This write-up is for the replacement of the dash vent light bulbs for Passats 1998 - early 2003. Basically, if your cars vent lights lit up at one time or another, than this is what you need to repair them when they go out.
If you have a late 2003 B5.5 or later, the write up you need is HERE. This is a really good write-up by JimmyDee on how to remove the dash vents and add red LED’s to light up B5.5’s that didn’t come stock with vent lights (apparently late 2003 and later models).
FYI – There is also a very good write-up by MeinPassat HERE
The picture links seem to be dead but the information is valid and good.
I started this project expecting the vent removal to be the hardest part, oh was I wrong. The hardest part for me turned out to be the removal of the bulb from the vent. My hope is that this write-up will help others avoid the pain and frustration that I went through.
1) Using butter knives, insert at key points (marked by Red Dots) and work the plastic vent housing tabs down to remove vents (please see JimmyDee’s info. HERE for better detail on vent removal).
2) The dash is very flexible and has a lot of give, so don’t be worried about prying on the material, just be careful not to hurt the vent while prying.
*HINT: Sometimes it is not necessary to actually pry down on the butter knives to remove the vents. Once the knives have passed over the vent tabs it's possible that you might remove the vent by just taking a flathead screwdriver and prying at the corners.
3) Gently pull out vent and unplug electrical connector. To unplug connector just hold the vent and grab the wires with your fingers or a pair of pliers and pull straight out.
4) Now that you have the vent(s) removed, turn them on their side and look for the little hole in the middle of the white plastic cover. If you look in you will see part of the black bulb base and some metal. You need to insert something thin like a tiny flat head screwdriver or something similar (a large paper clip unbent should also work) in the small gap between the metal parts. Push down and you should feel the tool push through (you’re depressing a small plastic catch that is under the bulb base), keep downward pressure and remove the bulb base with a pair of needle nose pliers. You may need to give a good pull on the base to free it. It may even take a few attempts at getting the screwdriver or tool to release the catch far enough down to make this work. Don’t give up, it will come out.
* HINT: If the above method isn't working out for you, try another approach taken by some. Take a thin flat tool of somekind or use a large, unbent paperclip, and stick it down behind the black bulb base. It seems some have had success getting the tab to release that way.
Replace the bulbs (VW#3B0-919-243-B) I found them online for around $3 plus shipping or at the dealerships for $4.50 – 7.50.
The picture below is what the bulb looks like. It is attached to a plastic base that is all one unit. This should be exactly what your replacement should look like.
5) Before reversing the procedure turn on your lights to make sure everything is working. When replacing the vents back into the dash make sure that the wires don’t get trapped between the vent and the duct, or pinched between the vent and the inside of the dash.