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Xenon HID Bulb Replacement : Is there something magic I need to know?

So the headlight in my 2010 VW Tiguan went out. And the dealership quoted me just shy of $600 for parts and labour.

The local independant VW dealer added a bit more detail for me, only $100 for the part and 1.7 hours of labour (so just over $300 total).

This seemed like madness so I popped the hood, and after just a few moments had the dead bulb in hand - a Phillips D1S Xenon bulb, which the local parts places have in stock for $100 and is $80 on Amazon. A few moments later I had swapped the bulbs from each side just to confirm that the bulb was dead, and that the single bulb was responsible for high, low, and the turning lights

Is there some magic that I’m unaware of in handling this equipment? This is the fancy projector lens type headlights, that illuminate corners when you turn. The 1.7 hour time quote from the independent shop has me nervous that there is some technique or procedure I’m ignorant of, and internet searches just show lots of people modding their headlights rather than guidance on changing bulbs.

Wow. Expensive.

There’s no rocket science involved. As with any high temperature bulb, you want to avoid handling the bulb itself with your bare fingers. The salty oils deposited can cause a hot spot and failure of the glass. You can easily avoid this problem by wearing cotton gloves when handling the bulb, or just by using care.

I don’t know how hard bulbs are to change in a Tiguan, but apparently they’re giving themselves time in their repair standard for a doughnut and coffee… since you apparently did it in very short order. My daughter’s 2001 and 2002 Civics, on the other hand, really were a nasty job to change.

It was tight, sure. And some gymnastics were required to remove the left bulb as the access was right behind the fuse box. But in 20 minutes I had the bulbs swapped.

Do I need to worry about dust on the bulb? Or just finger oils?

It’s possible that the VW factory service manual would have you remove the bumper cover and grille in order to remove the headlamp assembly and replace the bulb with the assembly on the bench to avoid possible damage to the bulb or HID wiring by twisting and contorting to replace it in the car. That would be an hour or two of labor. And with that much labor, both left and right lights would get replaced. That’s what I do for cars (like many Chrysler products) where it’s impossible to replace the bulbs without pulling the bumper cover.

But my aftermarket labor guide shows about 20 minutes to replace the bulb in your car.

Great. Both my dealer AND the local guy are crooks!

I wouldn’t be so hard on them. Dealers are generally two or more times as expensive as independent shops for reasons on which we’ve had long threads, and ASE is probably right about the protocol.

On my '89 Toyota pickup, with sealed beam headlights, the official procedure required removing the front bumper to replace a headlight. And that truck had metal bumpers hard-mounted to the frame rails. Having owned the vehicle for 338,000 miles, I had a few opportunities to change the headlamps in order to prevent damage to the holding/adjustment ring, and I managed to do so with a bit of tool gymnastics and some extra effort.

I’m not a VW mechanic, in my experience factory warranty might pay 2 hours labor to replace a HID bulb on a LS460 which includes removing the headlamp assembly. The bulb can be replaced by removing the fender liner, about 15 minutes. Some mechanics will take advantage of this oversight and attempt to charge a customer the 2 hours labor. I often have service writers question why I quoted .3 for a bulb replacement when others want 2 hours labor.

I wouldn’t say they are crooks. Maybe your local shop has never done one before, and they consulted the factory labor guide which gave them the 1.7 hours that they then quoted you. I can tell you that if I’m quoting an unfamiliar job, I’ll consult the labor guide rather than just winging it. Otherwise I might tell you $30 to change a light that will take me 1.7 hours to do.

Crooks? More likely they are simply quoting based on book time. The independent may have never replaced one and the dealer service writer is a paper pusher not a mechanic. They use book time for estimating purposes. Now you see first hand why many here are DIY when it comes to these kind of jobs. The savings are substantial…

The shop assumed that you read about the impossible light bulb changing job. Then they figured that the $600 price tag would make you happy. I don’t know how some places think but I would prefer to change the bulb, make some money and have done with it all.

As a pickup owner I didn’t even bother to get an estimate for the brake pad and rotor job. The $700 I saved was a great source of motivation for me. All four brakes were done and I needed four days to do it one at a time but time was free.

Handle the bulb carefully and if you have gotten any skin oils on it, wipe it off thoroughly and carefully with a lint-free cloth and alcohol. (let dry before firing it up)

You can handle the new bulbs with any clean gloves. I bring home nitrile gloves from work after I use them there. The outside is always completely clean and they are great for handling light bulbs. I agree that any clean rag or a paper towel wetted with rubbing alcohol is a good way to clean the surface of the bulb if you touched it with your hand.

This thread proves that many people automatically assume that mechanics and shops in general are crooked

Part of it is due to lack of understanding of how mechanics and shops get paid, and how they come up with a repair estimate

As this thread seems to show, there actually are “book times” . . . so that seemingly sky high quote most likely wasn’t pulled out of thin air. It can all be explained. Parts, labor, tax = sky high quote, in some instances

The repair estimate is a business proposition

Nobody said you have to accept it. You’re free to go elsewhere, or do it yourself

But that doesn’t mean all seemingly high quotes are trying to rip off the customer

And I absolutely agree with @asemaster . . . I’ve also worked on several vehicles where the book procedure was to remove the headlamp for bulb replacement. Of course, that also entailed removing, or at least loosening, the bumper and fender liner

I’ve seen guys remove those fender liners and bumpers lickety split, and all of a sudden the headlamp was on the bench. Sure, it took a little longer, but maybe the guy didn’t feel like skinning his knuckles that day

Maybe not the quickest way to do things, but you can’t really fault a guy for doing it the factory way. Just as long as he’s legitimately showing his 8 hours a day, or what have you

I’ll go a little off topic now . . . I’ve known quite a few mechanics over the years that were perfectly content to average 8 hours a day. Then there were the other guys with type A personalities, that guzzled Red Bull energy drinks, and tried to average 20 hours a day. Unsustainable over a long period, though

From what I’ve seen. If somebody begs to differ, fine

At the end of the day, that 8 hour guy left the shop in good physical shape, and relaxed. The 20 hour guy left beat to heck, bleeding, and in a foul mood. The 20 hour guys usually got hurt bad at work, at some point, because they were so fast and reckless. And they usually weren’t 100% after their recovery period

It’s amazing how materialistic people can be. In times past, people were content to have a fair paying job, 2 cars, and the house. Now people have to have several cars, the RV, the boat, the cabin by the lake, trips to Vegas, cruises, the big 4x4 which never sees dirt roads, the 3500 square foot house, live in the most exclusive neighborhood, etc. And all while turning wrenches. I’m not talking owner of the shop, either.

And they’re stretched so thin, that if they flag 18 hours a day, instead of 20, the whole house of cards comes crashing down

I’ve seen it a few times. And believe me, these guys crash hard. The next time you see them a few years later, they’re just “a little guy” like you. But of course their credit is ruined by then

I hear what you are saying and I regret my words. That the independent shop corroborated the labour cost is a pretty good indicator that the advice from VW is genuinely to disassemble substantial parts of the vehicle to replace the bulbs.

I was able to do it myself quite easily, but the experience certainly was suggestive that I was taking short cuts that would not be advised by the official documentation. Both bulbs were easy to access beneath simple rubber caps, but on the drivers side it was like a game of tetris to navigate the bulb past the fuse box - I needed to tilt the bulb so it pointed straight up, lift it as far as I could, then tilt it about 60 degrees to get the base of the bulb out. It was a lot easier to do if I removed the retaining ring with my other hand while it was still “trapped” in the engine compartment, and when I put the new bulb in I wiggled it back down and then reconnected that ring while balancing the bulb. It was a pretty dexterity demanding set of steps.

The passenger side bulb was a lot easier but you were not able to see what you were doing directly and it took some trial and error by touch to find the bulb socket.

But I got it done, part was $100 for a genuine Phillips D1S part, and install was less than 15 minutes.

Sorry for insinuating immoral conduct on anyones part. It was neither fair, educated, or accurate.

@EddieP Hey, it’s all good

I’m glad that you were able to handle the repair yourself, for a reasonable price

And you got some satisfaction out of it, too, it would seem. It’s always nice when you can do something yourself, rather than paying somebody else to do it

That’s a plus

take care

The situation here is completely different but when it comes to assuming the worst about a shop because of the price or other issues one needs to keep that now closed SAAB thread from a few weeks ago in mind.

The shop owner came onto this forum, filled in some blanks, and the situation became a lot clearer. The whereabouts of the SAAB owner who posted that are a lot murkier… :smile:

He did, but there was enough anger in his post to suggest that the situation was mutually disagreeable.

Every situation is its own, every one unique. But I would argue that anyone who has been a car owner for at least 10 years has had a shop either try to sell them services they didn’t want, given them a list of $3,000 worth of work “needed” such as “tranny flush, induction system cleaning, engine flush,” etc. that are totally unrelated to what they brought the car in for, or downright screwed them in some way or other. There’s enough of these activities going on to make bringing one’s car to a shop a justifiably high anxiety act. And it’s getting to be an expensive one too.

This thread proves that many people automatically assume that mechanics and shops in general are crooked

Part of it is due to lack of understanding of how mechanics and shops get paid, and how they come up with a repair estimate

That may be part of it…but there ARE crooked mechanics out there. I’ve met them. I’ve met far too many of them. I know a few GREAT honest mechanics. But unfortunately there are too many crooked ones that give the rest a bad rep.

Crooked mechanics or not, this is a great example of what should be the simplest of dealership repair/maintenance procedures spiraling out of control in modern cars. Ain’t no way in hell it should cost $300-600 to replace a headlight bulb.

Most of that is the cost of the bulbs…which the dealer charges too much for.