Steering Column & More

by Richard Atwell, B. Clausen and J. Rivers
(c) Copyright 2008-2011


This article demonstrates how to remove the steering wheel, access the windshield washer valve, remove the turn signal / wiper switch and replace the ignition switch and lock.

Below are the removal procedures are for a 75-up bus. Instructions for earlier models that have a different steering column can be found at the link at the end of this article. Bentley also covers the basics.

Warning: your VW was built to the highest standards but those crazy Germans left all the electrical connections exposed!

Therefore, before performing ANY electrical work always disconnect the battery cable first.


  1. Steering Wheel
  2. Wiper Switch
  3. Lock Housing
  4. Ignition Switch
  5. Lock Cylinder

Removing the steering wheel:

1. To access the steering wheel nut you need you remove the horn button. The plastic that the button is made from is somewhat brittle. Any metal wedge used to pry the button off will damage it. The best way I've found to remove the button is to pry it upward with your finger nail.

Note: this wheel is brown because it's a 78 Champagne Ed II bus.

Wedge your nail at the base where the plastic meets the metal. Don't try to pull it up from a single point: the metal clip that holds the button on is stiff. Work your finger nail around the button until it releases.

steering wheel

2. Pull the horn lead from the spaded terminal. To remove the nut you'll need a 24mm socket. Don't try to use a crescent wrench or you will strip the sides of the nut. A large 1/2" breaker bar works best with the 24mm socket and you'll need to tighten the nut to 36 ft.lbs. when you re-install the steering wheel.

Before you lift off the wheel, take note of the location of the steering wheel. You will see an alignment mark on the hub of the wheel and on the column. In most cases these marks line up but if the wheel has been repositioned after a front wheel alignment they may not be. Index the wheel by drawing a line across the gap (45deg. from the alignment mark) to remember the location of the wheel relative to the column.

Note: VW eliminated the washer under the steering wheel nut with the 1975 model. Also, the 3 screws in the horn ring stay put: that assembly comes off with the wheel.

steering wheel nut

Removing the wiper switch:

1. Remove the cap on the windshield washer tank to depressurize it. If you have pressure in your tank you are special!

Remove the four pan head screws that hold the wiper/washer assembly to the steering column (only 3 have been removed in this photo).

Pull the 3 wire bundles from underneath the steering lock housing. Don't worry about getting them mixed up because they have specific plugs that only fit matching connectors. One bundle is for the ignition switch, one for the wiper motor and the other is for the turn signals.

wiper switch

2. Gently pull up on the wiper switch arms until you can see the plastic washer valve on the left. You can try to pull off the hoses but you may find they have become brittle with age and you'll create a leak in the steering column if they don't tear on you (what was VW thinking!).

Use a small phillips screwdriver and remove the washer valve. You will have to pull all the slack out of the washer hoses to allow you to lift up the wiper switch far enough to access the washer valve. If you have to replace the hose, use extra hose will help you remove the washer valve at a later date (junkyard replacements don't last more than a few years).

washer valve

Removing the lock housing:

1. Pull the spring and thrust ring from the shaft (the ring is the corrgated metal item below the spring shown in the photo).


Here's a photo of the lock housing removed to show where the shear bolt is located. It is on the plastic housing facing the driver's seat. Push the driver's seat all the way back for convenience.

lock housing

2. The shear bolt is a tamper proof bolt that prevents the steering lock from being accessed by a thief. To remove it you will first need to drill a small hole in it like the photo.

Use a 1/4" drill bit and drill about 1/4" into the head. Then replace your drill bit with an straight fluted "e-z-out" bit and then back out the bolt with your drill on low speed reverse.

shear bolt

3. Since you don't have a replacement shear bolt or want to go through this process again, use an socket cap screw.

You'll need a M8x15mm bolt to use as a replacement.

replacement bolt

4. Remove the two bolts that secure the steering column bracket to the dash with a 13mm socket. Remove the 3rd and final bolt that secures the mounting bracket to the nose with a 10mm socket.

Pull the bracket away from the nose and pull the lock housing from the steering column. Sometimes the housing is stuck and needs a good tap to release it from the steering column.

You will probably need to spread the ears around the shear bolt that form the clamp of the lock assembly.

remove column

Removing the ignition switch:

The switch is hidden just below the lock cylinder inside the lock housing. It's rare for the ignition lock itself to break but sometimes you need to remove it just to have a look at the key code printed in the lock so you can have a key duplicated by code.

To pull the ignition switch casting from the housing, flip it over and you'll see three phillips screws. The smaller screw in the middle releases the ignition switch.

If you need to replace it then you are done. If you have to remove the ignition lock itself, read on.

ignition switch

Removing the lock cylinder:

1. Remove the two larger phillips screws (shown above) to release the ignition lock casting from the plastic housing. It's not necessary to remove the ignition switch to replace the lock.

Some model years have a hole in the ignition lock to let you remove it. On later models, the ignition lock is protected by a tamper proof mechanism: no hole! Bentley gives instructions on how to locate the drill point.

secret hole

2. To remove the lock, first insert the key into the lock and turn it to the accessory position. You will use the key to pull the lock from its housing.

The secret location for the hole is on the front (the side that has 211 905 851BH printed on it). Look for the ring on the casting and follow it to the flat part of the casting where the shape transitions from the cylinder to the flat piece.

Measure 13mm down the transition line from the top: this is where you need to drill. Aluinum is soft, so use an awl to mark where you drill bit needs to go.

The hole should be 1/8" in diameter and only drill enough to go thru the casting which is only 1/16" thick (and no further).

hole drilled

3. After you have drilled the access hole, there is a spring inside the lock cylinder holding the cylinder in place.

Use a small pick took to release the lock by depressing the spring inside the hole.

pick to release

4. Pull on the key to remove the lock.

lock removed



07/13/08 - Created from Brad Clausen's long defunct webpage with permission
07/15/08 - Added Photos and technique submitted by Jamie Rivers
09/08/11 - Fixed broken photos, added translate button, updated footer
03/01/12 - Added clarification about shear bolt (thanks Ben)
07/15/19 - Google update: new adsense code, removed defunt translate button