’67 Beetle Steering Coupler Disc

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This past weekend (September 26th) my good friend James Anderson of Wylie, TX, was demonstrating his newly restored Zenith Blue 1967 Beetle to several of us VW friends.

While we were examining different aspects of this beautiful vehicle, James turned to me with this story.

He told me that during his test driving, following the nuts-and-bolts restoration, he noticed that the steering was “strange”. This demanded an investigation into the cause. Those who are acquainted with James, know that he is a very careful and thorough person in every aspect of his life.

As he examined the front suspension, eventually he came to the Steering Box and Coupler. Careful evaluation of the Steering Coupler Disc revealed that it was stretching and tearing—note photographs #2 and #3. James had installed a brand new urethane Coupler when he restored the chassis. During one week of light test-driving, following the restoration, the urethane Coupler failed.

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Some months ago, my good friend, Larry, in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, messaged me about his experience with a steering problem. Larry and his wife had driven their Beetle into town. They parked appropriately and went about their business. When errands were completed, the couple got into Volksly and proceeded to exit the parking lot. Suddenly, and without warning, the steering wheel had no resistance. Larry found that he could turn the steering wheel freely with no control over steerage direction.

Fortunately, he was able to stop the car. Looking beneath the car, my friend found pieces of the red Urethane Steering Coupler Disc scattered upon the pavement (see photograph #4). Luckily, Larry had a spare German Coupler at home. While Larry stayed with the car, his wife went home to fetch the spare and to bring their VW mechanic to the scene As a result, the car was repaired and capable of being safely driven home.

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Larry commented to me, thinking of how fortunate he and Linda had been not to have been on the roadway when the part failed.

James was able to obtain a proper Steering Coupler Disc replacement. He told us that the car now drives with positive response.

I never have liked urethane products as substitutes for rubber parts such as sway bar bushings, front and rear suspension bushings, steering couplers, shifter coupler bushings and more. I have seen urethane bushings crumble before.

I spoke to my favorite VW mechanic, Barry Blythe, telling him about the Coupler incidents.

“I don’t use those—they split!” he tersely told me.

Here’s copy which I pulled from just one company’s advertisement of its urethane Steering Coupler: “…The strength and durability of urethane will out last and out perform standard rubber products in every application. From shift couplers to bump stops, install urethane and never look back…”.

If you have a genuine rubber German Steering Coupler Disc handy, examine it and you will find that not only is it of rubber, but that it even may have “threads” running through the rubber for added strength.

As an example, I show photograph #5, a German VW Coupler, Part# 111-415-417, manufactured by Hartig (Evergreen Tree Logo). This one is well-used and has hardened considerably and has small stress “crackling” with a few notable cracks. Despite this, it is nowhere near failing condition.

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Incidentally, original bolts (13mm hex-head by 8mm thread size by 32mm length—threaded portion approx. 23mm below the shoulder) in this case are KAMAX 88, zinc plated. Use 12mm OD wave washers.

Although it is difficult to find the Couplers with the “threads” embedded in them, it is possible to find good after-market rubber Couplers. Some of these will be discs and some will be squared. Either type will serve the purpose.

I see that even some OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Couplers are being offered.

My advice is to purchase the best quality Coupler available for safety’s sake.

The Finishing Touches for Your Vintage Volkswagen™
The Finishing Touches for Your Vintage Volkswagen™

Jay Salser

My wife, Neva, and I have been driving and working on VWs for over 41 years. In fact, we raised our family in these cars. Now, we are retired and enjoy VWs as a hobby. The ’67 Beetle always has been our favorite year. We own a '67 Beetle and a '68 Karmann Ghia.

41 Comments

Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Good article, Jay! Now you have me wondering about my own coupler. I'm sure it's German and OG to the car..... and probably rotten. Anyone know if there's a source for these NOS?

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timm

about 2 years ago

Yes. I bought one recently but haven't installed yet. Soon when I have a garage day. I'm traveling this week but when I return home I will look up where I bought mine. Can't remember but pretty sure it was from Wolfsburg west.

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Timm, I believe you showed me what you picked up that time. I think it's in fact the dreaded red version that's not in favor.

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timm

about 2 years ago

No it's the Wolfsburg West German one. I showed yo some red Urethane bump stops.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Timm...Wolfsburgwest has good replacement rubber Couplers. I did some research when writing this piece and found several providers who can supply good replacements. Some companies sell both the urethane and the rubber Couplers. jay

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Richard

about 2 years ago

I do not have pictures, but I as well have found the cheeply made Copeys Beetle steering coupler discs. Good urethane parts Iv used over the years in other North American vehicles have not shown the problems of theses CHEEP knock offs. Out of desperation to get a few test drives from the Beetle I once fitted a coupler from a 1981 dodge truck, and not saying it should be ever done, it was an almost bolt in part that I had more trust in than the POOR replacement parts I have located prior to. Some things just have no good short cuts to quality, or safety. I agree 100% . Just find the OEM, or the very best.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Richard...I'm with yuo on this one. I, too, have fallen into the cheepo pit over the years. I hope that I have learned to avoid the bitter taste which seems to linger long after the junk part has broken. I see many people refurbishing these cars, unwittingly purchasing parts that certainly are not going to last. Oh...they really look nice at first, but..... Take care and have a great day, Richard! jay

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Anyone ever notice that Jay loves flannel shirts?

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Not really "flannel", Eric. But the color, "Plaid" might be a more apt description! Ha! jay

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Larry & Linda

about 2 years ago

We will certainly remember the incident and it was very frightening. Yes never compromise on genuine parts. Luckily we have one with the embedded threads and is now in our car. I have been trying to get them to keep as spares but so far I hardly see one on sale. It gives us the shivers whenever we bring up the incident on the red urethane coupler.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Larry and Linda--thank you for allowing me to share a photo and your experience with the '67 Beetle Community. Hopefully your experience will save someone else from disaster! Say "hello" to Volksly for me! jay

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

I just checked with our supplier. We are actually able to offer the OEM VW version, if anyone needs it. (Shameless plug)

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Donna

about 2 years ago

A truly "shameless" plug would have included a link to the Lane Russell offering ;-)

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

We don't have them on the site yet. Special order only, for now. :)

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Sam Glenn

about 2 years ago

Gotta check mine. Good to know where to get the right stuff. Thanks again 1967 Beetle.com.The flannel shirt... Pretty neat, the VW t-shirt under it.... makes it !

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hi, Sam...Yeah..gotta cover those skin-cancer-prone arms. But, as you note, I leave the shirt open to reveal my VW T-shirt. I have an assortment which magically seems to grow each year! Ha, ha! Some one just gave me a Gene Berg T-shirt. Happy Motoring, Sam! jay

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Ha ha ha!

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Looks really easy.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Yes...with the gas tank removed...even YOU can do this, Eric! LOL! jay

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Yes.. Considering I remove my gas tank weekly for cleaning.

Todd

about 2 years ago

This may be a dumb question, but what is the wire for, shown in the picture?

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Todd

about 2 years ago

Nevermind, I just found the answer.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Good job, Todd! These little articles seem to bring out the detective in all of us! jay

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Eliud

about 2 years ago

Very interesting information ! Thanks Jay and Eric. The next weekend I could remove the gas tank for cleaning and check for the coupler.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Eliud! Good to hear from you. Although I do not and never will use any urethane products on my VWs, I am thankful to both James and Larry for bringing this so specifically to my attention. Just before I submitted the article to Eric Shoemaker for his review, I happened upon a discussion on a Forum @ thesamba.com. It seems that urethane Steering Coupler failure is not uncommon. My fear is that someone won't catch the failure in time and a serious accident will occur resulting in serious car damage and possible bodily harm or even death. A car which cannot be controlled becomes a wayward missile. I know that every vintage VW owner wants to protect both himself and his investment. Let us know what you find when you check beneath your gas tank. BTW--you will want to check the gas tank outlet screen for debris or damage to the screen. Tank out--a perfect time for that inspection. jay

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toddmin

about 2 years ago

Thanks, Jay! I stumbled across this site last week. I just bought a 1967 Beetle last weekend. I had one when I was in college and have been wanting another for years. I test drove a 1972 the week beforehand in Avondale Estates/Decatur, GA, but was hesitant. I found the 67 beetle that week and snatched it up. This site will prove handy!

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

We are here for you!

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Wait. Are you in Atlanta? We're actually in Austin, but are moving back to Atlanta where we are org from. We're buying a house right behind Agnes Scott. Are we neighbors? If so, I'd love to meet you!

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Todd

about 2 years ago

Eric, I thought I saw something that indicated you had ties to Atlanta. Funny, I used to live in Austin but moved here in 2006. I live in Tucker now, but I used to live in Decatur, on a street off Midway Road (not far from the Presbyterian Seminary)!

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

My old VW mechanic is now in Tucker. (Bobby over at Advanced VW) Have you met with him? He's a great guy. Yes, we are from Atlanta. We've lived in San Francisco, Austin and are now heading home to be closer to family.

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Todd

about 2 years ago

I don't think I've met him before. I just got the car last weekend, so I'm happy to get any VW contacts! When are you heading back? I'd enjoy meeting!

Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

2 weeks!

Todd

about 2 years ago

Mazel tov!

Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Thanks.. I'm tired of moving.

jay salser

about 2 years ago

Hello, Todd...Welcome to The 1967 Beetle Community! Eric Shoemaker thought that these cars are so special that he created 1967beetle.com just for people like us. To me, the Site has provided opportunity to learn so much and to meet so many fine people! Eric "threatens" to sponsor a 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Beetle. I'm not going to let him forget that--I hope that you won't either. jay

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Todd

about 2 years ago

Thanks, Jay! Yes, I am so thrilled to find this website!

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Kim

about 2 years ago

I had my bug in the shop last year when the mechanic said I needed a new coupler, I knew the steering was a little sloppy so I let him replace the coupler. He put one of those red ones on, urethane I'm sure. The steering is great now, but.......after a while, my horn started honking for no reason. I replaced the entire wire going through the column but still it will randomly honk. I just disconnected the horn. I read somewhere that it can short through the coupler? I find that hard to believe but this never happened until he replaced that coupler. Any ideas? I want my horn back.

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Eric Shoemaker

about 2 years ago

Interesting. It can short out anywhere. Have you hooked it up to a voltage meter to check where the short is happening?

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Kim

about 2 years ago

No, I saw some wire creeping through the insulation so I just replaced the whole wire. When it started honking again, I disconnected the horn and gave up. Couldn't imagine what the problem might be. I did mess with it last week and now the horn is not working right. Took it off and took it apart and cleaned it but still is a little intermittent.

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jay salser

about 2 years ago

Kim posted the following but it failed to connect. Here is Kim's text: I had my bug in the shop last year when the mechanic said I needed a new coupler, I knew the steering was a little sloppy so I let him replace the coupler. He put one of those red ones on, urethane I'm sure. The steering is great now, but.......after a while, my horn started honking for no reason. I replaced the entire wire going through the column but still it will randomly honk. I just disconnected the horn. I read somewhere that it can short through the coupler? I find that hard to believe but this never happened until he replaced that coupler. Any ideas? I want my horn back. ========= My reply is: The urethane Coupler MAY be the cause, if it is disintegrating. Get your flashlight and crawl beneath the front of your Beetle and look upwards on the driver's side where the steering gear box is located. Above this you will be able to see the Coupler. The horn wire may be touching the bottom of the gas tank as the steering wheel is turned back and forth. This eventually wears away the insulation, resulting in a short which will cause the horn to beep when the steering wheel is turned to the appropriate spot. Tape the bared wire and re-position it. If this is not the case, the Coupler may have broken and is allowing the wire to short. An inspection no doubt will help you to resolve the situation. Let us Readers know what you find, please. This helps all of us to be better able to diagnose our cars. jay

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Jay Salser

about 2 years ago

Tonight, I was on the phone with a long-time VW person in California. When I mentioned the urethane couplers he said..."Yes...the coupler of death!" He went on to explain that in such a situation urethane does not perform well. It is unable to resist the torqueing and stretching conditions under which the couple is placed. Imagine, he told me, the amount of torque/pressure which is experienced when moving the wheels during driving. This becomes concentrated in the coupler. It is interesting that the use of urethane in steering couplers has gained such popularity--given the danger posed. Apparently it just doesn't get discussed. jay

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