Steering Column Bearings

Steering Column Bearings Technote IconThis technote and the pictures were provided by Carl Maxwell (AKA ginster86roc on VWVortex’s Scirocco Forum). Big thanks!!

Have a grinding feeling in your VW when you turn the wheel? How about a lot of vibration in the column at speed? It could be your steering column bearings. This technote will tell you how to replace your steering column bearings.

Inspired by the post by this thread on VWVortex.
i had actually done the work the night prior to ^that^ thread, and had thought to myself: how uncanny izzat?

any rate…let’s describe the symptoms, shall we?

does your:

– steering wheel move up and down with an annoying clunk-clunk?
– steering effort seem to b-i-n-d in the parking lot sometimes? <–manual steering need only reply here.
– loose steering column rattle and set forth vibrations felt throughout the pedal cluster?

well, over time my car’s feel had deteriorated. the steering was ‘off’ but i wasn’t sure why. i checked tire pressures, t/r/ends, etc.

and then one day it was as if the bottom of the coulmn had fallen loose. indeed it had.

a pic taken in a mirror looking back up at the column. you can see where the needle bearing had worked down, while the column was dangling freely in space. only to set up vibrations in the car that i could swear i could feel in my fillings.

Under Dash
so i consulted ETKA at work and ordered a new bearing for the column tube…

VW Part Number is 171 419 517

New Bearing Part Number
and a new race for the actual steering column…which would turn out to be my real problem.

VW Part Number is 171 419 518 A

Bearing Race Part Number
(if you’ll recall the technote of mine earlier, you’ll wanna begin there and do all it mentions to remove the ignition switch lock housing from the steering column tube. )
continuing on then…

locate the two allen-headed bolts towards the bottom of the column and undo them.

follow the steering column down the the u-joint and undo that 13mm.
Universal Joint

remove the bolt and with some wiggling, the column should free from the end of the u-joint shaft by pulling the column ass’y towards the back of the car.

undo your spring that clamps the column tube to the pedal cluster…

Spring Clamp on Column
and the column ass’y should now be free to remove from the car. be mindful of your wiring harnesses and grounds while extracting the tube.

end-on shot showing just how bad things had gotten…

End-on Shot
my removed and set-aside switches…

Turn Signal Switches
and lock cylinder h’sng…

Ignition Switch
this is the steering column stripped of its’ tube. it is a 2-piece, telescoping unit, with the slpined half on the left sliding into the lock cyl h’sng end on the right…

Column Tube
my problem was with the inner bearing race that is pressed onto the column. mine had rotted with age and had actually started to crumble…

Crumbled Bearing
as a result, over time… that inner race had walked itself up the steering column, little by little…turn after turn. until finally it had walked up so high that it had freed itself from the outer needle-bearing race in the tube.

bam ^there’s your problem^.


so i searched the garage for a suitable length of pipe to use as a drift to drive out the needle bearing. what to do? i ended up using (and i isht you not) the lower half of my cincy/carshow/beach umbrella…whose diameter fit the race nicely. a couple taps with a hammer and out it came.

Bearing Out
you can see ^above^ where my needle bearing had actully slipped downwards…indicated by the distinct line of the discolored area vs the more ‘white’ area as compared to the new bearing in the background.

to install the new needle bearing, i simply placed the bearing on the carpet…stood the tube atop it, and smacked the end of the tube w/a hammer a couple times til the needle bearing was flush with the end of the tube. oh…and i held a wooden block atop the tube to avoid deforming it with hammer blows.

the inner race on the column was installed using a large deep-welled socket as a drift to drive the race into place on the column. a nice snug fit was my reward after a couple taptaptaps with the hammer.

i did a couple test fits before i got the location of the race just so. <–by that, i mean: i had to grab the tube and reinstall the lock h’sng end and pull the column down into the tube (as if it were assembled) to see if the race was at the proper ‘depth’ so’s to be fully contacting the needle bearing.

once you’ve got the inner race on the column where ya want it you *must* be sure to install the column with the notched-out splined end in the proper orientation for mating with the u-joint shaft:
once you’re sure of the line-up of things, g’head and reinstall the housing and lock it down. now you have fixed the length of your column and eliminated any end play…there should be none.

New Bearing in 1
^almost like a radial shaft seal in its’ tightness.

it helps to prise open the clamping end of the ujoint shaft a bit before attempting to slide the column back in place…a little lube wouldn’t hurt either.

if you oriented things properly when putting on the lock housing then everything should drop back into place like a hot……well…you know.

finish the rest of the install as per that linked thread at the beginning of this thread and you should be golden.

New Bearing In 2
total elapsed time for me in the garage with common hand tools (and an umbrella): 1 hour.

happy tinkering.

Original VWVortex thread Here.