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.
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.
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.
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.