Those Pesky Light Bulbs

The concept of this enthusiast build did not begin in Germany, or even later when the A3 was purchased. The tiny snowball which was dropped from the top of the majestic peak, which would later become a massive, monster of an avalanche of modding turns out to be the failure of one of the stock fog light bulbs.

When I had purchased the A3 I was extremely determined to do zero modifications on this vehicle until I had paid for it in full. The slip in self discipline, the way that a former rehab patient might find temptation in the smallest place, was a spark of inspiration that a replacement of the fog light bulb itself would be much better served with a replacement of the fog lights themselves. Right?

I used to drive around with in the A3 with the fog lights on using them as Driving Lights (DRL) during the hours of dusk and while on the often shady roadways in the foothills of Southern Orange County, California. The decision to change out the fog lights with new units prompted me to consider future modding directions, and I knew that I wanted to match the fog lights with the projector Bi-Xenon which I would upgrade to in the future. I picked up a complete kit off the Internet, not only of two projector housings but also HID bulbs and ballasts, as well as some interesting CCFL halo accents.

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Now, in the past I have definitively stated that Halos are a BMW lighting accent, and should never be added to any other make of car. It is sacrilegious. These kits were a good buy, however, and at the time I hadn’t decided what kind of LED accent I would use in the future for DRL, if any. I figured that it would be a different enough accent that I could forgive myself this transgression.

The installation required a bit of modification to the fog light grill, and at the time I also knew that stock fog light grills would disappear, along with many other stock parts, to make way for my own interpretation of what this dream Quattro should look like.

I have always been a fan of DIY modification and custom work in the home garage, and even this first small mod shows the purity of this philosophy. I have received a lot of compliments on these fog lights. Many remarks of “How did you get those?” and “Are those projector fog lights? Where did you find those?”

Of course, this metaphorical snowball continued to roll and I made the conscious decision to allow myself some flexibility with my previous decision to hold off modding until the payments on the car were complete. I decided o0(It is okay if I make some cosmetic changes. That should be just fine. Just no performance modification of any kind). It seems that my subconscious is a terribly deceitful and clever one. I left myself with more than enough wiggle room to seek out bankruptcy.

The next mod to follow soon after was the upgraded tail lights. I have to say that to this day I still believe that dollar for dollar this is the single greatest mod you can do for the A3 with the highest return on investment. These lights add so much youth to the vehicle. Buy adding them the car easily looks ten years younger than it is… from the rear in any event.

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Lighting continues to be the bane of my pocket book. I am an electrical mechanical engineer by trade and so most electronics fascinate and thrill me. This gives automotive lighting a special place in my heart, and to me it is no coincidence that my preferred auto maker, the Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG) continues to lead the market on automotive lighting advancements. Makes me so proud.

The Bi-Xenon headlights mod took a particularly scenic route. At first I toyed with the idea of some Chinese sourced LED housings similar to those used in the A4. This was a waste of time. Not only were the DRL LED not bright enough for my taste, I quickly realized that my DIY mod of doubling the LED within the housing was going to take a long, long time and the time spent would in no way make up for the cost savings from not simply completing the DIY mod to install the A4 innards into an A3 housing.

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It was during this time that I realized that I didn’t like the look, and similar to a relationship which is showing no signs of improving or fresh excitement, it was time to move on. The look of the LED headlights no longer appealed to me, after only a couple of months, and when I started researching other builds out there (please note: at this time in the process it would have been great for family and loved ones to have held an intervention. I was quickly slipping into the abyss) I realized that I very much liked the clean lines and simplicity of the LED free Bi- Xenon housings. I will say this in my defense of the previous idea; I am in love with the Audi R8. That is all.

I picked some housings up inexpensively and it wasn’t until the super unfortunate accident of a good friend that I was able to pick up some OEM ballasts for the future HID install.

At this point I had already been a part of a group buy on Fourtitude.com for the Spanish sourced HID kit from WelldoneHID.com. These kits were fantastic, and I appreciate the assistance from WellDone in making certain that I had the correct kit; however the shipping and international customs just killed me and ended up being more expensive than the kits themselves.

Humorously, I did not know of the failure rate of the windshield wiper motors in the VAG vehicles while I was installing the HID fog lights. By the time that I had learned of this, in time to order the HID kit from WellDone and in time to seek out the OEM ballasts for the next HID modification, the damage was already done from the fog lights. The wiper motor eventually died and wouldn’t you know it? The state of California, for all of the years it has seen drought, has had one of the stormiest, rainiest winter seasons in over ten years.

Luckily, I can use the WellDone kit when I re-install the fog lights. For the moment though, I have to ask myself – When am I a going to be able to step off of this roller coaster so that I can catch my breath?

And maybe buy a churro.