Vanagon – heater control lights

This post was prompted by some Vanagon mailing list members being unaware that the heater controls are supposed to be illuminated, and the light can be dimmed by the dash light dimmer control.

Some warnings about taking off the heater control faceplate. The faceplate plugs into the dash via 2 posts on the back of the plate that fit into holes in the dash. One is located at the lower left of the plate, the other the upper right, but not at the corner, about 1.5″ to the left. A small pry bar or an old table knife can be used to gently pry the plate off. Be gentle, just as with practically all of the plastic in these old vans, the posts can be brittle. When the face plate is off, lightly coat the posts with grease to make later removal easier. The heater control knobs also can be stuck on tight. Try not to pull on the rubber knob at the end of the lever, and try pushing the lever in a little before pulling out. Again, a bit of grease will help in the re-install and removal when you go at them some other time.

So here are the controls illuminated.

Now to take the face plate off. First pull off the fan switch knob. Next carefully pull off the heater control levers (note their orientation first). Be careful, try and control the tugging so that when the lever moves it does not catch on the plate and break it. Squint in the slots and you can see how the levers can catch on the edges of the slots. The old table knife comes in handy again, pry down the lever to guide it out of the slot as you tug. Then pry off the plate. A word on putting those levers back on – use the table knife (again!) to pry down the metal arms in there, as you push the lever on.

The grey/blue wire is power from the light dimmer rheostat, the brown wire is ground. The bulb is integral to the black bulb housing so it has to be replaced as a unit. Here is a white bodied one from Van Cafe. It is the same bulb that is used in the rear heater fan switch.

Update: Dave M. wrote: “I was recently (in the last 3 months) able to go to my local VW dealer and obtain replacement bulb sockets with replaceable bulbs. You tell them apart as the ones you can replace just the bulbs in are white sockets instead of black. The sockets themselves have the same type wiring connection, so it is simply plug and play.” I wonder if this is the same as the white bodied one from Van Cafe?

Now that rear heater fan switch. Remove the knob and carefully pry the face plate out. Its should pop out, but to be honest you will reduce the chance of breaking one of the little plastic tabs if you reach in through the heater controls hole and prise the tabs from behind.

And here is that same bulb and bulb holder, popped out of the switch plate for this shot.

I have hacked into one of those bulb holders and wired in a white LED and resistor. I’ll go into that in another post. Hope this helps a bit Annie 🙂

  1. #1 by annieanderson on November 24, 2011 - 6:37 pm

    Very helpful, Alistair! Thank you again.

  2. #2 by becida on November 24, 2011 - 8:38 pm

    That’s good, looking fwd to your LED “how to”

  3. #3 by Ian Dake on November 25, 2011 - 4:10 am

    Thanks – great timing as I’ve been wondering about fixing the lights.

  4. #4 by bikesarebetter on November 27, 2011 - 10:24 am

    Confounded little bulbs! good fix. Have you ever figured out what all the climate control knobs do? “I’d like more triangle in the back please”.

    • #5 by albell on November 27, 2011 - 10:47 am

      I get confused by the sliders too, and they did change slightly over the years. On my ’86 the top slider controls air to the windscreen, right for more, left for less. Second down slider is temp control, third down is air intake control, right more air into the heater box, left less – OOPS! I meant it controls the air coming out of the floor vents. And bottom slider is to control air into the rear ducts (along both sides of pass. area in pass. vans, right side only in westies. This time it is left for more air back there, right for less.
      The little graphic by the fan switch shows slider and fan control positions for max defrost.

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