’67 Beetle Turn Signal Problems

390634968_41fd3314a2_oI received an e-message from 1967beetle.com Reader and Author Joy Rabin, of California. She copied to me a message from Ryan Pettit of The Big Island in Hawaii. Ryan’s question—where to find some good front fender turn signal bulb holders for his 1967 Beetle.

BACKGROUND

From 1964 through 1967 the front fender turn signal housings are essentially identical—identical lens cover, identical lens, and almost identical bulb holder—EXCEPT that the bulb holder is fitted for 6 volt application 1964 through 1966 and for 12 volt in 1967. The bulb holder for 1967 has two terminals because the parking/running light has moved from the covered head light bucket to the turn signal. The bulb holder now had two electrical spades and the bulb had two filaments.

1968 through 1969 turn signal housings are, for all practical purposes, the same as for 1967 except that each chromed lens cover is cut-back on the sides to reveal the bulb’s light as a “side-marker”. To accommodate to this new lens cover, the lens is fabricated to fit the contour of the new lens cover.

THE PROBLEM

It is my studied conclusion that the bulb holder reflectors for ’67 through ’69 are less robust than for previous years. This comes into play later in this exercise.

Ryan, Joy, and her husband Gary, and I looked around the Internet for replacement bulb holders for 1967 Beetles. I spent time speaking with the representatives of 3 major vendors. All agreed that no one today manufactures an identical replacement for the 1967 through 1969 bulb holder.

In fact, today’s replacements have only one electrical prong for the bulb holder’s single filament bulb (according to what I found). This thwarts the reasons for the twin filament which was new for 1967. And, it is just plain maddening to those of us who want our cars to be correct!

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THE SOLUTION

What can be done about this problem?

First, we can scour the VW salvage yards and swap meets for used German 12 volt bulb holders with good reflectors. This is an excellent option! We just need to ask the right questions before purchasing. In other words, is the bulb holder free of rust and is the reflector in good condition without peeling or corrosion of the reflective surface.

We can place wanted ads on venues such as thesamba.com. This often will turn up additional sources of used German parts.

There is another solution. I mentioned above that it appears to me that the 6 volt bulb holders had more robust reflectors. Ryan and I talked about this via telephone. We discussed ways of removing the good reflectors from 6 volt units and transferring them to 12 volt units.

I dug out a number of both 6 volt and 12 volt bulb holders and turned them this way and that, trying to remove the reflectors by a couple of methods. Nothing worked. I didn’t want to damage the fragile reflective coating.

I told Ryan that I would try a method which I had been considering. I chose an afternoon and assembled my tools for the purpose.

For my trial run, I selected a bulb holder which had no redeeming features—the reflective coating was long gone. The holder itself was in poor condition. Here goes!

My tools for this part of the job were my Dremel tool and accessories. Years ago, I acquired a flexible extension which allows me to lay the tool itself on the bench or hang it on something. This frees my hands and allows greater mobility. From the accessory box, I chose a cone-shaped small grinder and installed it into the Dremel.

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Working carefully, I began grinding at the edges of the rivet securing the reflector to the housing bracket. I worked from the backside in order to avoid damaging the reflective coating. In about 5 minutes, I had ground away enough of the rivet to reveal the bracket
hole. I made a depression in the center of the rivet…just to have things more on my side.

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I selected a nail set as my punch and, using my trusty ball-peen hammer, with a little effort I knocked the rivet free of the bracket. Laying the reflector face down on the padded workbench, I knocked the rivet the rest of the way through the reflector—working from the backside.

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By comparing a number of bulb holders, I determined that there were two manufacturers: Hella and Hassia. The German bulb holders are clearly marked as to manufacturer. The two have some minor design differences and these differences define which reflector can be installed on which bulb holder bracket. The Hella reflector does not align with the Hassia mounting bracket and vice versa.

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The next thing after matching a reflector to a bulb holder was to do a trial riveting job.

The Germans must have used a metric sized rivet originally. I had to drill the hole in the bracket slightly larger. I did the same to the reflector. Now, the head of the rivet would fit perfectly—just.

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The riveting was a simple operation. Install the rivet from the reflective side of the reflector. Using a shorter shank rivet reduces the need for clamping more than once. No damage was incurred during the process, and the rivet held the reflector securely to the bracket.

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Now, the biggie is, of course, to find either good 12 volt bulb holders with good reflectors or to find good 6 volt bulb holders with good reflectors which can be cannibalized for use on the 12 volt holders.

The Finishing Touches for Your Vintage Volkswagen™
The Finishing Touches for Your Vintage Volkswagen™

Jay Salser

My wife, Neva, and I have been driving and working on VWs for over 41 years. In fact, we raised our family in these cars. Now, we are retired and enjoy VWs as a hobby. The ’67 Beetle always has been our favorite year. We own a '67 Beetle and a '68 Karmann Ghia.

8 Comments

Bill

about 2 years ago

Nice job Jay and a great post. The fact that we are forced to do these types of repairs only reinforces how woeful many of the "new" reproduction parts made today for our VW's are. On the positive side, I still frequently see these fender lights for sale as NOS on The Samba and other sites. I also see used examples in good shape at most VW swap meets I go to as well. Now a question... Why do the running lights on the front fenders turn off when you pull the light switch out all the way and the head lights come on? When I first bought my original 67, I thought something was miss-wired. I saw on The Samba that that's the way the lights work on 67' bugs.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Bill...thanks for the comments. About why the running lights turn off when the head lamps are turned on--I have thought on this in the past but not lately. I think that it's because they are just that "running lights" (that's what we used to call such lights--or "parking lights"). I'll think on it a bit more--have you looked at the Owner's Manual? I'll check there to see if VW has an answer. I have a box of turn signal bulb holders but it was poor pickin's, sadly enough. It means that we need to be sure that the seals to the turn signals on our cars are kept in good condition and replaced if they get torn or begin to deteriorate. Otherwise, moisture gets into the interior and that causes the reflective surface to peel. I encourage people to put away a pair of good bulb holders as insurance. I'm very serious about my inventory of German replacement parts. jay

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Ryan Pettit

about 2 years ago

Thank you for your comments and great write up. I really appreciated the help with this little project. I did find a set of Hella 67 bulb holders, only they were missing the reflector. I did essentially what this write up shows, I cannibalized a set of reflectors and reattached them to the Hella 67 bulb holders. I noticed that the seal between the lens and the rubber was not very good, and upon further inspection I figured out that the lens I added was a little but too tall. I pulled out my Dremmel tool and removed about 1/8 inch from the top of the reflector. Now the lens sits correctly and seals well to the rubber. All in all it came out really nice and I have running lights, as well as blinkers. Although mine are different than the comments above. I have running lights all the time, even when the headlights are on. When I turn on the blinker they start blinking, then when its canceled they go back to running light mode. I'm very pleased. Aloha and Mahalo for your ideas, Ryan Pettit

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Ryan...Thank YOU for the idea! Not only is this a way to resurrect parts for our Beloved Beetles, it is a way to salvage parts rather than to just discard them. As I go through my parts, I sometimes am forced to admit that this-n-that has no more use. Your questions about the turn signal prompted me to reconsider what I do with front turn signal parts. Already, I have separated good ones from the bad ones. I just need a good day to put good with good and have some parts which will continue to be useful. Keep up the good work with your Beetle. Stay tuned to 1967beetle.com. Get with Eric to do a Featured Article about you and your Beetle! jay

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Sean

about 2 years ago

Great write up. I can feel a project coming on.!

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Sean. It is good to hear from you! Yes...until Ryan asked about turn signals, I really had not given this particular part a second thought. I just mourned the loss of usefulness of so many of the signal reflectors. Thanks to Ryan, we came to a good conclusion and can go forward. Keep enjoying your Beetle! jay

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Sean

about 2 years ago

Jay, thanks for reply. Keep the articles coming too!! Such a great resource for us here in the UK, as well as the rest of the world. The power of the Web...

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Sean...I have a couple of friends in the UK--one in Ireland and the other in England--who own very nice '67 Beetles. "Our kind" are scattered around the Globe, Sean! LOL 1967beetle.com is a wonderful venue which has brought all of us together--thanks to Eric and his wife! What a stroke of genius! jay

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