With bloodstained fingers, I turned the pages in the car handbook.

It is normally no longer possible to replace a bulb without first removing other vehicle parts. This applies to bulbs in particular as they can only be accessed from the engine compartment. Special skills are required to carry out this work. We recommend, therefore, that the bulbs only be replaced by a Volkswagen dealer, or that you ask them for expert advice.


I read it again. Just in case they had accidentally written ‘bulb’ when they meant ‘gearbox’.

No. That can’t be right. Surely I don’t have to take the car to the (extortionately expensive) local garage to change a bulb?

Like any good DIY mechanic, I turned to Google.

And there I found page after page of exasperated horror stories of simple bulb changing procedures taking hours and days. Most started with the instructions “first remove the upper and lower radiator grilles. These are secured with torx bolts in the front side of the wheel arch.”

I don’t even know what a torx bolt is. I had already grazed the back of my hand and scraped my fingers trying to remove the plastic wire-fixing-thing in the micro-cavity behind the water bottle thingy.

It was Saturday morning. I checked the balance in my bank account and rang my local Volkswagen dealer.

“If you bring it in,” he said, “we’ll do it now.”

“What… today?” I asked, confused by the word ‘now’ as opposed to ‘in a couple of weeks’.

I drove down the road to the dealer. Within 20 seconds a twelve-year old wearing a mechanic’s suit had jumped in my car and taken it round the back. Two minutes later my car reappeared.

“Ha!” I thought. “I knew it would be more complicated than they said.”

The chief mechanic appeared.

“All done,” he said flourishing a bill so astonishingly small that I thought it was a mistake.

I didn’t have the right change. So he rounded the price down.

8 Responses to “Beaming”

  1. 1 Roy (UKITS)

    Had a similar headlamp bulb incident myself a while ago – with a Peugeot. Took it to a dealer who installed the bulb free of change. The mechanic advised that it was important to make sure you don’t remove a clip at the back of the headlamp (which looks like it’s the only thing holding the bulb in place, so an obvious candidate for removal) before you undo another component (a Torx bolt I wonder??) otherwise the bulb falls into the headlamp cavity! Apparantly they had a taxi driver in ‘only the other week’ with exactly that problem – cost him a considerable sum to have part of the front of the car dismantled to remove the headlamp and rescue the stranded bulb. Whatever happened to design simplicity?

  2. 2 Vicky

    I’m so glad your continuing your blog on the ‘outside’. I was an avid reader and look forward to reading about your new adventures.


  3. 3 Ann at soon to be Aviva

    Oops – you made a fatal error – should have accompanied the mechanic to find out the easy way to do it for next time!
    Great you’re still there in the ether.

  4. Ah, welcome to the world of modern motoring! I am (as you may remember) not too scared of a spanner and do a fair bit of car diy myself, however I remember getting a telling off from a mechanic because he should have changed the bulb on my old fiesta as i hadn’t balanced the headlights properly!

    Didn’t object to me changing the brakes tho 🙂

  5. Many years ago I went to Ford at Bridgend to discuss tool design for the (then) soon to be launched Ford Fiesta, codename Erika. During a break one of the suppliers jested with the Ford designers that they had a person employed to work on the prototype to check all service component’s accessibility and, should that person find anything easy to work on, they changed the design to make it more difficult.

    The Ford people were not impressed.

    Seems VW have adopted the approach.

  6. 6 Neil

    I have to admit to taking the easy option these days – Halfords fit any bulb in minutes for a fiver!

  7. 7 Andy F

    Same on my Mazda, turn wheel hard over, somehow remove wheel arches despite screws no longer having a head on them, perform contortions with hand, scrape knuckles, remove rear light cover and replace bulb all without being able to see ones hand, reverse process.

  8. 8 Camilla

    I recommend the little garage just down the road from us (Hoxne Service Station) – I didn’t go there often until I had a similar problem with a headlamp bulb and they changed it there and then, for free. Now guess what – I go there all the time.

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