Vanagon – N. American vs European tail lights

Pulling together some stuff I have on the differences in the tail light assemblies. As some of you know, European tail lights have the provision for a rear fog light (Nebelschlussleuchte), that is, a brighter red tail light to be used during poor visibility. The light is controlled b a 3 position switch (off, front fogs, front fogs + rear fog) on the dash. I have one of those switches controlling my aux. lights. Part number for this one is 171 941 535A, the VAG says 251 941 535 is the one for the Vanagon – bet ya they are one and the same.  Here are a couple of pics:

And here is a German manual diagram:

And here is an annotated English language diagram

And here is my diagram of the circuit boards (right hand side):

And now some pictures of a pair of right hand side tail light boards, “USA” vs “Europa”:

“USA” lens front:

“Europa” lens front:

“USA” lens back:

“Europa” lens back:

Arcane and nerdy stuff, eh Ben?

  1. #1 by Marius on February 21, 2011 - 2:17 pm

    I assume that north american Vanagons don’t have the proper wiring for the rear foglight already in place?

    • #2 by albell on February 21, 2011 - 3:34 pm

      Its unclear to me, I have heard of some finding a spare wire, grey?, but when I looked at my ’82 westy the light connector did not have the right wire. Also, the “circuit board” on the light is missing the central tab contact for the bulb socket, but that can be jury rigged.


  2. #3 by Jeff on February 22, 2011 - 10:35 am

    Look on Ebay for seller “Mark1vws” he sells the rear fog light “kit” for about 20 bucks, basically it is just the bulb(s) with a pigtail soldered onto it and you install it in the fog light position in the USA models. I have them in my ’85 Weekender, they do make the van more visable at night. They are not controlled separately though, they come on with the tail lights.

    • #4 by albell on February 22, 2011 - 10:46 am

      So it connects to the tail light circuit rather than a switchable fog light circuit… still a useful thing, thanks for the info


  3. #5 by Gregory Smith on February 26, 2011 - 10:10 am

    Just a note about the diagrams, as they show the single bulb on the end as the fog light when in reality this location is the brake light in the USA. The smaller bulb location under the backup light can be fitted with a tab for a light from a spare board, but the 32cp bulb, like a 1156 could melt the lens housing plastic. This is why the larger space (USA brake light location) is the fog light location; it’s a brake-light intensity bulb that’s on all the time. I can imagine the brake light could easily be used in the smaller blank location as it’s an intermittent use.

    On the factory fog light switch, it has three positions. One is off, the first “on” is meant to be used for front fogs, and doesn’t light the switch indicator. The second “on” position is meant for adding rear fog light(s) for really bad weather, and it also illuminates the indicator via the prism. You have to install a light usually, it can be extended off of another switch light.

    • #6 by albell on February 26, 2011 - 3:05 pm


      I think my diagrams and the photos show the 32cp bulb position in the N. American tail light as you describe. The German diagram with annotations show it as a fog light. About the switch, I have mine wired so the indicator light comes on in both on positions.

  4. #7 by Will Taygan on November 11, 2015 - 10:00 am

    Thanks for the info! Here’s a side by-side youtube of the European and North American tail lens in action with the “fog” light upgrade behind the lower middle reflector. The Euro turn signal is noticeably dimmer, while the North American “fog” light behind the central lower reflector is dimmer, the reflector makes up for the difference when light hits it. In my opinion the difference is not that great, I would probably stick with the “fog” light upgrade to make a larger tail light and get new North American lenses if I were looking to upgrade. Now, next is to comare the two with LEDs??

    • #8 by albell on November 22, 2015 - 9:04 pm

      Hi Will,

      Thanks for the info and vid. Yeah, I don’t think the euro lenses offer a heck of a lot more than the SAE ones. Btw, you using a stock fog light switch on the dash?



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