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Old 25-03-2011, 03:11 PM   #1
Disco Stew
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Default Beetle steering box - replace or rebuild?

What are the options for a worn steering box on a 69 Beetle? Can you get a rebuild kit or is it best just to buy a new one? If so, which is best?
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Old 25-03-2011, 03:36 PM   #2
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Personally I'd sooner trust a good original VW second-hand one than some third-world 'rebuilt' onit.

Are you sure yours is knackered? They can be adjusted but will never be as precise as a modern car with r&p steering. They should still have an inch or so free play at the steering wheel.
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Old 25-03-2011, 03:58 PM   #3
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The amount of steering box play (measured at the steering wheel's outer circumference) should be zero, but up to 25mm of free play is acceptable.

This is how to adjust the steering box on a Beetle:-


- Remove the spare wheel

- Remove the three self tapper screws on the inspection cover inside the wheel well

- Jack up the vehicle and get both wheels off the ground. Make sure that the vehicle is supported by axle stands, handbrake applied and chock both rear wheels.

- Set the steering wheel so that the wheels are pointing straight ahead.

- Spray phCrackIt onto the adjusting nut and slotted thread. Leave that to soak for about an hour.

- Undo the lock nut and make sure that the adjustment thread and the lock nut are free to turn by fingers. Use more phCrackIt or PlusGas if necessary to free off the adjustment thread and lock nut.

- Whilst holding the thread in place with a flat bladed screwdriver, undo the adjustment nut approx 1 to 2 turns.

- Turn the steering wheel 90˚ anti-clockwise

- Tighten the adjustment thread (not the nut) until it is barey finger tight.

- Turn the steering wheel 180˚ clockwise (90˚ clockwise after the straight ahead position)

- Tighten the adjustment thread until it is barely finger tight.

- Whilst holding the adjustment thread in place with a flat bladed screwdriver, tighten the lock nut with a spanner. Do not overtighten the lock nut.

- Check the steering box for any roughness and tight spots from lock to lock. There steering box should feel smooth from lock to lock without any tight spots.

- If there is no roughness and the steering box doesn't have any tight spots then the steering box adjustment is complete.
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Old 25-03-2011, 04:51 PM   #4
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the steering box should be full of g/box oil but once the bottom seal is worn it'll gradually drip out. I'd heard of packing it with grease so did the same to my "crunchy' steering box and it's now silky smooth
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Old 25-03-2011, 05:33 PM   #5
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Thanks, I'll give it another try. This is the second used box I've tried, it feels worse than my Split! It's quite crunchy and notchy however I adjust it.
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Old 25-03-2011, 06:38 PM   #6
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As far as I remember (Moby5153 will know better than I do) is that there are two different types of steering box.

The earlier steering box was topped up with SAE80 gear oil where as the later steering box was sealed for life with steering grease. The only thing I am not sure about is what the steering grease actually is. I can only guess that it would be similar (if not the same as) to fluid grease spec NLGI 00 (that's what my Reliant Rialto uses inside it's steering box).
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Old 25-03-2011, 09:03 PM   #7
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Changing the oil seals is always a good idea. Although packing the box with something like CV grease instead of oil is good, it's not excuse to just leave the box with a leak! Oil seals don't cost very much and it's a couple of hours if that to change them.

It's not good when I hear people say ''it's leaking so fill it with grease''. If it's leaking, fix it!

You don't have to buy volkswagen oil seals either. Oil seals have a limited number of 'patterns' which are made by lots of manufacturers, and are interchangeable. So you can just take your old ones to any large bearing stockist and they will be able to sell you an equivalent for pennies.

If you can get equivalents in silicone, even better. It lasts longer then rubber, doesn't harden with age, and is more resistant to damage.
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Old 25-03-2011, 10:17 PM   #8
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Unfortunately, it's not usually the Seals which cause a leak, more oftern it's rust on the input and output shafts, the rough surface rips the fine sealing lips on the seals, so new seals would just leak again, very soon.
If it's worn, and the backlash can't be adjusted-out without the gears crunching, I'd just get a replacement box. I got mine from the VW main dealer, not as costly as you whould think, and, although it was an "Exchange" part, (I had to give them my old steering box), the part I got was not a reconditioned unit, it was brand new, and came with a new coupling disc, clamps and bolts. The difference it made to the steering was phenomenal, smooth, precise, a pleasure to drive again, and above all SAFE !
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