Volkswagen Steering




Volkswagen Steering




If you are the owner of a new aircooled VW, then chances are that the steering needs to be rebuilt.  You will need to systematically inspect each component and replace worn components as necessary.


Steering Coupling

This transmits all of the forces from the driver turning the steering wheel to the steering box and all of the resistance of turning back to the driver.  If it is old and worn out, steering will feel soft and loose.  If you see any signs of wear on this part, its time for a replacement.


There are many option available for this one vital part.  Some are soft on the checkbook and many are soft on steering,


OEM VW Steering Coupler


The original VW steering coupler is made per VW's specifications with the proper grade of fabric reinforced rubber.  It works well when new.  Notice its squared off appearance, metal bushings and VW logo.  The same part is also sold by the OEM manufacturer to non-VW shops with the logo and part number removed.


Aftermarket Coupling


There are aftermarket couplings that appear very similar to the OEM one.


Economy Coupler


Then there are those aftermarket replacements that just don't look right.  The one shown above uses grommeted bushings for the mounting bolts.  They will eventually fail, possibly after you tighten your bolts down for the first time.  The grommets tend to spit in the middle and turn into double washers that will lock around the bolts and make removal a really long process.  The rubber is also very soft and will prematurely tear, often around where the collapsed grommets are stressing it.


Urethane Coupling


The are also urethane couplings.  They are often red for that bling bling look that drives the VW aftermarket, but can be found in black also.  They claim to provide a more responsive steering feel and outlast the OEM couplers.  Beware!  Quality varies greatly and these have been know to catastrophically fail without warning,


Failed Urethane Steering Couplers


Take a look at these failed couplers and read their story.  If a coupler were to fail at any significant speed, this could result and a fatality and worse - the loss of your VW.



Front Beam

The front beam houses leaf springs and allows the front wheel to move up and down as your driver over bumps and uneven terrain.  If the original needle bearing (outer end) and bakelite bushings (inner) are worn out, you will have sloppy steering.  These can be replaced with urethane and thoroughly  greased to promote longevity  and decrease the occurrence of annoying squeaks.


Although urethane bushings are popular in the front suspension, they do give a little.  This can be noticeable at high speeds where steering responsiveness it important.  For this application, quality delrin bushings are a better choice as they are harder and deform less than urethane.


For a VW Type 1 bug, the front beam comes in two basic types types.  The 1966 and later Type 1 Bugs were equipped with a front torsion arm suspension with four ball joints to allow for steering and alignment adjustments.  The 1965 and earlier Type 1 Bugs were equipped with a similar front torsion arm suspension, but with a link pin and king pin to allow for steering and cycling of the suspension.  The Super Beetles were never made for off road traveling and are very delicate compared to the earlier torsion bar system.  The steering system used on the 1977-74 Super Beetles incorporated an overly complex design that Volkswagen abandoned in favor of the later rack & pinion system.


There are significant differences in the two front end designs that affect the overall steering and suspension performance and limitations of your VW.  In brief, the ball joint setup seems to ride smoother on the road while the link/king pin design allows for more suspension travel, has greater aftermarket support of off road upgrades and is more durable than the ball joint suspension.  The Super Beetle MacPherson-strut system is made for well maintained pavement and is not designed for any real offroading or even poorly maintained roadways.


More information on front beam setups can be found on our Front Suspension Page.


Complete front beams and be purchased or built to specs.  This makes restoring the front end pretty easy.


Completed Front Beams:



Tie Rods

They wear out, check them and replace as necessary.  Kits are also available to replace the stock setup with Heim joints, larger tie rod ends or hybrid tie rod ends that fit into Heim joint ends.  You can also have your spindles reamed out for use with Ford or International tie-rod ends. Most aftermarket off-road rack and pinion setups come already reamed for one of these two ends.



Ball Joints

You will need a press to change these out and a good realignment afterwards.  If you don't have a press, things can get a bit challenging. - Removal with heat - Removal with grinding out the joint, welding the inner joint and cold water



Rack and Pinion

This can be a complicated upgrade requiring the collection of the proper components, fabrication and possible relocation of the fuel tank.



Käfer Lenkung German

914 rack and pinion steering in a 74 standard bug



Other Steering Setups



Steering Wheels

The steering wheel can change the feel of your auto and many VWers and POs like to change these out.


In late 1973 (1974 Model year), VW downsized their 27mm shaft to a smaller 24mm shaft (other sources state 18 and 16mm).  So a 1972 steering wheels have hubs that are too large to fit onto 1975 Beetles steering shafts.


The spline and nut change occurred in 1973/4 starting with chassis numbers



1x4 2358 021 for Ghias


If you have a newer VW and don't want to use a water cooled or the original steering wheel for your newer VW, you can switch to a 71 or earlier steering column without a wiper switch, as this can get in the way on newer VWs.  You will then obviously need to change to a dash wiper switch, get creative or go without wipers. 


You may be able to locate an adapter that will upsize a newer steering shaft spine so that you can use older steering wheels.


If you have a 72 or newer column with a wiper lever, you may need to use a spacer on your wheel if it isn't dished to allow for use of your high beams and washer and so that your fingers don't hit the turn signal when you turn.


If you use a water cooled VW (up to 87 as well as porsche 924 and 944 wheels - just cross check adapter numbers) steering wheel on your 1974 or newer VW, you may need a spacer or relocated the wiper lever on the steering column.  You can also try heating and bending your wiper lever - some have been very successful with this and others end up breaking the lever.  You should try this in the dry season.


If you have a Super Beetle with Rack and Pinion steering, switching to an earlier steering column is not going to be just a bolt on change as the spines used for the steering box coupler is different.


Removing the Steering Wheel Assembly

Remove the center retaining nut and thread it back on two to three turns and then wiggle the steering wheel.  It should come off and the nut should stop the loose wheel from braking your nose.  If it doesn't come off you will need to use a steering wheel puller.


MexiBeetle Steering Wheel

The MexiBeetles seem to have something completely different and you may need to use a VW 26mm adapter sleeve (191 419 514 A) or custom make your own if you would like to use something other than a Mexican steering wheel.


The Mexibeetle share the same steering spline some of the watercooled VWs and is shares the same adapter if you would like to use newer VW steering wheel.


 VW Scirocco A2:

  Sleeve Size Part Number
before early 89 production 26mm 191 419 514 A
after early 89 production 45mm 191 419 514



  Sleeve Size Part Number
up to VIN 15-K-022 258 26mm 191 419 514 A
from VIN 15-K-022 259 45mm 191 419 514



This can change the cold and hard feel of a stock steering wheel into something much softer and warmer.


Glen Ring's Wheel






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