Replace Headlamp Assembly on 2005+ VW Jetta

I just decided to replace my old, nasty headlamps.  First I had to Google for inexpensive replacement parts.  Most of the items I found were in the $290 a piece range.  I finally found a website ( that provided OEM replacement assemblies for $113 a piece.  I ordered them and they were at my house 3 days later.

I started to look under the hood and figure out what would be involved in doing this “simple” replacement.  It turned out pretty quick that I wasn’t going to be able to access at least 2 of the 3 bolts that hold the headlight assemblies in place.  I decided I’d go the route of the dealer.  The next morning I dropped by my dealer and asked about getting the lights installed.  The service advisor told me it would cost about $350 in labor, as the “whole bumper needs to be removed”.  Obviously this was disturbing, but I agreed and set up an appointment for next week.  After thinking on it for a day, I figured I can probably do this on my own.  My first step was to Google how to do this, and surprisingly I couldn’t find a step-by-step guide.   Luckily, I did find a post where a diagram of the front bumper removal was provided.  See below.

VW_Bumper This figure shows how simple the bumper removal process can be.

What this diagram doesn’t show is the two screws that must be removed (use a Phillips head) from the bottom of the “chrome” lip in the middle of the bumper assembly.  Technically the front bumper assembly is made up of two components (the bumper and the bumper cover/chrome assembly)

Here are the steps that I followed, which made for a relatively quick and easy headlamp assembly replacement.  I have basically no mechanical skills and this took me about 1.5 hours.  A good deal of that time was spent on 2 items (removing the headlamp wire harness connections and lining up the bumper with the side edges of the frame when putting the bumper back in place).

What you need.

  • Small Phillips head screw driver
  • Torx screwdriver heads (T15 and T25).  I bought my set a few years ago at AutoZone for something like $20.  They are a really nice and handy set of screw driver heads that can be used with standard ratchets.  Here are mine


  • Ratchet (small)

Step 1 – With Phillips head screw driver, remove 2 screws from the bottom of the chrome lip on the VW chrome bumper assembly.  They’re right in the middle of the bumper sort of hidden at the very bottom of the chrome lip.

Step 2 – (All remaining steps use the Torx screwdriver heads.  Unscrew 2 screws identified as #2 in the diagram above.  This will allow you to apply a little pressure and wiggle the VW chrome bumper assembly completely out of the way.  At this point it would not be on the car at all and all you should see is what is displayed above in the diagram and below in my photo.

013 In this photo, I’ve already replaced the headlamps, but that doesn’t change the concept of what I’m trying to show.

Step 3 – Unscrew all the remaining Torx screws.  I think there were about 5 on the bottom of the bumper, 4 on the side near the tires (you will possible need to turn the wheel to access them) and 1 pointing directly up in the same general area of the wheel well (identified as #1 in the first diagram).

Step 4 – Physically wiggle the bumper assembly forward.  Pay special attention to how the bumper assembly slips out of 2 little channels on each side (between the headlamp assembly and the wheel well).  You’ll have to slide the bumper assembly into these same 2 channels (each side) when you put it back.  So, now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the two channels.  I had almost put the whole bumper back in place and couldn’t figure out why the bumper was bulging at this location (I’d missed the channels). 

This photo shows the chrome assembly removed and the front bumper assembly slid forward with only the bumper foam holding it up and in place (accompanied by the turn signal wires too).  Technically, at this point we are only 2 turn signal wire connections away from the entire bumper being removed from the car.  I elected to leave it in this configuration and focus on getting my headlamp assemblies done. 008

Also, this photo should demonstrate the vial condition my headlamp assemblies were in.

Step 5 – Unscrew 3 Torx screws holding the headlamp assemblies in place.  With the bumper all but removed, you should be able to easily access the two bottom screws and the 1 top screw which hold the headlamp assemblies in place.

Step 6 – Do your best to remove the wire harness from the back on the headlamp assembly.  Quite frankly this could have been your very first step.  I found this to the most difficult step as I didn’t really know what I needed to do to get the plug to let go.  Technically there is probably some art to doing this easier, but I couldn’t every really figure it out.  I stuck a flat top screwdriver down next to the plug and wiggled until I could finally get the wire harness to let go of the old headlamp assembly.

Step 7 – Reverse of all the steps above.  Before doing anything else, I’d make sure that the new lights all work still.

Below is my finished product.  I hope this makes your experience nice, simple and inexpensive as mine ended up being.




8 thoughts on “Replace Headlamp Assembly on 2005+ VW Jetta

  1. I just bought a pair of new lens not the whole headlight. When you had the grill off how easy did it look to take the lens off the headlight?

    1. You don’t need to do any hard work to just replace the lens. In the back of the headlamp assembly, there are two black rubber “cones” for lack of a better term that need to be pulled backwards, towards the engine compartment, and on each the headlights can be replace.

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