Old VW´s are notorious for having worn out steering boxes, thus causing very poor steering capabilites. The steering wheel may sway from left to right up to 1/4 of a turn before the car changes direction, or it might feel so tight that you are forced to constantly turn the steering wheel in order for the car to go where you want it to. Clunky sounds may be coming from somewhere in the front of the car and you are wondering what are causing them.
Usually your steering box is worn out and in need of replacement or simply needs adjusting. Your tie rod ends may be worn out, causing the steering to feel loose. Your ball joints or king pins may be failing and causing excess play in the suspension. Sometimes the steering damper is dry and no longer adds that correct robust feel to the steering at higher speeds. Buses are notorious for having the steering swing lever bushings worn out, causing severe play in the steering.
What can be done?
- Adjust the steering box
- Replace the steering box with an original or aftermarket part
- Replace worn out tie rod ends and/or ball joints
- Replace the steering box with rack & pinion steering
A new steering box is about 150-250 euro, depending on the brand. If you want a refurbished original VW box, then be prepared to pay more. Tie rod ends and ball joints usually cost about 15 euro / each for good quality ones, so they are not a big expense. Steering dampers go for about 20-40 euro.
How much work is it?
Adjusting the box only takes about 1/2 hour. Replacing the box is easier when removing the fuel tank and tie rods need to be removed as well as the swing lever. Usually it’s good to adjust at least toe-in for the front wheels as well, so altogether the box change takes about 3-4 hours.
Rack & Pinion conversion
You can also replace your steering box completely with rack and pinion steering. This removes the old box and replaces it with a rack and pinion, which is a lot more precise and modern. VolksWalley stocks ready to install packages and the beetle package goes for 999 e and the bus package for 1499 e. Packages include steering rack mount, steering rack and accessories, tie rods, bearings and bushings as well as joints (bus package also includes separate intermediate steering gear).
Installation involves cutting, welding and a lot of adjusting and takes a couple of days to complete, whether it be a beetle or a bus.