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    Thread: Sunroof drain cleaning, with pictures

    1. 04-18-2007 09:48 PM #1
      I had a problem recently with leaves and debris clogging up the drain holes (all of them!) on my 2000 GLX. I had the typical symptoms of fresh water in the rear and front footwells, on the rear passenger seat, and on my headliner. Found several excellent articles that described the location of all the drains, but had a hard time finding any actual images, so since I was going to tackle this problem anyways, I snapped a few pictures for posterity. From start to finish the project took about 20 minutes to clear all the drains.

      LOCATION OF DRAINS:
      New Beetles with sunroofs have 4 drains, two in the front on the driver and passenger side (very easy to spot with the sunroof open) and two in the rear (difficult to see without a flashlight).

      WHERE REAR ONES DRAIN TO:
      The rear drains (the easiest to service) exit near the roofline inside the rear hatch (see image). Each side terminates in a rubber nipple that often clogs with everything from debris to algae to mold.

      HOW TO CLEAR REAR DRAINS:
      Most clogs occur right at the nipple so "milking" it with your fingers usually clears the drain. If not you may want to try snaking a flexible piece of wire or plastic into it to clear it out better. I used a couple of stiff twist-ties hooked together to form a 2 foot long chain. It reached all the way to the drainholes in the sunroof.

      WHERE THE FRONT ONES DRAIN TO:
      The front drains go through the front pillars to a rubber nipple that you can not see just below the bottom corner of the windshield in the engine bay.

      HOW TO CLEAR FRONT DRAINS:
      The front drains are a bit tougher than the rear. If you have access to compressed air (not the canned stuff, it may not have enough pressure to blow out really tough debris like I had), you can try to fit the tip of the hose into the front drains and hope for the best. If this doesn't do it, you'll need to remove a few things to access the drain nipples.
      You will need to remove your windshield wipers to get access to them. The wipers come off "fairly" easily. Pop the round plastic cap off the base with a flat head screwdriver, undo the retaining bolt, and wiggle-wiggle-wiggle the wiper arm off the splines (I cheated and used my socket wrench handle for leverage, but don't do that, it's easy to damage the plastic piece underneath them).


    2. 04-18-2007 09:49 PM #2
      Next, pull the plastic cowling piece under the wipers out by pulling it directly toward the front of the car.


      You should now have access to the passenger side nipple. If you have lots of leaves and twigs in there, now is a good time to clear all that junk out! Now, If you look just underneath the corner of the windshield you should see a metal bracket with a 1" hole in the middle of it. The nipple is directly above it (the hole is there to let water escape). "Milk" the nipple (god I love saying that) and if it is clogged you'll likely get a nice gush of water and gunk being released. Some posters even suggest cutting the nipple open to allow a free draining of water and prevent future clogs, but clearing the blockage is usually enough.




      Modified by beetlicious at 5:55 PM 4-18-2007


    3. 04-18-2007 09:55 PM #3
      Accessing the driver's side nipple requires removing a few more bolts. The driver side nipple is in the same relative location as the passenger's, but it is blocked by the wiper arm mechanism. You will need to undo the three bolts holding the wiper mechanism in place to get at it unless you have teeny-tiny girlie hands (see #1 in figure below). Don't worry, you won't be removing the whole mechanism, just moving it to the side for a few minutes. Undo the bolts and move the whole wiper mechanism to the side as far as it will go.

      The space will still be tight, but you should now be able to reach the rubber nipple (Located at #3 in figure above). If you have really huge hands, you still may not be able to reach it though. I recommend calling your wife/girlfriend/S.O. and explaining that you want to show them how to milk a clogged nipple. After they've slapped your face, you can show them that you need them to look for the same bracket with the hole as on the passenger side (#2 in figure above), and directly above it they will feel a soft rubber nipple just like the ones in the rear of the vehicle. Once again, milk it till it flows freely. You can test to see the drain is clear by using a turkey baster to pour a bit of water down the drain holes and see if it flows.

      And that's it. Your drains are cleared. Reverse everything to get your car back into 1 piece and then call up VW and laugh maniacally at them for dreaming up "nipples" and for even thinking of wanting to charge you $100+ to clean them.


      Modified by beetlicious at 6:04 PM 4-18-2007


      Modified by beetlicious at 3:48 PM 4-26-2007


    4. 04-26-2007 07:04 PM #4
      Thank you for this write up...I had to replace the carpet of my friends beetle because the drains got clogged and caused mold under all the carpet!!

    5. 04-14-2008 07:31 PM #5
      I just bought my little brother's 2002 Beetle and I have had leak issues. Upon inspection of the rear nipples, my husband and I noticed that there were actually caps covering the drians! After removing the caps, we noticed the nipples did not protrude out at all. The back nipples seam clear.

      When we tried to remove the windshield wipers, rather than a rubber cap, we hit metal. We could not pry the metal caps off of the wipers. What should we do?

      Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

      Argentrix


    6. Junior Member Audiophil's Avatar
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      04-15-2008 12:59 PM #6
      Good write up. However, you really don't need to remove anything to clean the drains except the rear drain covers.

      I used a single conductor from a ~5 foot piece of Romex 14awg home cabling. Snake it through the drains and wiggle it about a bit. Cleared up my drain problem.

      Find someone working on their house and ask for a small piece or buy some single conductor cable at the home depot.


    7. 08-08-2008 05:24 PM #7
      Your method here should be effective, but it is a fair bit of work to remove the wipers and the panel; but it is a good idea to do this just to clear out all the debris that drops in.

      But it is easier to just remove the interior A pillar trim, starting at the top near the windshield glass, and pulling toward you to separate the plastic fasteners from the trim panel. Then the drain tube is easily visible where it enters the grommet/nipple device at the corner of the dashboard. Pull out the tubing and you can clear it, as well as inserting a small screwdriver in the grommet/nipple's rear (sorry) to push debris down into the air plenum where it drains.

      All this can be done in 5 minutes inside the car and requires only a small flat blade screwdriver.
      Thanks for the tips
      ThreeFiftySix


    8. 11-02-2008 08:27 AM #8
      Is there any difficulty pushing the tube back into the plenum? I assume that this would be the way to replace the tubes if they had a hole in them too?


    9. 11-02-2008 08:31 AM #9
      Great pictures. Thank you for taking the time to post them and your instructions. Any reason you didn't want to poke a cable or piece of thick weed eater twine down there to free up clogs? The Bentley manual says it takes about 60" of cable to clear the front drain tubes.
      I am going to try one of these methods tomorrow. Daughter's bug has a ton of water coming in on the passenger side.

      Thanks!


    10. 11-05-2008 01:18 AM #10
      I snaked a piece of thick copper wire down the drain tube from the sunroof and hit something I couldn't go thru about 30" to 36" down. It was hard to push the wire from the beginning, but impossible to get it thru at this point. I overlaid the wire on top of the car from the top of the sunroof down the A-pillar to where it stopped, and it was about 4" - 5" above the bottom of the windshield. Any idea on why the wire wouldn't go thru this area?

      Also, I looked in the Bentley manual on removing the A-pillar trim and noticed that it looked like you can't see most of the drain hose coming down the pillar. Any idea on how to get to the hose and the nipple from this vantage point?

      It is supposed to rain tomorrow night.....please help!!
      Thanks


    11. 11-06-2008 02:48 AM #11
      The roto rooter idea didn't work, so I pulled off the A-Pillar inside trim and found the drain hose wasn't completely seated in the nipple. I pulled it out and tried snaking the wire from the bottom of the hose. Kept hitting something that wouldn't let the wire go any further. I then decided to to poke a screwdriver in the nipple several times to loosen it up. Re-assembled everything, poured water down the drain tube and didn't get one leak! Never did figure out why the wire wouldn't go thru the drain tube, but at least it works. We had a HUGE downpour thunderstorm tonight.....just in time!

    12. Member garethusa's Avatar
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      11-06-2008 08:44 PM #12
      good job beetle8tor!

      i am glad you figured it out

      93 vw wolfsburg fox 4-door | 00 honda crv lx | 03 vw jetta wagon gls 2.0 | 04 vw jetta wagon gls tdi-pd | 12 vw tiguan se+panoroof+nav

    13. 04-27-2010 09:31 PM #13
      I'm resurrecting this old thread because it seems to have the best images (no thanks to Bentleys rather lame manual), but is missing the bit I need.

      I've been having water leak in for a year or two when it rains heavily. For the past years, I just endured it, never knowing exactly where it came from, suspecting the sunroof. I just ran a dehumidifier in the car in the evenings overnight and it dried things out nicely. Now I decided to go after what I was sure was sunroof drain line clogging.

      So I did the wire down the drains recommendation from the Bentley and here, and the wire ran clean through the rear drain lines to the sun roof.. no visible clog, but I could not get the wire down the front drains all the way.

      The front drains are totally clogged, if I put water in the sun roof drain area, it just backs up and sits there, Running speedometer type cable down the water filled rain to the obstruction (probably the bottom corner) helps not at all. So my next step will be to mechanically get at those bottom front drain nipples. Thats still doable.

      My problem is with the rear drains. The drivers side rear is fine, but the passengers side rear is where the leak is. The drain is clear, but water leaks down the inside of the rear window on the passengers side when I pour water down the sunroof drain on that side. I"m assuming the drain tube is partly disconnected or split. The whole problem started when the car sat in the cold and snowy December winter in 2006. I'm guessing melt and refreeze caused pressure buildup that broke the line or pushed it off the inside of the drain nipple, since I'm getting drainage AND interior water leaking.

      The issue is, how much of the car one has to disassemble to get to the damn drain line. Following the increasingly useless Bentley (never get the electronic version)... I've removed all sorts of panels that are interdependant, from the back latch all the way to the passengers rear side panel. To get the B pillar and C pillar trim off I need to disassemble half the car, all to drop the rear corner of the headliner or trim up there to get to the silly hose.

      At this point I may just pay the $200 to have the dealer fix it.

      Does anyone know what needs to be removed to get to the rear drain lines in case they need to be replaced? Just the trim above the rear window or does the headliner on the passengers side need to be dropped a bit? (requiring a lot more trim be removed.. which silly enough, has some snap connectors and some screws, which makes the whole mess an interdependant friggen puzzle)


    14. Member Herbie3Rivers's Avatar
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      04-28-2010 01:05 AM #14
      Great thread! Another drain that can use regular cleaning is the drain on the rear emblem/lock on the earlier New Beetles with the swivel emblem. The best way I found for that one is to take the rear trim panel off and disconnect the drain hose to clean it completely.
      Albert.
      Vee Dubin since 1982. I like my VWs like I like my women, factory stock.

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    15. 04-29-2010 07:36 PM #15
      So I can add some additional info for New Beetle front drain nipples.

      My car is a 2002 model. You can clear them even if you are just one person and have big-fat hands.

      You remove the wiper assembly.. but wait, its not at all difficult. Really.

      So you have already removed the rubber strip and plenum-cover (the plastic cover that snaps to the bottom of the windshield and covers the space between the firewall and a metal shield. There you see the wiper assembly.

      1) Remove the metal shield behind the engine - its black metal and held in by 3 screws. You use a ratchet to remove the screws. 1 screw on the passengers side and one on the drives side ends, with the heads facing backwards, at the windshield - so you probably need an extension to the socket. And one screw in the center facing forward that bolts a small metal arm to the car body right below the windshield.

      With the 3 screws removed, the rest is, trust me, just clipped in. Pull the entire shield forward, it will unsnap. Set it aside.

      2) Remove the wiper assembly. 3 screws/bolts again, you can see them all, one at each end of the assembly where the wipers attached, and one in the center below where the motor is. Remove those 3 screws. Now, below the motor is one wire harness that clips into the motor with a spring retention catch. Just press down on the catch, and pull the connector out of the plug in the motor.

      You can now pull the entire wiper assembly out of the plenum area, and have space on the drivers side to get your hand in there and clear that front drivers side nipple. It helps to have a jug of water handy that you can pour into the open sunroof catch basin at the front corners help flush out debris and know when they line is clear.


      Putting it all back together is easy. Plug the electrical connector back into the wiper motor after you have pre-positioned the wiper assembly but before you maneuver the wiper assembly all the way back in and try to bolt it down.

      Snapping in the metal shield is easy, the ends sit above the painted body - re-attach the 3 screws/bolts, .. then the rest (plenum cover and foam sealing strip and wiper arms)

      I did all of mine clearing from starting to remove the wiper arms to putting the caps back on the nuts for the wiper arms, in about an hour in my garage, by myself, with just a basic metric socket set, 6" extension for the sockets, and a small flat-head screwdriver (to pry off the wiper arm nut covers).

      Now I just need to get under the trim to fix the hold in the rear drain line...


      Modified by GermanMan at 11:41 PM 4-29-2010


    16. Member Herbie3Rivers's Avatar
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      05-02-2010 02:13 AM #16
      Here's the question of the century, how on earth do you get the plastic cowl shield around the wipers to go back in flush?

      The shop that replaced the front strut top mounts couldn't manage to get it back together, even though the tech said he worked for a VW dealer. whacked at it for 20 minuted with a rubber mallet got it close. first time I used the wipers, it all came apart again.

      Albert.
      Vee Dubin since 1982. I like my VWs like I like my women, factory stock.

      Autobahn Automotive, Three Rivers Volkswagen Club
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    17. Member HollywoodsBug's Avatar
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      05-10-2010 02:37 PM #17
      Funny, just went out to get the mail, and there was a "recall" of sorts from VW about this very thing. Said to bring it in to the dealer for a "free" fix. Umm...don't think so. I'll clean them myself. ha ha

    18. 05-10-2010 05:39 PM #18
      Another tip.. once you have drained the front lines.. or if you have a catch tray and some towels ready... you can access the front drain lines and drain nipple the easiest from the inside behind the a-pillar.

      The a-pillar cover, is literally held in place by 3 or so snap-in connections. You just carefully pull off the a-pillar covers from the left and right side. Down near the windshield is the back end of the rubber nipple/drain and the hose plugs right into it.

      After I had mine drained, I pulled the hoses out and pushed a philips head screwdriver through the drain nipple and wiggled it about a bit to make sure all the gunk was pushed out.. that was more than I could do reaching in under the front plenum. I put a small tray on the dash, routed the hoses into them and poured a small amount of water into the sunroof drain areas to validate things were flowing smoothly down the hose. Then just plug the hoses back into the rubber drain nipple/assembly, and put the a-pillar cover back on.

      Yeah, you learn what you really needed to know only after you have taken half the car apart.

      If they are clogged again, or as regular maintenance, I'll just pull the A-pillar covers and use a philips head there... catching water on towels and trays if necessary, and save myself the work with the bolts, wiper arms, trim pieces and arm scratching that reaching into the plenum entails.

    19. 05-10-2010 05:41 PM #19
      Quote Originally Posted by Herbie3Rivers View Post
      Here's the question of the century, how on earth do you get the plastic cowl shield around the wipers to go back in flush?

      The shop that replaced the front strut top mounts couldn't manage to get it back together, even though the tech said he worked for a VW dealer. whacked at it for 20 minuted with a rubber mallet got it close. first time I used the wipers, it all came apart again.

      I had no problem whatsoever with that part. On some of the parts, buts need to slide into, over or under in a certain way. From what you are describing, I wonder if something isn't aligned properly as you are reinstalling it.. ie something is riding over rather than under a certain bit of body work.

      Each time I pulled and reinstalled the cowling, it just fit snuggly into place, no issues.

      What model year is yours? Mine is a 2002.

    20. Semi-n00b NWPAVR6's Avatar
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      05-12-2010 01:21 PM #20
      Here is a funny question, what is the reason for not having the dealer do it? Just asking got my paper 2 days ago.

    21. Semi-n00b NWPAVR6's Avatar
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      05-12-2010 01:29 PM #21
      HollywoodsBug I understand why you wouldn't take one like that to the dealer. Mine is stock for now... But yeah that is a sweet Beetle.

    22. 05-12-2010 05:29 PM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by NWPAVR6 View Post
      Here is a funny question, what is the reason for not having the dealer do it? Just asking got my paper 2 days ago.
      Thats the wonderfull question isn't it. Its in the 'what did I do to deserve this' category.

      After driving around with a New Beetle that took on water in any rainstorm for the past 3 years, after the last week long trip that left the car parked in long-term at the airport resulted in a good amount really soggy carpet, I'd had enough and took matters into my own hands.

      My garage and time were betters spent on that than VW dealers charging me $900 to potentially pull appart the interior to get to a broken drain line.

      And as soon as I've got the car appart and dried out.. in fact yesterday, I get the mail about the settlement to have VW fix the issue.

      Yeah, if only this damn mail had shown up one month ago! Argh!

      So now that I've done VWs work for them, I'll put it all back together, and then if it still doesn't keep the water out, I'll take it back to the dealer.

      That said, the VW offer is a limited time offer.. so eventually , you will still need to clean your own drains, especially up front. And I don't see them fixing the issue by having the hose route out to the door jambs the way it did on the Golf/Jetta cars.

    23. Member vwbuggy's Avatar
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      05-17-2010 02:56 AM #23
      Quote Originally Posted by Beetle8tor View Post
      Great pictures. Thank you for taking the time to post them and your instructions.
      X2!!!

      thanks I am going to have this thread placed in the FAQ

    24. 08-10-2012 09:57 PM #24
      I took in all the experiences above and tackled the job successfully! I did find pulling the pillar covers off to access the front drains was way easier than removing the wiper arms. Once I had the hose exposed it was a simple task to pull it out and poke a wire down through the nipple from the back side. A word of caution though, without a wad of paper towels or cloth the water accumulated in the hose ends up all over your dash. Thanks all for the input.

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