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" 1961 VW Beetle dim tail lights"


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I own a 1961 VW Beetle, I was pulled over by the State Police TXDPS and local police Mission TX PD with the same results  no citations were issued just warning . They stated that my taillights were not bright enough and from a distance you  don't see the lights. What are my options without retro fitting the vehicle losing it classic look. or only drive it in the daytime. I drive a total of 120 miles to work I use it twice a week to save money.

thanks

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I was stopped on the freeway with my Model A Ford and warned the same, You could buy one of those led light bars that go in the rear window and that might save you a rear-ender. Of course you wouldn't be at fault if someone runs into you as is.

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Hi Eddie, here are a few ideas:

 

1.  You have a SIX volt system, because VW did not go to 12V until about 1967.  Make sure your battery cables are size 0 (aught); they may have been replaced by thinner 12V cables (perhaps 4 gauge) which will greatly reduce lamp output.  Clean all connections on both ends of the cables.

 

2.  Remove your taillight lenses and clean them inside and out, removing any accumulated dust and dirt on the inside.  If the outside is crazed or cloudy, get replacement lenses, but you can try scrubbing them with toothpaste, a mild abrasive, then polish with a microfiber towel.

 

3. Stop and taillight bulbs are probably dual filament (dimmer filament for tail, brighter for stop), likely 3 candlepower (cp) for tail and 21 cp for stop.  These days everyone is used to seeing super bright LED lights.  And the original 3 cp taillights emit about as much light as a votive candle in a goat's a$$ at midnight during the dark of the moon.  Almost ALL of us with 6V systems and low-output 12V bulbs have been upgrading bulbs to meet expectations of the ignorant ones behind us, who are used to seeing light shows from the back of modern cars.  You can do one of two replacements:  (a) buy replacement LED bulbs for 6V, but you must specify NEGATIVE ground (I think that's what your car is, but verify); or (2) buy aftermarket high-intensity bulbs (14 cp tail, 50 cp stop) from one of the Ford or Chev repro companies.  I bought those 14/50 bulbs from Bob Drake (repro Ford parts) in Medford, OR for $3.00-$3.50 each + shipping, BUT buy twice as many as you need--two of the ones I bought for my Jeepster had quality control issues and got tossed.  Consider the possibility that someone before you but **12V** bulbs in, which would be operating at half output on your 6V electrical system.

 

4.  Search the TX motor vehicle statutes online (in CA it's the Vehicle Code) for equipment requirements, such as a provision which says that Original Equipment lamps are OK for continued use.  Print a copy of an applicable section and carry it with your registration to show any officer in the future.

 

5.  6V systems require a little more maintenance, periodic cleaning of grounds.  To me, it's NOT worthwhile to change to 12V.

 

Good luck and please keep us posted.

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Fuses don't care if it's 6V or 12V, they work on amperage.  So you have a 12V battery--hope gauges and all other 6V components have been changed to 12V.

 

Bob Drake and others have high-intensity bulbs for 12V as well as 6V.  Even 12V bulbs in post-1955 American cars which used 12V had 3/21 cp bulbs until the mid-60s at least.

Re officers:  Yeah, I've been there.  Educating them politely will go a long way.

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When your VW was built, that code section probably read 300 feet, not 1,000.  What you found is what the cop is relying on.  So look for another provision which says that OEM lamps are acceptable--that's the section to keep with your registration, and that's your get-out-of-a-ticket-free card.  BUT...I certainly agree that you should make every effort to increase the visibility of your car with high-output bulbs.  All of my fleet below, except the Jeepster, have separate bulbs for stop and tail, and I've used different bulbs on ALL to increase output from bulbs with which the cars were delivered.

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3 hours ago, Grimy said:

Hi Eddie, here are a few ideas:

 

1.  You have a SIX volt system, because VW did not go to 12V until about 1967.  Make sure your battery cables are size 0 (aught); they may have been replaced by thinner 12V cables (perhaps 4 gauge) which will greatly reduce lamp output.  Clean all connections on both ends of the cables.

 

2.  Remove your taillight lenses and clean them inside and out, removing any accumulated dust and dirt on the inside.  If the outside is crazed or cloudy, get replacement lenses, but you can try scrubbing them with toothpaste, a mild abrasive, then polish with a microfiber towel.

 

3. Stop and taillight bulbs are probably dual filament (dimmer filament for tail, brighter for stop), likely 3 candlepower (cp) for tail and 21 cp for stop.  These days everyone is used to seeing super bright LED lights.  And the original 3 cp taillights emit about as much light as a votive candle in a goat's a$$ at midnight during the dark of the moon.  Almost ALL of us with 6V systems and low-output 12V bulbs have been upgrading bulbs to meet expectations of the ignorant ones behind us, who are used to seeing light shows from the back of modern cars.  You can do one of two replacements:  (a) buy replacement LED bulbs for 6V, but you must specify NEGATIVE ground (I think that's what your car is, but verify); or (2) buy aftermarket high-intensity bulbs (14 cp tail, 50 cp stop) from one of the Ford or Chev repro companies.  I bought those 14/50 bulbs from Bob Drake (repro Ford parts) in Medford, OR for $3.00-$3.50 each + shipping, BUT buy twice as many as you need--two of the ones I bought for my Jeepster had quality control issues and got tossed.  Consider the possibility that someone before you but **12V** bulbs in, which would be operating at half output on your 6V electrical system.

 

4.  Search the TX motor vehicle statutes online (in CA it's the Vehicle Code) for equipment requirements, such as a provision which says that Original Equipment lamps are OK for continued use.  Print a copy of an applicable section and carry it with your registration to show any officer in the future.

 

5.  6V systems require a little more maintenance, periodic cleaning of grounds.  To me, it's NOT worthwhile to change to 12V.

 

Good luck and please keep us posted.

As soon as weather clears up I will start working on it. I live in deep south TX on the border where there constant flow of human trafficking and drugs and the police is out in force sometimes and where the weather is 80 degrees one day and 50 degrees the other, thanks for all your help,  will try to upload photos next time 

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35 minutes ago, Eddie Davila said:

will try to upload photos next time 

When you can, we'd like to see photos.  I haven't worked on a Bug in years, but my girlfriend has a 1969 VW Type 3 squareback that was her father's from new, and I'm still learning the darn Bosch fuel injection system.  :-(

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5 hours ago, Eddie Davila said:

I looked the Tx veg code and it states 547.32 states at tail lamps emit a red light plainly visible at a distance of 1000 feet from the rear of the vehicle. I will clean the lenses and get brighter blubs. My lights are 12v

 

If you have a 6 volt system and are using a 12 volt bulb, that is the problem.  Your light output will be 1/2 what it should be. 

 

What voltage system does your car have?  If you do not know, put a volt meter across the two batter terminals when the car is running and take a reading.  The bulbs in the car should be the same value as the electrical system of your car.

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I forgot to mention that the Drake catalog uses Ford part numbers (but in both 6V and 12 V, latter for those who have converted to 12V), but the key for us is whether you have staggered pin or straight pin bulbs--those options are in the catalog.  PROBABLY (confirm, please) you have staggered pin to orient tail and stop automatically, but my damn Jeepster used #1158 straight pin bulbs, which gives you a 50% chance of getting it right without turning on the taillights.

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I would go for LEDs all around, except headlights. They are now available in 6V and 12V in almost any format you can think of - red or white stop/tail (twin filament, offset pins), festoons, BA15, BAY15, BA15S, BA15D etc etc. Especially good for 6V systems because of their much lower current draw. Before installing locate the +ve end by testing , and mark with a texta or sharpie.

 

jp 26 Rover 9, 6V

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I had a 1960 VW with the same tail light design when I was going to college from 1968 - 72 and yes it had dim tail lights with the factory spec bulbs. I can tell you that even with brighter bulbs they may still be dim due to the extremely small size of the tail light and lens.

 

For safety it would help to have brighter lights, but if you don't want to do to that I would look up the Texas vehicle inspection requirements.  Most states require vehicles to meet the standards for the year the car was manufactured which may not be up to par with todays standards, but are normally allowed.  

 

If you don't want to make any changes, I would do a web search of the Texas inspection standards and if there is a section on what standards older vehicles need to meet then I would print it out and keep it in the glove box to show the police if your are ever stopped again.

 

When Pennsylvania first started allowing Year of Manufacture (YOM) license plates I printed out a copy of PennDot license place change and keep it in my glove box.  Yes one of the first times I drive the car with a YOM plate I got stopped.  Showed the officer the new law and everything was fine.

Edited by Vila (see edit history)
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21 hours ago, Eddie Davila said:

Good afternoon All

I finally bought some LED tail lights from Amazon " Techologica " The turn signal are the only ones that work, My battery is 12V I noticed I had 6V fuses? small cceramtic  types  under the dash. are those fuses 12v or 6V ?

Your fuses will work on 6, 12, or 24 volt automotive electrical systems.

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5 minutes ago, Eddie Davila said:

Thanks I going to upgrade the electrical wiring to see if it fixes the problem 

Not necessary other than cleaning connections and replacing any damaged wire.  Your 6V factory wiring has less resistance than smaller 12V wiring if it is in good condition.

 

3 hours ago, Vila said:

Most states require vehicles to meet the standards for the year the car was manufactured which may not be up to par with todays standards, but are normally allowed.  

I mentioned this a week ago in an earlier post.

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1 minute ago, Grimy said:

Not necessary other than cleaning connections and replacing any damaged wire.  Your 6V factory wiring has less resistance than smaller 12V wiring if it is in good condition.

 

I mentioned this a week ago in an earlier post.

I going thru them slowly and just splice the damaged wires and connectors but only the turn signals are working for now and 1 brake light works and confirm if any of fuses are out my neighbor is a auto electric guy I downloaded The lighting plan and fuse layout I will post the outcome soon. Thanks

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2 minutes ago, Eddie Davila said:

confirm if any of fuses are out

Easy with a test light or VOM on each fuse.  One side will always be hot from the main feed, but the other side will tell you if the fuse is good.  Always a good idea in these circumstances to remove each fuse and clean the fuse panel contacts on both sides of each fuse.  You'll solve it, Eddie, be patient and proceed step by step!

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30 minutes ago, ted sweet said:

had same issue with my 73 dart which has very small tail lights by todays standards, got pulled over, got a warning to check them when I got home. th ights work as they did in 1973 and I checked by walking to rear of car and they were lit

 

31 minutes ago, ted sweet said:

had same issue with my 73 dart which has very small tail lights by todays standards, got pulled over, got a warning to check them when I got home. th ights work as they did in 1973 and I checked by walking to rear of car and they were lit

 

31 minutes ago, ted sweet said:

had same issue with my 73 dart which has very small tail lights by todays standards, got pulled over, got a warning to check them when I got home. th ights work as they did in 1973 and I checked by walking to rear of car and they were lit

Thanks I bought LED light from amazon that fit perfectly but only the turn signal work my neighbor a auto electric guy is to check The wiring 

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Did you substitute a working standard bulb to determine whether it is the bulb or the wiring? LEDs are very sensitive to ground issues and if voltage isn't right they won't work (you seem to be trying to figure out if it's 6 or 12 volts). There are a lot of LEDs that are flat-out defective. I bought a set off eBay and they didn't work, so I gave up and figured they weren't right for 6 volts, but then I tried again with LEDs from superbrightleds.com (not a plug, just a satisfied customer) and they worked great.

 

Your first step should be to determine where the problem lies. Swap in regular bulbs and see if they operate correctly. That way you'll know if the wiring is OK and the LEDs are the problem.

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  • 2 months later...
On 2/13/2018 at 3:21 PM, Grimy said:

Hi Eddie, here are a few ideas:

 

1.  You have a SIX volt system, because VW did not go to 12V until about 1967.  Make sure your battery cables are size 0 (aught); they may have been replaced by thinner 12V cables (perhaps 4 gauge) which will greatly reduce lamp output.  Clean all connections on both ends of the cables.

 

2.  Remove your taillight lenses and clean them inside and out, removing any accumulated dust and dirt on the inside.  If the outside is crazed or cloudy, get replacement lenses, but you can try scrubbing them with toothpaste, a mild abrasive, then polish with a microfiber towel.

 

3. Stop and taillight bulbs are probably dual filament (dimmer filament for tail, brighter for stop), likely 3 candlepower (cp) for tail and 21 cp for stop.  These days everyone is used to seeing super bright LED lights.  And the original 3 cp taillights emit about as much light as a votive candle in a goat's a$$ at midnight during the dark of the moon.  Almost ALL of us with 6V systems and low-output 12V bulbs have been upgrading bulbs to meet expectations of the ignorant ones behind us, who are used to seeing light shows from the back of modern cars.  You can do one of two replacements:  (a) buy replacement LED bulbs for 6V, but you must specify NEGATIVE ground (I think that's what your car is, but verify); or (2) buy aftermarket high-intensity bulbs (14 cp tail, 50 cp stop) from one of the Ford or Chev repro companies.  I bought those 14/50 bulbs from Bob Drake (repro Ford parts) in Medford, OR for $3.00-$3.50 each + shipping, BUT buy twice as many as you need--two of the ones I bought for my Jeepster had quality control issues and got tossed.  Consider the possibility that someone before you but **12V** bulbs in, which would be operating at half output on your 6V electrical system.

 

4.  Search the TX motor vehicle statutes online (in CA it's the Vehicle Code) for equipment requirements, such as a provision which says that Original Equipment lamps are OK for continued use.  Print a copy of an applicable section and carry it with your registration to show any officer in the future.

 

5.  6V systems require a little more maintenance, periodic cleaning of grounds.  To me, it's NOT worthwhile to change to 12V.

 

Good luck and please keep us posted.

I had good luck with my tail lights performing by grounding the taillight light bulb socket to the body of the automobile. Only but s thought that worked for me.

Red Riviera Bob

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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing to look at is if there is a ground strap with good connections , 

Also check if the small ground strap is still on the nose of the transmission to the frame , 

and wirebrush the fuse box connections

 

and  take off the bulb holder , wire brush it and also the fender so you have a good ground , 

 

plus new bulbs as older bulbs wear out . 

 

same for the headlights , pull the brown ground wire off and wire brush everything 

 

bad grounding is your enemy with 6 volt VWs.........and low oil, tight valve adjustment and bad fan belts :)

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 2/13/2018 at 10:40 AM, Eddie Davila said:

I own a 1961 VW Beetle, I was pulled over by the State Police TXDPS and local police Mission TX PD with the same results  no citations were issued just warning . They stated that my taillights were not bright enough and from a distance you  don't see the lights. What are my options without retro fitting the vehicle losing it classic look. or only drive it in the daytime. I drive a total of 120 miles to work I use it twice a week to save money.

thanks

 

On 2/13/2018 at 3:19 PM, JFranklin said:

I was stopped on the freeway with my Model A Ford and warned the same, You could buy one of those led light bars that go in the rear window and that might save you a rear-ender. Of course you wouldn't be at fault if someone runs into you as is.

 

Is the brightness of the light part of the state inspection process? If not it seems to be rather subjective, sort of like pulling you over because the officer felt like you were going fast without any varification

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On 2/13/2018 at 6:38 PM, Larry Schramm said:

 

If you have a 6 volt system and are using a 12 volt bulb, that is the problem.  Your light output will be 1/2 what it should be. 

 

What voltage system does your car have?  If you do not know, put a volt meter across the two batter terminals when the car is running and take a reading.  The bulbs in the car should be the same value as the electrical system of your car.

 

I'd have to re-do the math, but I think the output of an incandescent 12v bulb in a 6v system will be way less that 1/2.

 

On 2/23/2018 at 1:07 PM, Eddie Davila said:

Good afternoon All

I finally bought some LED tail lights from Amazon " Techologica " The turn signal are the only ones that work, My battery is 12V I noticed I had 6V fuses? small cceramtic  types  under the dash. are those fuses 12v or 6V ?

 

Back in the the mid-1970s I had a '56 VW. Every bloody fuse and fuse contact on that car was heavily corroded. Actually every wire end and connector were heavily corroded. The lights might as well been replaced by a single candle. I ended up ripping out all the wiring and replacing it all with heavier gauge than factory, soldering all my connections and replacing the fuse blocks with ones that took decently designed fuses. After that the lights, while still 6v were nice and bright.

 

On 2/24/2018 at 11:31 AM, Grimy said:

Easy with a test light or VOM on each fuse.  One side will always be hot from the main feed, but the other side will tell you if the fuse is good.  Always a good idea in these circumstances to remove each fuse and clean the fuse panel contacts on both sides of each fuse.  You'll solve it, Eddie, be patient and proceed step by step!

 

Definitely: Clean any and all corrosion from all the contacts you can get to. With a volt meter you can do a voltage drop test along the length of a circuit and find where the resistance is.

 

On 6/2/2018 at 10:35 AM, 23hack said:

Those ceramic fuses corrode to give problems. My 1992 Mercedes had gremlins until I cleaned ALL the fuse ends. Upgrade kits are available up to gold plated versions.

 

I guess if you want to remain reasonably original then gold plated fuses could be sourced. In my case it was just a car to get me to and from work and I really didn't want to be forever cleaning the fuse blocks. Not sure that gold plated fuses for VWs were available then, I certainly did not know about them if they did. One weekend's work to swap out all the wiring and put in a decent fuse block did wonders for the car's electrical system.

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      On ‎2‎/‎13‎/‎2018 at 9:38 PM, Larry Schramm said:

 

 

If you have a 6 volt system and are using a 12 volt bulb, that is the problem.  Your light output will be 1/2 what it should be. 

 

What voltage system does your car have?  If you do not know, put a volt meter across the two batter terminals when the car is running and take a reading.  The bulbs in the car should be the same value as the electrical system of your car.

 

37 minutes ago, ply33 said:

  I'd have to re-do the math, but I think the output of an incandescent 12v bulb in a 6v system will be way less that 1/2.

 

Let's see,  If the resistance in the bulb stays the same, 1/2 voltage should be about 1/2 the wattage which in an incandescent bulb is light.  Maybe I left out "about" to make you happy.

 

The math:  The big power formulas are: Formula 1 - Electrical (electric) power equation: Power P = I × V = R × I2 = V2 ⁄ R where power P is in watts, voltage V is in volts and current I is in amperes (DC).

 

 

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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Those euro (Volkswagen style) fuseboxes can be made to work reliably. Every spring, take all the fuses out and clean all the contacts with a good aggressive contact cleaner (Wurth Contact OL or similar) and a small brass wire brush. Smear dielectric grease on the clean contacts. Both sides. Not a lot, just get them wet. Bend the contacts slightly to hold the fuse a wee bit tighter. Put all new fuses in and spin them once. Do it again each spring. No surprises, no hassles. Try it, you'll like it.

 

You wont get half the light out of a 12v bulb running at 6 volts. Two tenths of a volt is quite noticeable in a headlight. At 6 volts on a 12 volt bulb I am guessing you would see dim orange and not much else.

 

Light bulbs (and rotary electric fuel pumps) lose efficiency startlingly fast with only a slight drop in supply voltage.

 

If that Volkswagen has the taillights with the little snowflake reflector, and I believe a 61 does, they were always dim. LEDs are going to be the answer once you get some that work, Get extra bright. Get red.

Edited by Bloo
ply33 has the math right. Fixed. (see edit history)
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