Custom Puddle Lights

Sometimes a mod comes along that’s totally useless, but you have to have it nonetheless. This is one of those. Just use a plastic pry tool to remove the old light fixtures. Plug-in the new ones (use included adapter for Gen 3 cars), and pop them back in place. Easy-peasy. You can even change the lens if you want to change the image that’s projected later on. Look for GoBadges Puddle Lights.
gently pryPuddle Light KitIn the garage daylight

Replacement Headlights for Jetta MKIV

Last summer we showed you how you could restore old headlights using Mequiar’s restoration kit. In this post, we’ll show you how to replace the headlights altogether. We chose a set of aftermarket headlights from Spyder. The process is not complex, but since you have to remove the front bumper cover, budget a couple of hours for completion.

If you think your current headlights are aimed in more or less the right direction, start off parking near a wall. Turn on your lights and mark the beams with painters tape on the wall. You’ll use these marks to adjust the new headlights later. Remove any trim from the backside of the lights. The headlights are held in with four Torx bolts.  Two of the bolts can be reached from above with the hood open. The other two are behind the bumper cover.

To remove the bumper cover, start by removing the four Torx screws in each wheel well. You will have to remove the front grille to remove the bumper cover as well.  Start by removing the hood release.  Pry up on the metal clip, then pry the T handle off the latch mechanism. The grill pulls forward and up to remove. Remove the two Torx screws behind the main grille. Remove the lower grilles to get to the two Torx Screws hidden behind them.  Remove the amber side markers by pushing in on the edge nearest the front of the car and carefully prying out with a screwdriver on the edge furthest away. Wrap the screwdriver in electrical tape to protect the paint. The bumper cover should now pull forward. You do not need to remove it completely, just expose the lower headlamp screws.

Pull the headlamp forward to remove and carefully unplug the connector.  The plastic VW uses can become very brittle, so take care not to damage it.  Clean the opening once the headlamp has been removed. Connect the new headlamp, slide into position and secure.  Installation is the reverse of removal. Use a 6mm allen wrench to adjust the light beams to match your marks on the wall. If you’re completely lost on how to adjust them, start reading here.

beforegrille removedbumper removedafter

Some additional thoughts: The replacement lights have built-in fog-lights. The standard US light switch does not have a setting for fog-lights (or even parking lights for that matter.) Upgrading to the Euro switch takes care of the switch problem, but does not provide wiring. You can get a wiring harness, however, that will connect your new switch to your new fog-lights.  As soon as it arrives, we’ll add it to the post.

To remove the old switch, just push in on the knob and twist to the right. The whole switch will rotate clockwise and pop out.  The wire you need to add goes into slot number 8. On the headlight connector, it’s slot number 2.

IMG_0865EuroSwitchWiring Harness



R53 MINI Rear Fog Light

When deciding the feature set of the first generation Cooper S, MINI USA decided not to make the rear fog light available in the USA. The rear tail lights of the 2002-2004 cars were actually wired for it, but from 2005-2006 the cars shipped with a blanking plate in place of the center mounted rear fog light. That always bothered me. It’s bad enough that the faux grill inserts in the rear bumper don’t actually do anything, but the center mounted plug is just stupid looking. Fortunately there a couple of options if you want to do something about it.


The light is MINI part number 63247166015 and it should cost under $30, including the bulb and socket. The plug is removed by using pry tools on either end from the back side of the bumper cover. You should be able to reach it without having to drop the exhaust, but do not try to pry from the outside until you pop the tabs from the back.

If you recall this post from the 2002-2004 rear fog light mod, you could just grab a diode and make it an additional brake light. Follow the instructions in that post, only route the wire down to your new light and then connect the light to ground.  If you want to make it a stand-alone fog light, read on.

Besides the new fog light you will need to add a circuit for power, have a switch, and wire the light for power and ground.  (The switch may have a relay as well.) I chose to wire the switch to a circuit that always has power. I used a Rigid Industries Lighted Rocker Switch wired to the left side of the parcel shelf under the steering wheel. The switch is out of the way so it won’t get accidentally engaged, but bright enough to see as you get out of the car if you forget to turn it off.

So why don’t you just add a switch in the blank spot on the switch panel? Because it’s not a mechanical switch panel. Those are actually electronic switches, so adding a switch to middle is not as easy as just drilling a hole and mounting it from the back.  If you had one that was very shallow, perhaps you could, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Add a fuseIMG_0848IMG_0849IMG_3384

Once complete, it’s also helpful to get people off of your bumper when needed as well.

Rear Fog Light

MINI Splitter Mod

Long-time readers of this blog may remember our Home-Depot inspired DIY splitter from several years ago. We’re still running it today.  It’s had several coats of paint and a bit of body fill for some deep scrapes on the bottom, but in general it has held up well to several thousand miles of track use. Last Fall we added a set of Rally lights to the MINI so we had to find a new way to attach the splitter stanchons. If we were starting from scratch, we might redesign the splitter to eliminate the notch in the leading edge so we could place the stanchons in-board of the light-bar mounting bolts.  But that would involve making a new splitter and buying shorter turnbuckles.  And since we’re a.) cheap and b.) laze, we wanted to see if we could reuse our old parts armed with nothing but a Dremmel tool. Result.

Bar ModClick the photo to see where we made the modifications. The lightbar attaches to the back of the bumper and passes through the grille. Given the length of our existing stanchons, we attached to the drop link and passed through the same opening in the grille. This involved modifying the bottom edge of the lightbar’s cross member.  We touched up the modified edge with some paint and it looks pretty good.


Dust Boot

At some point if you track your MINI, you’ll notice that you’ve destroyed a rear dust boot. It will tear because you caught the rubber in the pad retaining clip thanks to its poor design, or you’ll cook the rubber and notice it has cracked to pieces and decide it needs to be replaced.  If you talk to your dealer, you’ll probably hear that the caliper cannot be serviced and that you have to buy a new one, but if you look in the BMW parts catalog (see picture below, no. 12) you’ll find part number 34216757250 which is surprisingly called “repair set brake caliper” and only costs about $25.

At this point, you’ll be thinking to yourself, “those bastards, they’re ripping me off by saying it cannot be serviced.” And in your righteous indignation, you order the part and determine to do it yourself. The fact is your dealer is right. And there is this kit available. The kit only includes the dust boot. To “service” the caliper, you also need to replace the piston seal which is not available. Before you decide to skip the seal, you have to ask why the boot needs to be replaced. If you really cooked the caliper. By cooked, we’re talking sustained caliper temperature above 550 degrees F, then you need to replace the seal and that means purchasing a new or remanufactured caliper. If the boot is torn because it’s becoming brittle with age or you pinched it with the brake pad retaining clip, then you’re probably safe just replacing the dust boot.  But don’t rejoice too quickly, however.  Be prepared for hours of frustration if you don’t have the proper tool.

The dust boot simply presses on the caliper, but like so many things, the devil is in the details. To press it on, you need to hold the caliper securely with one hand, use a screw driver to hold the bottom of the boot in place, use a third hand to press on the upper left, and a fourth hand to press the upper right. That’s hard enough to do with the car on a lift, and impossible to do with the car on jack stands. So if you don’t want to remove the caliper and work on a bench, and don’t want to pay an outrageous amount for a tool you’ll use once every couple of years, then here’s how you roll your own tool. (Follow at own risk; no wagering.)

Ideally you want something shaped like a small measuring cup, 1.8 inches inner diameter/2.0 inches out diameter, and about an inch deep. If you can’t find one, the plastic cap from a spray can may work.  I used a cap from a can of testers paint. Clip the cap in a couple of places (which I’ll explain later) and wrap very tightly with electrical tape. You’re going to first position the boot on the caliper, press your make-shift tool over it, then use your brake caliper tool to press it on.  The cuts in the side were to make the diameter smaller when you wrapped it in tape, but also so that when you release the tape, you can pull the cap off without removing the dust boot.  When complete, be sure to press the inner part of the boot into the furthest groove in the piston so the dust boot and brake pad retaining clip are not in the same groove. Good luck.

If anyone has found an actual tool for this that doesn’t cost a fortune, please post a link in the comments.

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CravenSpeed MINI Cooper Door Sill Plate DIY

At some point you’re going to want to do this mod.  Will it make you faster, better looking or get the chickweed out of your lawn?  No.  You’re going to want to do it for one of two reasons: 1.) You’ve become obsessed with removing all the shiny bits from your car; or 2.) Your current sill plates look like crap (my case).  Whatever your reason, this is an easy 15 minute DIY project and the only tool you probably need is a plastic pry tool, and maybe some goo-gone.

First some background.  If you look in the MINI parts catalog for sill plates, you’ll find part nr. 51717200469 for the Cooper S (number 4 in the drawing below). They’re bright aluminum with a printed “Cooper S” and sell for about $56 each.  Their function is to cover up the four clips that hold the top of the side skirt to the sill.  If you look on the inter-webs, you can find different versions, some with checkers, others JCW, some that even light up.  Since ours got all banged up taking the stock seats in and out of the car a couple of times, we thought it was time to find something a little more substantial and a little less flashy.  Enter the CravenSpeed black sill plates.

CravenSpeed sells these plates primarily to people who want to black-out their cars.  They’re a little less expensive than stock and are much more substantial.  Swapping them out couldn’t be more straight forward.  Find a plastic pry tool, start at one edge and pry away.  Since the stock ones are fairly thin metal, be careful to not cut your hand as you run the tool along the edge.  If the old ones do not come up cleanly, use some goo-gone to clean up the old adhesive.  Since the 3M adhesive the new ones use is pretty robust, we didn’t bother to clean them up too much as we know this stuff sticks to almost anything.  They certainly look better than the banged-up ones they replaced.



Hand Brake Handle DIY

Sometimes a part comes along that you just want to have. The CravenSpeed Hand Brake Handle is one of those. It won’t make you any faster; it won’t save any weight; you don’t NEED it. But once you pick one up, you will WANT it. Installation takes about 10 minutes using common hand tools. Installation is very easy:

  • Set the parking brake, and use a pry tool to remove the end cap. (You can use a screw-driver but you risk scratching the cap. If you never plan to re-use it, go ahead, otherwise, get a pry tool.)
  • Push in on the back of the brake boot to free the frame from the console, and then pull the boot over the handle to expose the zip-tie. Cut the zip-tie and remove the boot.
  • Use a screw-driver to pry the tab and remove the old handle.
  • Fit the new handle with the set-holes facing up. Insert and tighten the set-screws with the included 1/16 inch hex key.
  • Put the boot back on and use the included zip-tie to attach it to the handle. Trim the excess of the zip-tie.
  • Pull the boot back over the handle and set the frame back into the console. Set the front first, then pinch the back until it slides into place.
  • Slip the three rubber grip rings into place.
  • Sit back, grab a cold brew, and enjoy. You’re handy now!

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Porsche Front Bumper Mesh DIY

As we’ve shown on this site before, the front mounted radiators of the 996 collect all kinds of debris over time. We bought this kit from Rennline many months ago, but never got around to putting it on. Since we had the bumper cover off this weekend for some other work, we thought we’d try it out (and clean out the debris again).
Bumper cover removed
The install process is fairly easy. The hardest part is getting to all of the appropriate screws to remove the bumper cover. Put your car on jack stands and remove the front wheels. Start by removing the screws under the cover-plate for the trunk release. Pop out the side-markers and remove the two screws there. Pop the two closest quick-releases to the side markers, and remove the screw that mounts up into the side-marker. Shift to the bottom of the bumper cover. Remove the five torx screws. The cover should slide forward and off of the bumper.
We’ll be working from the back side of the bumper cover to install the grilles. We don’t have a third radiator in the middle of our bumper. There’s a blanking plate that covers this space. You could remove the plate to add a grille, but we just skipped that step. The grill is included in the kit.
Fit the grilles and bend them to conform to the shape of the openings. Use the screws included to the kit to attach the grilles, taking care not to screw anywhere that would be visible from the front. Because the grilles fit between the black housing and the rubber radiator ducts, it takes some finesse to get the bumper cover back in place when finished, just be patient and work both sides evenly.
When finished, it’s a very clean look. But would I still buy the kit today if I had a choice? Probably not.
These grilles are pricey for what you get. If I were doing it again, I would just buy some Gutter Guard at home depot and some short, sell tapping screws. When you buy this kit, you’re really just buying time. How much time would it take you to figure out the right shape, bend and cut the raw material, then figure out where best to attach it. The shape isn’t that complex and the grilles are sandwiched between the bumper cover and radiator housings anyway so they don’t need to be that secure. Save your money and try it the Home Depot way first. If you fail, you’re only out $5. If you succeed, you just saved $270.

MINI Scoop Grille DIY

Here’s another easy DIY brought to you by Home Depot Racing. If you notice that you’re picking up a lot of debris (klag, cigarette butts, rocks, etc.) then you might want to consider adding a grille between the scoop and the air duct plate that attaches to the underside of the bonnet. That’s the easy way: Just remove your scoop, trace the opening on cardboard, cut the grille to be just a bit larger, and then trap it between the back of the scoop and the forward edge of the air duct. But if you’ve removed the air duct, then it’s just a bit more complicated. But I’m ahead of myself. Start at the beginning.
mask off
Go to Home Depot, and get some Gutter Guard material, and a set of heavy-duty wire cutters or tin snips. You’ll also need some cardboard to make a template and some masking tape to transfer the template to the gutter guard material. If you still have the stock air duct on the underside of you bonnet, follow the instructions above. If you have removed the air duct, you’ll need a different method to attach the grille. For this you’ll need some stainless steel fine wire, an electric drill, and a small drill bit.
Wire in
For this method, you want to cut the grille from the raw stock to be about 1/4 of an inch larger than the cardboard cutout you made so you can bend the material around the back edges of the scoop and have enough material to catch with the wire. Drill 8-10 holes at various locations on the scoop about 1/8 of an inch from the back edge. Cut a 4 inch piece of stainless steel wire for each hole. Carefully feed the wire through each hole and loop through the grille, twisting until tight. Bend the excess wire out of the way.
You can still see the stainless steel wire twists from the front. I though about painting them flat black, but they really aren’t that noticeable, and besides, if I can see them, then they’re still there.

Doctor ColorChip Will See You Now

I always love it when someone makes a product that performs as advertised. One of those products is the Doctor ColorChip Automotive Paint Repair Kit.  Often imitated, the original is still the best. Follow the directions and work only on a small area at a time and it works wonders.  Dab on some paint, smooth it before it dries, use the blender as directed, and then buff to polish.  No more touch-up paint lumps and near color-matches — perfect blend to your factory paint code.  We used it before on our 2004 MINI.  The photos below show it on our 2004 Jetta.


before (1)


after (1)