It isn't only Audi. GM seems to have abandoned the classic bayonet-base parking and tail lamps (like 1034) for this special push-in 3157 lamp. The white plastic housing on every one I've seen is scorched.
That sounds like approximately the same design as the taillights on my BMW, made by Hella. I am constantly fighting with continuity issues with the integrated ground circuit. I have gone to the extremes of soldering on little ground wires to individual bulbs sockets that have been giving me the most greif.
The car will warn me when a brake or tail light is not working, which is convenient, but that integrated ground design was junk IMO. I didn't see any melting or heat related problems on mine, but just keeping the bulbs tight enough and the continuity flowing through the entire metal frame on the back of the lens to each bulb is bad enough.
I beleive that there is so much pressure on design engineers in general now that there is insufficient life testing being done. I think too many times designers take the word of suppliers' tech reps regarding the qualities of a base item, such as a plastic resin, and run with it. Since AUDI & JAGUAR are global companies, I would suspect that there are many vehicles w/ their nameplates travelling the highways NOT ONLY in Texas & Arizona, but also like places in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Middle East, etc. where summer time temperatures are even hotter than those of the Southern U.S. states. So, in essence it would seem that there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for more complete testing of components that go into products destined for these climates.
You are right that the type of failure should have not happened in Texas, or Arizona or any extreme heat or extreme cold area. The requirements for the American OEMs and one Japanese OEM that I have worked until now always state the extremes in temperatures and years that the designs should stand. It is usually well beyond what you would expect to usually have. Components are sold and rated for consumer grade, automotive grade or military grade, and design should usually give margin to in worst cases still stand the extremes for what they are rated. Also parts are requested to be validated with stringent and accelerated tests to ensure that vehicle parts should stand 10-15 years at extreme swings. The design of that part might have missed a good validation that would have identified early wear, or based on business or management decisions to allow to go to the field with a failed design and let them catch in warranty the failed parts and save on a costly redesign.
You are correct, brake light failure is a safety violation, not only at a state level, but at the Federal level as well. You can report an incident to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) using an on-line form at:
If enough people report a problem, NHTSA can force a recall. This is a bigger problem than just the Audi A3, since the Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Golf share the same platform and may have a similar issue. Even if the taillight assemblies look different, they may use the same construction from the same supplier (likely Hella or Bosch).
First off, a brake light failure IS a safety problem. Second, there is no excuse for a bulb socket that melts, even in Texas. We have been making such sockets for about 100 years with proper insulators such as Baeklite, phenolic, and ceramics, and also reliable conductors such as brass and bronze. These materials are still quite adequate. No excuse. The engineer responsible should be publically whipped.
I have a VW Passat and it appears that some of the odd things/features were not design for American drivers. However, some of the odd features don't make any sense to me at all. For example, when any of my outside lights go out (as they like to do so often) I get no warning however the car find it necessary to keep warning to "top up" my windshield wiper fluid when it is low. I'm thinking really it's more important to keep reminding me to put washer fluid in the car but not important to tell me one of my outside lights are out. Maybe this isn't a big deal other places but in MD cops will stop you for a light being out.
I like you suggestion for the name of this blog, Ann. "Fixed by clever humans" is what this is really all about. I, too, am surprised that something like this happened. I'm not sure, but I believe that most of these automotive parts are designed for temperatures ranging from minus 30C to +70C (could a reader with expertise please weigh in here?), which would mean that it would be designed for about 160F on the upper end. Seems like this shouldn't have happened, even in the Texas heat.
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Noting that we now live in an era of “confusion and ill-conceived stuff,” Ammunition design studio founder Robert Brunner, speaking at Gigaom Roadmap, said that by adding connectivity to everything and its mother, we aren't necessarily doing ourselves any favors, with many ‘things’ just fine in their unconnected state.
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