Online Karmann Ghia Resource home


DISCLAIMER: The procedures I describe are the ones I use, and I've never harmed myself or my car by following them. Having said that, it is easy to set a Volkswagen on fire when you are careless around wiring, so use your head, and don't try to do anything you're not comfortable with. I accept no liability of any kind, and I believe there is nothing safer than having your car serviced by a professional mechanic.


Wiring Layout Diagram

 (click to see it full size - 41KB)

1956 -1957 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (240KB)

1958 -1960 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (642KB .pdf file)

1961 -1965 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (347KB)

1966 -1969 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (366KB)

1970-71 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (686KB)

1972 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (550KB)

1973-74 Karmann Ghia Wiring Diagram (416KB)


    Automotive wiring scares a lot of people, and rightly so. Volkswagen wiring in particular, because it looks like a mess, and there's all those exposed terminals that, if knocked loose, and carrying current, can easily set your car on fire.  There's lots of exposed, live metal in there, and you have to respect it. I once had a speedometer cable starting to break, so I disconnected it from the back of the gauge. The wagging metal end of the cable laid down across the wire connectors going into the turn signal relay, shorting it out. 

    Although it looks like a mess when you peek behind the wiring protector at the backside of the dash, Volkswagen wiring is actually fairly straightforward and well laid out. Wires with unique colors or color patterns are easy to identify, and specific in their routing and use. 

Terminal Designations

    Volkswagens, like all German cars, follow the DIN standard (DIN = Deutches Industrie Norm, similar to the North American SAE), and all terminals are designated with a particular number. Your familiarity with this numbering system will remove some of the  mystery of VW wiring.

(Excerpts from DIN Standard 75 552)

The terminal designations do not identify the conductors, because devices with different terminal designations can be connected at the two ends of each conductor. If the number of terminal designations is not sufficient (multiple-contact connections), the terminals are consecutively numbered using numbers or letters whose representations of specific functions are not standardized.


1- Ignition Coil to Distributor, low voltage. 

58 - Rear Marker & Licence Light circuit.

4- Ignition Coil to Distributor, high voltage. 

58b - Light Switch to Gauge Lights.

15 - Switched power, hot when ignition is on, various sizes & locations, black.

61 - Voltage Regulator to Charge Indicator Light.

30 - Battery power, hot all the time, various sizes & locations, red.

85 - Relay actuator winding input.

31 - Ground wire, various sizes & locations, brown.

86 - Relay actuator winding output.

31b - Switched ground wire, brown.

87 - Relay output.

49a - power from Turn Signal Switch (54) to Turn Signal Relay.

B+ - Voltage Regulator from Battery to Light Switch.

50 - Ignition Switch to Starter Solenoid.

Bl - Turn Signal circuit.

53 - Wiper Switch to Wiper Motor.

D+ - Voltage Regulator/Generator positive.

53a - Wiper Switch to Wiper Motor, self-parking circuit.

DF - Voltage Regulator/Generator field.

53b - Wiper Switch to Wiper Motor, shunt winding.

J3 - Brake Light Switch

54 - Emergency Flasher circuit, see 49a.

S - Emergency Flasher Switch to Turn Signal Relay.

56 - Light Switch to Dimmer Relay.

T2 - wire connector, dual, for brake lights.

56a - Dimmer Relay to High Beam terminal.

VL - Left Turn Signal.

56b - Dimmer Relay to Low Beam terminal.

VR - Right Turn Signal.

57 - Light Switch to Front Marker terminal.



Your VW Wiring Explained

VW Wiring diagrams can almost make you dizzy. They're well illustrated, but all those parallel lines and patterns can make your head spin. I try to think of all car wiring in terms of systems, and as far as we're concerned, there are four: Ignition and Charging, Lighting, Signaling, and Accessory Equipment. I always find it easier to concentrate only on the particular system that is giving me trouble.

This section will walk you through the circuit path for each particular system, and help you diagnose what may be going wrong. When the circuit is isolated in this way, problems are much easier to solve since you can ignore all the other wires you don't need to worry about. Since I'm most familiar with my own cars, I'll use the 1969 wiring diagram for illustration purposes. 


Ignition and Charging Systems

See how simple it looks when you strip all the other stuff away?


Okay, let's say your Ghia's been parked for the winter and you hop in in spring and nothing happens when you turn the key. Not even a click. The first thing to check is the battery, since that's where all the juice comes from. You'll need either a circuit test light or a volt-meter for this. Check the positive battery terminal. If there's no voltage there, take your battery in and have it charged and tested. If there is electricity here, something should've happened, so you move on. From the diagram you can see that both the Voltage Regulator terminal B+ and the Headlight Switch terminal 30 are multi-wire connectors, so even if they've detached from those items (put 'em back if they have), you should still have power at the Ignition Switch terminal 30. The design of your Ghia's steering column makes it impossible to actually probe the switch itself, so let's move on. Remember, we're only looking for power when the key is in the "start" position, not in the "on" position, so you'll need a helper in the driver's seat to turn the key when you're ready to test. The only other connections in the starter circuit are mounted on the Starter Motor so get yourself under the car. With the key in the "start" position, you should have power on the Starter Motor terminal 50 (with the 4mm red wire). If you don't, the problem is your ignition switch. If you do have power, the problem is your starter solenoid. That's the smaller round cylinder that is piggybacked on the starter motor. Deductive reasoning in action! Congratulations, you're a diagnostician. And people pay mechanics $75 an hour for this!...

But let's say you had heard a click when you turned the key. That's the starter solenoid operating, and the only thing not working is the Starter Motor itself, either because it has a bad connection at terminal 50, something inside the starter motor is stuck, or there just isn't enough electricity to get it to spin. If your battery is fully charged and the connection is good, you're pulling your starter motor, pal. Your Robert Bentley manual (you did go and get one, didn't you?) has detailed instructions for servicing the starter motor, and yes, you can do it yourself. But by all means if you think it's beyond you, take in to a shop.


The charging system is extremely simple, and you can diagnose most problems with just a volt-meter. Again, the Bentley manual has detailed procedures that are easy to follow. Only a "regulator load voltage" check  requires special test equipment. Suffice it to say that if your Generator Light on the dash comes on when driving, even dimly, you should check it out as soon as possible, unless you're carrying a bus pass.


Lighting Systems

The lighting wiring is easy to figure out - except for all those other wires that get in the way. Hopefully this diagram helps. Lights that don't work are almost always either burned out, or badly grounded. It's almost never a fault in the switch. You can see from the diagram, that the only lights that don't work directly off the battery are the backup lights. Everything else will wear down your battery if left on.



Accessory Systems


Signaling Systems

I've included the horn and brake lights here because even though they don't flash, they still signal others as to your intentions.