll need to find what's shorting your circuit. DO NOT use an over sized fuse in an attempt to solve the problem. That's a great way to melt a wiring harness and potentially start the car on fire.

    What year is your Passat?
    Which exact fuse/circuit is faulting on your car?
    What have you tried so far?
    What modifications/repairs/damage has been done to anything relating to that circuit or those areas of your car. (ie: got rear ended and that corner was smashed, tried to install a trailer harness, just replaced bulbs and the problem started, just added an aftermarket alarm system)

    Start a new thread with all the pertinent information.

  22. #21
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    I wonder how many people with problems are using eBay Chinese imitation Euro switches...

  23. #22
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    i wish my problem was this easy...for some reason my driver side brake light always blows after like 2 days, idk if its cus autozone is retarded but, ill put a nrw bulb in and work fine...2 days later the bulb is out again...and with my driver side front turn signal..the constant doesnt work only the blinker..someone help me plz before an asshole cop gives me a ticket

  24. #23
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acoreano89 View Post
    With my driver side front turn signal, the constant doesn't work only the blinker.
    That is a dual filament bulb. One filament can fail while the other still works. Try testing or replacing the bulb.

  25. #24
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acoreano89 View Post
    My driver side brake light always blows after like 2 days. IDK if it's because AutoZone is retarded, but, I'll put a new bulb in and it'll work fine, then 2 days later the bulb is out again.
    Put the passenger side brake light bulb in the drivers side socket. If it fails in two days, you have a problem with the wiring or the tail light fixture. If it keeps working normally after several days, you're getting bad bulbs or the wrong type of bulbs.

    Make sure you're installing the bulbs properly and not 180ยบ out.

    Take a look at the rear lights with the lights off, with the lights on and with the brake pressed down. Are both sides doing the same thing?

  26. #25
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    Same problem and I tested it with my friend's passat, it is the light switch. And rockauto have one on sale for $20ish, get it while it last.

  27. #26
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    Had same issue since last week
    Glad saw this post

    The car:
    2005 B5.5 Passat

    Issue:
    Driver side, rear running lights stopped working after changing a bulb
    Brake lights (when applied), turn signal and reverse work just fine

    Fix:
    Fuse #23
    "left side marker" fried, it apparently also controlled rear running lights

  28. #27
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    Fuse Fixed it!

    2000 GLS - running lights drivers side... new fuse fixed it.

    Has anyone whose still having issues tried to replace the relay? Believe it's the one above and behind the fuse panel... good luck!

  29. #28
    baw
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    same here

    I have exact same problem, have thought about relays, fuses, etc. But to make matters very weird... if I connect the left light module to the right wiring pins and right light module to the left wiring pins the running lights come on and work fine(all four!). This doesn't make any sense to me. I connect/reconnected two different times to make sure I wasn't fooling myself. Anyone have any ideas?

  30. #29
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    So glad I read your message. I was almost ready to research tracking down a used bulb assembly and harness, but one 5-amp fuse later and the tail light is working properly again. Thanks so much! This is such a great site for resolving some of the quirks of these great cars.

  31. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by baw View Post
    I have exact same problem, have thought about relays, fuses, etc. But to make matters very weird... if I connect the left light module to the right wiring pins and right light module to the left wiring pins the running lights come on and work fine(all four!). This doesn't make any sense to me. I connect/reconnected two different times to make sure I wasn't fooling myself. Anyone have any ideas?
    You have a loose connector.

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